It was Thursday morning, May 19, 2022 and per his usual routine, John Miller was working out at the gym.
“I did my 45 minutes on the elliptical and got off the machine. While I was cleaning it, I went down,” says John. “I don’t remember anything after that, only that I had felt fine and didn’t have any warning signs that something was wrong.”
It wasn’t until much later that John learned about the frantic rush of people who jumped into action to save his life.
“A gentleman named Brian Moreno was on a treadmill about 10 yards away from me and it just so happened that he had completed CPR training the week before,” says John. “Brian worked on me until the fire truck arrived and Sean Elsten, a firefighter, continued the life-saving measures until the ambulance got there. There was a defibrillator at the gym and they had to use it 15 or 16 times.”
Megan Thornton happened to be in training that day with Three Rivers Ambulance Authority. Despite the incredibly bleak-looking circumstances, she did not give up on John. The ambulance rushed toward Dupont Hospital because it was closest to the gym.
Fifty minutes had gone by. No pulse, no breathing. Thornton kept working by performing CPR, using the defibrillator and administering adrenaline and epinephrine. When the ambulance reached the parking lot, John’s heart miraculously started beating again.
Thornton gently stroked John’s head and said, “Not today, John. Not today.”
“They were most likely taking me to Dupont Hospital to pronounce me dead, but God had other plans,” says John.
Since nearby Parkview Regional Medical Center (PRMC) is better equipped to handle an extremely critical case like John’s, the ambulance driver, Victoria Gonzales, took him there. He had a pulse, but he was by no means out of the woods yet.
John’s wife, Sherri, was at a board meeting when she got the unimaginable call from the Fort Wayne Police Department.
“I felt confused when they told me what happened,” she says. “Of all the people in the world, John is the last person I would ever expect to have a heart issue. He’s 55, takes great care of himself and his daily workouts include a cardio routine. I just couldn’t believe it.”
Once Sherri arrived at PRMC, she was greeted by Chaplain Patrick Reinke, whom she describes as her guardian angel on earth. He comforted her, prayed with her and stayed by her side until one of the nurses took her to see John.
“John couldn’t breathe on his own and was on life support. He hardly looked like my husband. Cardiologist Pete Chaille told me John’s heart was ‘very, very sick.’ He went on to explain that John had complete heart failure, which is different than a heart attack. He assured me they would do everything possible to save him. Dr. Chaille was another angel on earth. After being moved to the ICU at the Heart Institute, John spent eight days in a coma. Dr. Chaille told me that just seconds without oxygen can leave a person with significant neurologic damage and that John had gone for quite some time without breathing on his own. John underwent induced hypothermia, used to slow the body’s processes to minimize brain swelling. Through it all, the ICU nurses and physicians were world-class caregivers. They explained the seriousness of this procedure while also providing hope. They treated John with such respect and tenderness while he was in the coma and they were very accommodating when pastors, priests, family and friends desperately wanted to see John. God Bless these unspoken heroes!”
Sherri and John’s two sons, John III and Jack, spent every day at the hospital. On Sunday, Sherri needed to spend some time with the Lord in silence and the boys stayed with John while she went to the Adoration Chapel at Saint Vincent de Paul Catholic Church.
“When I was leaving the chapel to head back to the hospital, I heard a woman call out my name. It was Rose. I hadn’t seen her in a long time. She had been one of my mentors during my conversion to Catholicism years ago. She said she saw me in the chapel and that she felt something heavy on her heart that told her she needed to pray for me, because I needed a miracle. Rose had no idea what had happened. She gave me a blessed medal of the Blessed Mother. That was so re-affirming to me. No matter what happened, God was telling me it would be ok. I put the medal on John’s identification bracelet. Two hours later, he flatlined while my son Jack and I were in the room with him.”
An army of doctors and nurses flooded the room while Sherri and Jack held each other in the hallway. Then, everything stopped. The room went silent.
“I knew they stopped working on John. Parkview’s chaplain was approaching us and I just knew that was it.”
But it wasn’t. A nurse approached Sherri and said John started breathing again and had a pulse. It was a miracle.
“When the boys and I left the hospital that night, I saw a beautiful cloud formation in the sky that looked like three crosses. I took a picture and later noticed on the arm of one of the crosses was John’s name written in cursive. It made me realize that you should never stop believing. No matter how impossible the situation seems, never stop believing.”
Eight days later and awake from the coma, John needed to have a pacemaker/defibrillator surgically implanted to prevent future heart failure. He was released from the hospital on Memorial Day and went back to work as president of consumer sales and operations for Best-One Tire in mid-June, and was back to playing golf in July.
“Every day is a bonus day,” says John. “Not a day goes by that I don’t thank God for all the amazing people He sent to help me. From Brian to Sean to Megan, to every nurse, doctor, Parkview family member, John, Jack, Sherri, family, friends, pastors and priests – I am beyond humbled, and grateful beyond words for all that you did to make today possible for me.”