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I shouldn’t be alive

Published in Blog on May 30, 2024 by Jakob Fay

Earlier this month, I returned to the hospital in which I should have died. A short drive from where I now live, it serves as a beautifully taunting reminder of the sacred miracle of life—and the treacherous nearness of death. We are, all of us, perhaps closer to death than we realize.

I would know.

One day, life is good. Life is normal. I take a walk with my sister, work on my car, and watch a movie with my family—a perfectly unexceptionable day in the life of a perfectly healthy 17-year-old boy.

But that was May 3.

The next day, I find myself confined to my room, my chest throbbing in pain. By May 5, I’m in an ambulance, rushing to the ICU, where I will spend the next week or so attached to weird machines, IVs, and tubes pumping fluids into my body. I’m informed that if I had not come in when I did, I likely would have died in my sleep.

Miracle #1, check.

Sure, spending one’s high school graduation in a hospital bed is far from ideal. But, hey, at least I’m alive! I’ll take it.

But for how much longer?

My body is failing—fast. And no one knows what’s wrong. Days pass, my condition worsens, and we have zero answers. The doctors and nurses test me for what feels like every ailment known to man, but they all come back negative. All we really know is that there’s some hideous-looking mass in my lungs and that my heart is malfunctioning. And remember, I’m a perfectly healthy teenager.

Well,
was.

According to the doctors, an average heart troponin level rests around 11. At 30 or so, they would assume I was having a heart attack. And mine? Well, mine climbed up to 3,300—a number that still boggles my mind.

Miracle #2: I really shouldn’t have been alive. And yet, there I was, hanging on for dear life, but, against all odds, playing Bananagrams with my mom on the hospital TV table.

That’s when things began to turn around.

After several days of an endless downward spiral, my pastor decided to host a prayer service for me in the hospital parking lot. To this day, I’m still overwhelmed by the sheer amount of prayers I received that crucial week: Family, friends, and perfect strangers from all over the country cried out for a miracle on my behalf. But on that night—as dozens united in supplication before God—something changed. Immediately following the prayer service, a nurse entered my room to test my troponin level again, and for the first time that week, it dropped, which it continued to do until they discharged me a few days later. Coincidence? I think not. Indeed, after the fact, we received a note from the specialist: “Dr shocked at how fast his Troponin levels went down in hospital.”

Miracle #3.

As you can see, I really shouldn’t be alive. It’s only by the grace of God that I am. He alone deserves the glory. My road to recovery wasn’t immediate or perfect (at one point, I learned I might have cancer—a false alarm [or miracle #4??], thankfully!), but He proved Himself faithful every step of the way. Onward from that hospital, we trekked, His hand in mine—slowly, at times, but never a backward step!

A few months later, I joined Convention of States, my favorite political organization in the country, where I have enjoyed the privilege of serving for nearly four years now. A few months after that, I met my new cousin—born, ironically, in the same hospital where I should have died. Then, I met a beautiful young woman—now, she’s my wife.

Needless to say, God has been good to me. Too good. But through it all, I have walked away with more than just immense gratitude. I have also obtained a crushing sense of the (beautiful) burden of life. That is to say, I acutely understand and relate to Nathan Hale’s one regret.

We each have one but one life to give—and that is an extraordinary but fleeting gift. Our existence on this earth, the Apostle James informs us, is no more enduring than a vapor—here today and gone tomorrow. And I, for one, cannot afford to waste it.

Life, we must realize, is daily slipping away from us. Precious time, once squandered, can never be reclaimed. Will we make the most of it, serving God, our country, and those around us? Or will we waste it chasing after a thousand meaningless pursuits until, one day, we realize life itself passed us by?

I urge you—do not let that dreadful fate become your own. Your country needs you. God has made you for a purpose. If you’re still alive and breathing, that purpose still stands.

Join the grassroots. Fight for a better tomorrow. Pray for those around you as others prayed for me (believe me, prayer still works. Just ask my mom, who cried out to God, “Don’t make me leave this hospital without my son”). Do whatever the Maker and Sustainer of your every breath calls you to do. Just don’t waste your life.

Four years later, whenever I visit that hospital, I wear a hoodie with the words from one of my newfound favorite songs. That song reminds me:

Life is short; I wanna live it well
One life, one story to tell
Life is short; I wanna live it well
And you’re the one I'm living for
Awaken all my soul
Every breath that you take is a miracle
Life is short; I wanna live it well

I got one life and one love
I got one voice, but maybe that's enough
Cause with one heartbeat and two hands to give
I got one shot and one life to live

May those words be our anthem. May they be our battle cry.

I shouldn’t be alive, yet God has blessed me with a second chance at life.

I won’t waste it.

What about you?

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