Paul was brought up in an ordinary English family. They were neither a committed church-going family, nor particularly unbelieving. Like so many families they were busy doing life and didn’t really think about ‘religious’ things. It just wasn’t important. Paul says,
“Although we were not a Christian family in the usual sense of the word, I was a choirboy for a couple of years when I was eleven. I always had a sense that there was something missing, but I didn’t know what it was. I was not an unbeliever. I knew that some things happened that could not be easily explained.”
A Close Call
There were some ‘close calls’ when Paul could have died, but each time it seemed that there was someone watching over him.
“I look back at several times in my life where I could have died. For instance, when my family and I were walking in the town that we lived outside of, I was about 14, I tried to cross a busy road, a car came flying around the corner, as I stepped out onto the road, I felt something pull me back onto the pavement, my family was about 20 feet from me and there was no one else around.”
There were other close calls, but Paul still didn’t specifically think about God, or angels protecting him. Like most people, he just got on with life without really thinking much about death or eternity. Then, something happened which shook him up entirely.
A Dark Road
My wife Jane and I were in Yorkshire visiting her brother when we got the news that my Dad had died. It shook me to the core. I couldn’t get it out of my mind and I blamed myself for years. After all, I was a paramedic! I felt that I should have been there to save him. I became obsessive and our marriage broke down because of this.
Paul went through a very dark time. Meanwhile, Jane was praying for him. She became a Christian when she was living in Australia many years before she met Paul, but family life had become very busy and she now only attended church occasionally. But soon after the trial separation between Paul and Jane, her daughter Michelle, a ‘full-on Bible-basher’, asked her to go back to church with her. She decided it wasn’t such a bad idea, and when she walked into the church something supernatural happened. It was as if Jane was back in Australia again and her passion for God quickly returned.
Meanwhile Paul was not at all happy. After a few months he realised that he missed Jane very much. They were soul-mates and Paul now saw that they were destined to be together.
The Power of Prayer and Football
“Jane was praying for me all the time. She prayed that we would get back together, but to no avail initially. Then she prayed that I would be happy, that’s when we started talking and I went home to my wife. Jane made it quite clear that she was back in a good place with God and that is where she wanted me to be as well for our marriage to work. Quietly I thought to myself, ‘Yeah, right! – as if that’s going to happen!’
But just 2 months or so after this, the football (soccer) team at Jane’s church were looking for a goalkeeper. Paul had been a goal keeper since primary school and had played in all of his school teams, the area Sunday league, and the Dorset league. He couldn’t resist the offer and he joined the Verwood Family Church Football Team without a second thought.
“Because it was a Christian league, a prayer was said before every game, that’s when God started working on my heart. I kept hearing a voice saying, ‘go to church’, but I kept saying, ‘no way!’ “
But Paul realised this was the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to him. It was not just a random thought. Eventually, he grasped that God loved him, that Jesus Christ the Son of God had died for him, and that only a fool would keep rejecting God’s call.
“After about 6 months of this, I went home after the game and I said to Jane, ‘I need to go to church.’ I went the next Sunday. A year later I was baptised with water. Soon after that, I was baptised with the Holy Spirit. God had done something amazing in my life and I was like a totally new person.”
Church Life and a New Skill
Jane was already playing percussion in the church worship team. Paul decided to learn to play the guitar and he progressed quickly. He was soon in the band as well and, after a time honing his skills, he began leading the worship too.
Paul and Jane were more than church attenders. They became fully involved in helping with music and worship, children’s work, youth work and anything else that they could make time for alongside their full-time employment in healthcare. They were also asked to lead a home group. Paul says,
“Life was good, and this continued for about six years.”
The Day Paul Died
Paul began to suffer from acute indigestion. At first he would take over-the-counter medication, which worked for a while. But then he also developed chest pain. After a visit to the doctor, Paul was diagnosed with acid reflux. Heart issues were ruled out because the chest pain did not come with exertion. The doctor prescribed a stronger antacid and again this eased the problem temporarily.
Then, on Saturday 9th February 2019, something far worse happened. Paul takes upon the story.
“Jane was getting ready to go shopping at Morrisons. I felt unwell again with chest pain, this time the pain was also radiating to my jaw. Jane suggested I sat on the sofa, and she then rang for an ambulance. The last thing I remember is just feeling so hot, and then…”
Jane had put the phone down from talking to the ambulance service when Paul went into cardiac arrest. He lost consciousness immediately. Jane phoned the ambulance again and told them what was happening. Paul’s heart had stopped beating. As a trained nurse, Jane started CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) straight away. Paul adds,
“God put everything I needed in place that day. First, Jane was about to go shopping, but she had not yet gone out of the door when I passed out. Second, we had two community responders (one of whom is a paramedic) at my side within four minutes.
Third, the ambulance was already ‘on blue lights’ and was at the household waste tip just 6 minutes away. And fourth, the air ambulance flew from Henstridge air base and got to me in just 15 minutes!”
When the helicopter crew arrived they initially found a pulse, but it went again almost immediately. It took nine shocks from the defibrillator to regain a pulse. Paul was put in an induced coma and given a clot-busting drug.
Upon arrival at the hospital, he was taken straight into surgery where the doctor put in a stent. Paul was kept in an induced coma for three days, with cooled fluids given keeping the temperature of his heart, brain, and other organs down to reduce organ stress. Whilst the church were praying, several members visited and prayed for a complete recovery. Paul’s wife Jane and daughter Michelle were at his bedside every day, praying the same prayer.
“Jane was asked to come to the hospital early on the Tuesday as they were going to slowly wake me up. She was told there were three possible outcomes. I may not wake up, I would wake up with brain damage as my brain was starved of oxygen for 45 minutes, or I would wake up and be ok. Jane took our daughter Michelle with her to the hospital and on the way down they joked, ‘I bet he’s awake already.’ And sure enough I was, and was ok apart from being a little confused with the effects of the anaesthetic, which took a few days to wear off.”
The first thing Paul said to Jane was, ‘I love you’.
“The doctor who was on the air ambulance also works in Bournemouth hospital Accident and Emergency department. He came to see me when I woke up and welled up with tears when he saw me awake! He said he didn’t think I would wake up! He said, ‘it’s a miracle’ — and he was absolutely right! The nurse said she had never seen him cry before.”
Paul had another scan two days later, and they discovered that his heart was normal! He didn’t need anymore stents. This was entirely unexpected, and another miracle. He says,
“I had quite a few visitors over the next few of days. I don’t remember most of them, apart from a couple from church who I was convinced were dressed as clowns —that’s how powerful the drugs were!”
Paul was discharged just two days later. Jane took two weeks off work to look after him. It was a good distraction from the trauma he had been through, but when she went back to work there were no distractions and he started reading all the goodwill messages he had received. Paul says,
“I broke down and cried several times. I think it was mainly ‘survivors guilt’, because I know that the survival rate for cardiac arrest outside of hospital is less than 5%.”
When Paul first woke up he didn’t remember meeting with Jesus, or seeing a bright light, or any of the supernatural things people often report seeing in a near death experience. Paul had “a massive wall of doubt” because he had died and not seen Jesus. However, the powerful ‘coma’ drugs in his system meant the he was unable to remember anything from those days when he was sedated. But that memory loss didn’t last. A few weeks later he asked Jane a strange question.
“Jane, did I go for a walk around the lake?”
Jane said, “no.”
Paul was now having vivid memories from the time when he was in a coma. He had a vivid image of himself walking around the lake at the hospital. Then, over the next few days, God revealed to him that he truly had walked around the lake with Jesus! He adds,
“Although He is our Lord, our King, and our Saviour, we were just walking and talking like two ordinary friends. I remember I was on my knees bowing to Him, and Jesus reached out His hand and said, “walk with me.”
“One thing Jesus revealed to me recently was what He told me. He said, ‘I know your heart and it is pure. Do not lean on the past, you have a journey in front of you, God will be with you.”
Paul says he used to worry about things that had happened in the past, but Jesus was telling him to listen to God’s word and to live by it, not to dwell on things that God had forgotten because of what Jesus has done on the cross.
“The one thing I remember being so tangible and so real was the love I felt from Him. It was indescribable, almost overwhelming. Imagine the love you feel for the person you love most. Well, that doesn’t even come close. I know that Jesus was with me during my near death (or actual death) event, and has been close every day since then.”
“The one thing I’ve learnt from all this is that when we trust in our awesome Father, we don’t want for anything. Jesus is all that we need.”
In the Bible, Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
Story by Ralph Burden
Photos supplied by Paul Fox