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Wedding Day Miracle

By Jennifer McClure

Nate Calaway and Carly Funston’s wedding was two days away. The aroma of Mexican food and the conversations of some 20 friends and family members filled the groom’s parents’ home that Wednesday night in Munster, Ind.

Everything was going wonderfully, and everyone was enjoying themselves. No one could foresee the medical emergency just minutes away.

Eric, Adrianne and 5-year-old Morgan Goss — the groom’s uncle, aunt and cousin — had driven all day from Springfield, Mo., to the Chicago suburb where the groom’s parents, Eric’s sister Vicki and brother-in-law J. Calaway, live.

As the celebration began to stretch into late-night hours, Eric decided to lie down on the couch in the living room, away from the activity in the rest of the house. About half an hour later, Morgan went to ask his dad a question.

Morgan found Eric lying on the couch, as expected. But there was blood on his lips, and Morgan couldn’t wake him up. Morgan went back to the kitchen and told his mom.

“Eric looked dead,” Adrianne recalls. “He was blue from head to toe. He had foamed at the mouth. I tried to move his head, but the way he was lying, his head was wedged between the couch and his body. I couldn’t move him at all; he was dead weight.”

Screams for help sent the men running up from the basement.

In the last 13 years, Eric had had about half a dozen seizures. Doctors never had diagnosed him with epilepsy since the seizures were not consistent. But unlike previous episodes, Eric was not responsive.

Alan Bixler, co-pastor of Park Crest Calvary Temple Assembly of God in Springfield, Mo., grew up with Eric — from church nursery to high school to married with children. He was one of the first to the room.

Blood trickled out of Eric’s mouth. He had severely bitten his tongue, and it was swollen to the size of a golf ball.

“He’s dead right now if we don’t get him breathing,” Bixler said as Eric’s face began to turn a darker blue.

Bixler reached up under Eric’s head and back as J. Calaway, pastor of Hammond (Ind.) First Assembly of God, grabbed Eric’s feet. Together they lifted Eric off of the couch and lowered him to the floor. Wedding guests and members of the wedding party filled the home with prayer.

In an effort to open his airway, Bixler and Calaway pushed a pillow underneath Eric’s shoulders while tilting his head back.

“His face was almost black at that point,” Bixler says.

The opened airway brought the first gurgling sound of life. Eric was breathing. The men raised him into a sitting position to improve airflow, and held him up until paramedics arrived.

Eric’s parents, Don and Clare Goss, arrived at the same time as the paramedics. They too had driven up from Springfield, Mo., and walked in to discover the life-threatening situation.

“Your heart just has a grip around it,” Clare says, recalling the moment. “You immediately start praying.”

A second ambulance and two police officers arrived, and soon the team of four medics and two officers loaded Eric into an ambulance. Just a couple of blocks down the road, Eric came to — but he wasn’t himself.

Eric fought and screamed the entire way to the hospital and continued to fight for three hours. At about 2:30 a.m. Thursday, June 18, the medical staff decided to intubate him — inserting a breathing tube to allow mechanical ventilation.

“When they intubated him, I fell apart, because I had to agree to that just months ago for Don,” Clare says.

Five months earlier to the day, on Jan. 18, a blood clot following a hip surgery brought Don Goss near to death and kept him hospitalized for a month. Clare signed the life-support papers then. Now Adrianne had the paperwork.

A sign of hope

By 5 a.m. Thursday, Eric was admitted into ICU — completely sedated. Throughout the day, two questions plagued everyone’s thoughts: Would Eric pull through? If he did, would he suffer brain damage?

“I was scared,” Adrianne says. “It was very surreal. I was just ready for somebody to pinch me and wake me up and tell me it was all a dream.”

Thursday evening the sedative started to wear off, and Eric began to wake up. But he was still considered combative at the time, and the hospital staff felt his body needed more time to rest. However, before they put him back to sleep, there was a strong sign of hope: He squeezed Adrianne’s hand to acknowledge he could understand her.

That night family and friends gathered for Nate and Carly’s rehearsal dinner. But Eric’s parents, Adrianne, and Adrianne’s parents, Terry and Gayla Webster, stayed with Eric.

“We went to the rehearsal dinner not knowing how Eric was,” says Vicki, the mother of the groom.

When everything first happened that Wednesday night, the bride and groom considered canceling the wedding, but Adrianne insisted that Eric, even if he died, would want everything to go on as planned.

An answered prayer

Friday morning, the day of the wedding, came.

“I just needed a miracle that day,” Vicki says. “I needed to go to the wedding knowing Eric was going to be OK.”

She sent an e-mail to their home church family, outlining three specific requests:

“My prayer today is that they will be able to take him off the ventilator, and that my brother will be able to sit up and talk with us. And, by faith I am going all the way and asking God to do this before the wedding starts (5 p.m.) so that we can enjoy the wedding knowing that Eric is OK!”

Vicki went to the hospital with her mother-in-law, Bev Calaway, to see Eric for a few minutes before meeting up with the bride and bridesmaids. But when they arrived at ICU, they weren’t allowed back because of another patient’s emergency.

Adrianne and Clare went out of ICU to greet Vicki and Bev, but Adrianne soon returned to the room when she saw a doctor go in. A few minutes later a nurse took the three of them back to see Eric.

Unbeknownst to them, the doctor had taken Eric off of the sedative and the ventilator while they were in the waiting room.

When Vicki, Bev and Clare entered the room that Friday afternoon, Eric was talking with Adrianne and her dad, Terry Webster. Tears of joy and praises to God flowed freely. Vicki’s wedding day miracle had come just hours before the wedding started and at the exact time that she could witness the good news firsthand.

“That was God’s gift to us that day,” Vicki says. “God let me see that he was fine. From there on, we could have the party, and we could go on with the day.”

A celebration

Eric remained in ICU until Saturday when he was moved to a regular room. The wedding that Friday night, Vicki says, was a celebration not only of Nate and Carly’s new life together but also of Eric’s recovery.

By Sunday, Eric was released from the hospital in time to attend a family barbecue — the final family gathering of the weekend. Monday they returned to Springfield. Tuesday, to everyone’s surprise, Eric returned to work.

J.T. Wray, general manager of Gospel Publishing House, where Eric has worked for 21 years, and his wife, Helen, happened to be in the Chicago area while on vacation and visited Eric in ICU the previous Thursday.

“When we visited him for a time of prayer, I thought he either wouldn’t survive or he would come out with serious brain damage,” Wray recalls. “So when he came into work the following Tuesday, I was absolutely stunned. It really was a miracle.”

At the time, GPH was facing the final weeks before the Assemblies of God’s 2009 General Council. Eric, GPH warehouse/storage coordinator, was responsible to see everything shipped to the convention on time and delivered to the appropriate recipients. Knowing Eric’s work ethic and the stress of nearing deadlines, management insisted he only work half days his first week back.

When asked why he returned to work so soon, Eric replies: “God did His job; I have to do mine.”

Daily peace

From family to co-workers, all familiar with Eric’s story praise God for the miracle He worked in Eric’s life — and the peace they felt while going through it.

“Somehow through it all, you’re worried for your husband — it’s life-threatening — and you’re worried for your son, but underneath it all is God’s peace,” Clare says.

 “I can’t imagine going through anything in life — severe or not — without the Lord,” Adrianne says. “God was telling me, ‘You have to just trust Me and put it in My hands, and I’ll take care of you.’ He just gave me a peace about it all.”

Though questions remain as to the cause of Eric’s seizures, Adrianne says God continues to grant “peace that it’s all going to be all right.”

“It’s a wild experience,” Eric says. “It’s a new twist when people say, ‘Nice to see you.’ It’s nice to be seen.”

JENNIFER McCLURE is assistant editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.

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