Gary Miracle needed … a miracle.
After going into septic shock due to complications from the flu, Miracle was airlifted to a hospital in Orlando on New Year’s Eve. On New Year’s Day 2020, he flatlined in the intensive care unit.
“For just under eight minutes, I died,” Miracle said. “By the grace of God, they never turned my oxygen off, which is the only reason I don’t have any long-lasting effects, according to me. After eight minutes, doctors found a slight pulse in me. The cardio surgeon said, ‘At this point, we’re second-by-second, minute-by-minute.’”
Miracle, the son-in-law of longtime Southeast Christian Church member Pam Simpson, went into five hours of surgery while on a life support machine to keep his heart and lungs functioning. Doctors told him they were throwing a “Hail Mary pass,” a last-ditch effort to save his life.
“In my case, I was in a coma for 10 days,” Miracle added. “They kept me on the machine for 10 days, which means my arms and legs just started dying. The medical term that they use was ‘mummified.’ I looked like a mummy.”
While Miracle was in a coma, doctors told his wife, Kelly, that he might not wake up, and if he did, his limbs would have to be amputated.
“My wife had a decision to make and she chose me,” he said. “She told the doctors, ‘Give him to me however you can, just give him to me.’”
Doctors considered amputating Miracle’s arms and legs to prevent them from becoming infected, but they held off because Miracle wanted to “give God a shot to save my limbs and get that glory.”
Miracle was in a fog for the next month after coming out of a coma. The only thing he remembers is watching the Super Bowl Feb. 2.
In mid-March, doctors amputated his right hand and wrist and his left hand. They amputated his left leg a week later.
Miracle is able to find humor in the midst of indescribable hardship.
“My tattoo on my arm in Hebrew used to say, ‘Hope never fails in Christ,’ now it just says, ‘Hope never,’” Miracle said.
Family and friends rallied around Miracle as he fought for his life.
“My wife had it scheduled out that I was never left alone for one second for 107 days. My village is incredible. There were so many people around this world that were praying me out of heaven,” Miracle said. “My wife had index cards of Scriptures written all over the hospital room and pictures of me all over the hospital room. She wanted to make sure that all the doctors and nurses knew that I wasn’t just a patient. I was her husband and my children’s dad.”
Miracle was discharged from the hospital April 1, but he and Kelly went home to an empty house because his mother-in-law and four children had COVID-19. It was quite a different world than the one he left four months prior.
About a month later, Miracle had to have his right leg amputated below the knee.
“If one person goes to heaven because I lost my arms and legs, then I would do it all over again because I’m still going to be OK. But if you’re not going to heaven, you’re not going to be OK. If my struggle can encourage or motivate you, then bring it on,” Miracle added.
Though he has phantom sensations in his limbs, Miracle doesn’t suffer from chronic pain.
‘The Lord gives ...”
Life on the other side of New Year’s Eve 2019 is much different.
“I was active, healthy, head coach of my son’s soccer team, football team. We were living the everyday, all-American life. Stay-at-home mom, four kids, three biological boys, one adopted daughter from Colombia. Everything was great,” Miracle said.
Despite the trial he experienced, Miracle knows God is still good.
“I promise this isn’t some super Christian answer, but I have never questioned God to why this has happened,” Miracle added. “I don’t know if He’s giving me that ability or if I’m fake-it-till-you-make it. When I was told about my amputations, the first thing that came to my mind was that verse in Job chapter 1 that says, ‘The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.’ The Lord’s given me so much my entire life, but right now He’s taking a little back and that’s my arms and legs, but that’s it. Thank God that verse doesn’t end there, but says, ‘Blessed be the name of the Lord.’”
Miracle said this is just a “blip in his story,” and he’s going to fight to the finish line.
“There’s a very distinct line in the sand that was drawn for me,” he said. “I could choose to lay there, be depressed and throw a pity party or fight to figure this out. That’s what I chose to do. I have four kids at home, and I don’t have time to let life go by with me watching. So, I was at peace with what was going to happen with me.”
As Miracle began his recovery, occupational and physical therapists taught him how to brush his teeth, feed himself, get a drink, put his clothes on, load the dishwasher and start the washing machine.
“I would pick one thing every day that I would work on. That was my challenge for the day, and I just wouldn’t quit until I figured it out. I remember the very first thing I tried to work on was plugging my cell phone in. It took me three hours, something that would take me two seconds to do in the past, but now I can do it like I used to,” he said. “There’s nothing more that makes you want to fight like crazy than your wife having to wipe your butt or your kids having to feed you. Humiliating stuff. I didn’t want that.”
‘It gets dark really quickly’
Though Miracle has a positive outlook, some days are understandably harder than others. He said it is as much a mental battle as a physical one.
“I notice people doing simple tasks and then I think, ‘I can’t do that,’” Miracle said. “It’s so easy to let it get dark, and it gets dark really quickly. To think I’ll never be able to hold my wife’s hand, I may never walk my daughter down the aisle or kick the soccer ball with my kids again. Those are thoughts that creep in very quickly and very easily straight from Satan to keep me down, to keep me depressed … At the end of the day, everybody struggles with something.”
Miracle has focused less on what was and more on who he is becoming.
“It’s amazing how resilient our bodies are. Not that it’s easy to overcome, but when you’re left to sink or swim, you just do it if you want to,” Miracle added. “There are still a lot of things that I can’t do, but everything that I do is getting easier every day.”
Miracle is driving again and coaching his son’s soccer and football teams from a wheelchair. Though he was told it would be a long time until he would walk again, he did so with prosthetics a couple of months ago.
Miracle is scheduled to run in a two-mile race later this month.
Miracle said people sometimes pay for the Miracle family’s meals at restaurants and “thank him for his service” because they think he lost his limbs in combat. In fact, a lady who gives service dogs to retired veterans donated one to Miracle because she saw him in the “Say I Won’t” music video by the Christian band MercyMe.
‘Say I Won’t’
Miracle was the merchandise manager for MercyMe in 2001. Though it only lasted a year and the band jokes that “he was terrible at it,” they have remained great friends to this day.
Four years ago, Miracle and lead vocalist Bart Millard walked through “The Cure” by John Lynch to grow in their identity in Christ. It was transformative for both.
Millard wrote a song based on Miracle’s Facebook post that ended with a hashtag about “say I won’t figure this out.”
“That first verse is literally sentences from Bart and I’s text messages from four years ago,” Miracle said. “‘Today it all begins. I’m seeing my life for the very first time through a different lens even though I was 36 years old and had been a Christian since I was 11.”
The “Say I Won’t” music video has almost 4 million views.
“Twenty years later, they finally wrote a song about me,” Miracle added. “What is your ‘Say I Won’t?’ statement? Say I won’t overcome depression. At the time of that video, mine was say I won’t walk again. Everyone’s is different. If nobody knows your ‘say I won’t’ statement, then nobody knows how to come alongside of you.”