220 Beats Per Minute

Thump! Thump! Thump! “Can you open the door?”
I sat helplessly in a chair across the hotel room with my recovering leg propped up, and all I could think was, “Why didn’t the front desk give them a key?”

I didn’t realize how pale I had become, but the voice on the 911 call caught my attention as she said, “Are you able to get up and open the door, sir? The EMT and Fire Department are outside and can’t get in!” The thumping did not stop. It sounded like the hinges on my door were about to give way. I raised myself with all of the strength I had left and made my way to the door. 

I am certain that when I opened the door, the entire fire department and EMT team were standing there. It felt like the 300 Spartans had just arrived to take care of me. They put me in a chair, and within minutes, wires were attached to my chest, and the results were that my heart was racing at over 220 beats per minute. It felt like seconds before I was in the elevator, wheeled through the hotel lobby with nothing on but my shorts and t-shirt, and loaded into the back of the ambulance.

This was a first for me. Nothing like I imagined from watching 18 seasons of Grey's Anatomy. The EMTs and fire department were all around me — the strong scent of engine oil and grease emanating from their protective clothing.  My heart was still at over 220 beats, and the ambulance was not moving. I knew at this point it was not a heart attack. Eventually, I found out I was suffering from supraventricular tachycardia, or SVT.
Six weeks earlier, Becky, my wife, and the mother of our two sons, had been diagnosed with glioblastoma — terminal brain cancer. We had no idea how long she would have left after two brain surgeries. She made me promise her that I would do everything to live a long time for our boys, and we wept over this horrible new reality. Now I was in an ambulance, out of breath and praying to God, “You have to keep me alive. Our boys can’t lose both parents.”

“Can you tell me your name?”


“Oh, like Noah’s son in the Bible.”

“Wait! What? So you read the Bible?”

“Yes, I do. Now hang in there with me. We will push through a shot of adenosine, and you will feel a lot of pressure on your heart. Just breathe hard through this…”

This is my best recollection of what the EMT said from a position behind me. At the same time, I was begging God, “Save me. Please save me. Tell me that you are with me.”

Above me, the 2nd EMT administered two shots of adenosine to regulate my heart back to a normal heartbeat. The ambulance started, lights flashed, and we were on our way to the hospital.

I turned my head back, searching for the EMT with whom I had shared this conversation.  I disclosed that my wife was dying, and begged him to save me. At that moment, he came to my side. He put his hand on my heart and said, “I am going to pray for you, for your wife, and family, for your heart. God is with you.”

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). – Matthew 1:23
Japhet De Oliveira
Story & Experience Executive at Adventist Health, Co-Founder of the The One Project

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