For this Oklahoma couple Ryan and Jill Finley, the honeymoon period of their marriage was soon over, and their personal strengths were unexpectedly tested when a rare medical emergency occurred. You won’t want to miss this remarkable story!
It All Started on an Average Weekend
Ryan and Jill Finley were a happily married couple, who enjoyed being active on weekends and enjoying each other’s company. This was not the case on one seemingly normal Sunday morning, however. The day that had started so mundane would soon take an unexpected turn that would forever affect their lives.
Something Out of Routine
The Finleys had been married for four years. Ryan, a plumbing contractor, didn’t think anything was out of the ordinary as his wife Jill, a writer, hadn’t woken up yet. He had gone out to buy them coffee and breakfast, and went to the bedroom to wake up his wife.
A Shocking Realization
“I can’t tell you why, but I just felt that I wanted to wake her up that day.” But on the morning of Sunday, May 26, 2007, Ryan tried to wake his wife but she wouldn’t respond. He then really began to panic when she was unresponsive and not breathing.
Jumping to Action
Ryan immediately called 911. While waiting for the ambulance, he did whatever he could to try wake her. He took Jill from the bed and placed her on the floor and performed CPR, doing all he could to try to resuscitate his wife until the paramedics arrived.
‘It Felt Like Forever’
He recalls waiting “it felt like forever, it felt like hours,” until the ambulance arrived. They had arrived within 15 minutes. The paramedics quickly took over and tried to revive Jill by administering a dose of electric shock currents to the heart. “I could actually hear the machine going,” Ryan said. “A thump and then the second thump. I heard Jill coming back down and hitting the wood floor.”
Rushing to the Hospital
The paramedics determined that Jill needed immediate care and rushed her in the ambulance to the Oklahoma Heart Hospital. She was immediately taken to the ER, where the medical staff put her on a respirator. Seeing that she didn’t immediately come to, the doctors prepared to take other steps to try to save Jill’s life as she was hanging on by a thread.
But What Happened?
With all the panic,Ryan didn’t even know what had happened to his wife to cause this. The night before they fell asleep watching a movie, how could this have happened so unexpectedly? Jill eventually began breathing again and her heart was beating. However, things would soon take another turn for the worst and Ryan would be faced with a situation that no one can ever be fully prepared for.
Doing All They Could
Jill had gone into cardiac arrest in her sleep and had been deprived of oxygen for nearly five minutes. Therefore doctors moved quickly to place her in a “chill suit” and induce clinical hypothermia in order t to reduce the possibility of any brain damage. ”There [are] studies that have shown that it helps protect the brain in hopes that she will have a recovery,” said Dr. Michael Schoeffler, who treated Jill. While Ryan waited.
Falling into a Coma
A day later, doctors started to warm Jill up. There were hopes that she would awaken during the process as some patients do. However, she didn’t. Tests revealed that she had little brain activity, but Ryan refused to give up hope. Jill had now fallen into a coma and the situation seemed all the more dire. Nonetheless, her hopeful husband devotedly stayed by her hospital bed refusing to leave her side no matter what anyone said.
Refusing to Leave Her Side
Ryan kept her company and even slept at the hospital just in case she woke up. He kept reading verses from the Bible to his wife. Unwilling to give up hope, Ryan prayed that she would be alright. Days passed and doctors wouldn’t directly say that the situation was hopeless. They would only give Ryan one estimate.
A Grim Prognosis
“It was grim,” Ryan said. “I’ll put it that way. Everything they told me was grim.” Doctors were telling him that in such cases, there was only about a one percent chance of total recovery. Despite those narrow odds, Ryan wouldn’t accept that this could be the end. With thoughts racing and emotions running, he took to praying with all his might and decided to keep a diary to comfort him during the ordeal. What he wrote revealed heartbreaking inner turmoil, but also a staunch determination to fight for the life of his wife.
Not a Dream
“Every morning I’d wake up and I’d realize, this isn’t a dream,” Ryan wrote. As the days passed, he tried to keep his composure and remain hopeful during the living nightmare. “The doctors told me that there were never any signs that she was coming back. There wasn’t.” He knew that even if she did pull through, there was a chance that she would remain in a vegetative state or otherwise not recover to a fully functioning state. With that in mind, he still wasn’t expecting what would happen next.
After Two Weeks in a Coma
Although Jill’s friends and loved ones were trying to remain hopeful, 14 terribly long days had passed and she was still in a coma. To make matters worse, it did not appear that her condition was improving. As if it wasn’t hard enough, Ryan and Jill’s parents had to discuss what to do if it didn’t improve. That’s when at just 31-years-old, Ryan was posed with one of the hardest dilemmas of his life.
‘Today Could be the Worst Day of Life’
The woman he loved was laying before him motionless. Ultimately, he had to decide whether to allow Jill to be taken off of life support. “Today could be the worst day of life. I essentially have to decide whether or not Jill will live or not. My soul mate. My everything,” he distraughtly wrote in his diary.
Recalling a Memory
Although Ryan and Jill had not previously prepared an advanced healthcare directive or do-not-resuscitate orders, they had spoken about it, when his aunt had passed away. Thinking back to that experience, he recalled that Jill had said: “I would never want to live that way.” Meanwhile, the pressure was mounting as Ryan was told he needed to start making decisions.
The Hardest Decision
Painfully, he finally made the devastating decision to remove his wife from life support. With the support of Jill’s family, Ryan requested a court order that was needed to detach the feeding tubes from his wife. Looking back, Ryan said that it had been the hardest decision of his life “You don’t think when you’re 31 years old that you will have to be doing this with your wife that’s 32.”
Saying Their Goodbyes
Doctors explained to Ryan what would happen after Jill was taken off life support. They explained that it wouldn’t happen immediately, during which people tend to demonstrate some reflexive movements or make some sounds in what is referred to as the “last rally.” They said their goodbyes.The doctors then took Jill off of life support. Ryan prepared for the worst as his wife was on the brink of death, not at all expecting what would happen next.
The Nurses Called
On June 9, 2007, Jill Finley was removed from life support. “Her whole upper torso would just kind of shift a little bit. And then the mumbling would start,” he recalled. It was all too much for Ryan, however. “When that started, I left the room. I physically got sick,” he recalled. The doctors had urged him to keep his expectations at bay, but he couldn’t have expected how hard it would be to anticipate that it was the beginning of the end. Hours had passed and the heavy-hearted Ryan didn’t know what to think when the nurses urged him to come quickly to Jill’s room.
All of a Sudden…
It was around 11 p.m. and about five hours had passed since Jill was removed from life support. Ryan returned to sit to be by his wife’s side. It was then that she started mumbling and showing signs of what Ryan thought was the “last rally.” “I thought that was it, that was the last rally,” he said looking back on the life-changing day. But as he tried to make out what she was saying, it was clear that something else was happening.
‘Get Me Out of Here’
Suddenly she started moving and talking more coherently. “Get me out of here,” she croaked. “Take me to Ted’s and take me to the Melting Pot,” she uttered naming two of her favorite Mexican restaurants. Ryan started asking her questions to make sure the words weren’t just a reflex. That’s when he realized that something unimaginable was happening.
Captured on Video
Jill correctly answer all of her husband’s questions. “She knew our dog’s name, our cat’s name, our phone number. She knew our address immediately,” Ryan said. Incredibly, he managed to capture a video of the remarkable moments on his phone. Just moments before, Ryan was coping with the idea that his wife might not be around anymore, but at this point, he knew one thing was for sure: that this wasn’t the last rally! In fact, what Jill was displaying was far from the last rally and the miraculous developments didn’t end there.
Like Living a Dream
To everyone’s sheer astonishment, it was clear that Jill was breathing and waking up from her coma hours after she had been removed from life support. “It was – I can’t imagine a feeling better than what I felt right then,” he gushed. “I kind of had to take a double-take, and that went on for about 24 hours. I really couldn’t believe it was happening,” he exclaimed. “The two or three days prior I was preparing for the worst and the best happened. It was just like living in a dream for a day – then it hit me, ‘She’s back, dummy.’”
Six Days Later…
Jill Finley astonished both medical professionals and her loved ones when after just six days she made a miraculous recovery and was for the most part back to “normal.” “All the doctors say I’m not textbook material,” she later explained. As is common among people who wake up from comas, Jill didn’t remember the events of the ordeal. “I do remember the big shower they wheeled me into every day. Other than that, I don’t remember anything.” No one could believe it, she had no chance and now she was back.
‘…That’s Just Not Me’
“I would not have wanted to live like that,” Jill said. “And so he did the right thing, he did. Because they basically told him that I was going to be a vegetable. I was going to be laying there in bed, you know, wearing diapers for the rest of my life and that’s just not me.”
How Did it all Happen?
It turned out that Jill had a congenital condition that caused her heart to stop during her sleep, leading to the coma. Doctors aren’t sure what prompted her extraordinary recovery, but Jill has a simple answer. She credits her husband and God for saving her life. “I honestly do believe that God answered the prayers.” Ryan wasn’t alone in his prayers, though, Jill recounted that “we had so many people praying for me – just tons of different churches, and family and friends.”
Relearning Simple Tasks
For a few months after she woke up from the coma, her road to full recovery included relearning many basic tasks like brushing her teeth, tying her shoes and cooking. Surgeons implanted a pacemaker for her heart condition and she had to go to rehab, where she worked with occupational and speech therapists. No matter, the couple was tremendously thankful and walked away from the ordeal with a new outlook on things.
‘A Whole New Perspective’
Not wanting to take any moment for granted, the couple is now always at each other’s sides. Not that the pair wasn’t close before, but following the eye-opening experience they have a renewed sense of appreciation for life and their relationship. “It’s brought life to a whole new perspective, we look at each day so much differently now,” she said. “We just spend every minute that we can together — going to the grocery store now, we go together, go everywhere together.”
Looking on the bright side of the traumatic incident, the couple is even able to laugh about some of its effects. “One of our friends, [said], ‘I’m so jealous. You guys are like newlyweds,’” Jill said, chuckling in an interview with Today. Ryan also has been able to have a positive outlook. Reflecting on the events of the emotion-ridden experience, Ryan said that he would do things the same if he had to again. “I think that’s only human nature,” he said. “But honestly, I wouldn’t change anything.”
Well Deserved Award
In light of his heroic actions, Ryan Finley was later nominated for an Oklahoma Heart Hero Award, which the Oklahoma Heart Hospital gives in recognition of a local citizen who used CPR or an AED to save a fellow citizen’s life. Still, he hasn’t stopped looking out for his wife.