Nothing Short of a Miracle

I had always loved photography and anything else I could use as a creative outlet. I had my Bachelors degree from an art school in Arizona to prove it. In my pursuit of creative expression, health and fitness became a part of my regular routine. In January of 2010, when New Year’s resolutions were in full swing, I started to suffer from some pretty horrific lower back pain. At first, I simply wrote it off as a gym injury.

Out of Focus

Initially, I remember thinking, "I'm 28 years old. I'm in the best shape of my life. I'm invincible, right?" The pain hurt for about a week and then went away. Then again for just over a week before vanishing once more. The pain revealed itself a third time in May and was much more excruciating this time around. In addition to this intensified sensation, my right leg swelled to twice its normal size. At that point I said to myself  “Okay man, it’s time to finally get checked out.”

My first visit to the hospital consisted of suggestions like "Just take it easy for a while" and "If it hurts in a week come back." I walked away with a pep in my step: embracing invincibility once more. Three days later I was doubled over, staggering back into the hospital. Once inside, I explained my experiences and, on a hunch, the doctor ordered a CT scan and some more tests just to make sure that nothing serious was going on.

I figured that everything would be fine. Right as I fell asleep that night, I was awakened by a phone call. The frantic female voice on the other end of the phone was the doctor that ordered the CT scan earlier. I needed to be admitted to the hospital ASAP. On the scan, a large blood clot was spotted in one of the major veins leading into my heart. I sat up, casually rubbing my eyes and thought “It can’t be anything serious. Stuff like this happens to people all the time, just not to me.”

Since I was not a doctor, I completely misjudged the severity of the situation and was totally nonchalant. I called my parents to tell them what was going on and they were anything but nonchalant. I distinctly remember my mother jumping on the earliest flight possible from California to Utah, where I was living at the time. Knowing that my mother was coming, I did the most rational thing possible: I got my hair cut on the way to the hospital. Couldn't look like some wandering ruffian with my mom visiting town.

That next morning, a team of physicians started a myriad of tests on me. Through the flurry of nurses and technicians in and out of my room, I continued to believe, "I'm an invincible 28 year old, one little bitty blood clot can’t cause too much trouble, right?"

Clear Lense

The room was still and cold when the physician told me how big this clot actually was. It was a single blood clot but, it was a massive one. The clot started from my right ankle, ran up into my sternum, then dipped into my kidneys (hence the back pain), and cascaded down into my left knee. The magnitude of the danger I was in hit me harder than I could anticipate. The real threat to my life slowly came into view. For the first time, I could see myself for the finite man that I was. I thought “It can happen to me…”  My heart raced as I finally accepted that over 5 feet of solid clot existed in my body.  

I was living with the worst case of blood clots that my physician had ever seen in her twenty-six years of practicing medicine.

As she explained further, she told us that the clot has likely been present for most of my life. The scary part about the news was that, at any moment, it could have broken off and gotten into my heart, lungs, or brain and killed me instantly. I mean, I played baseball, football, ran track, rode ATV's and lived a very active lifestyle for as long as I could remember.  “How had I been so fortunate?” Everything from that point on was controlled chaos.

I was being prepped for surgery and told that I had a real chance of dying.

In the blink of an eye, I changed from being prepped to being rushed into the procedure room because they were going to place a filter just under my heart; preventing any dislodged piece of clot from killing me during the operation.

Before being wheeled inside of the operating room, my pastor at the time prayed with me that a miracle would happen. He asked that God, being the Master Surgeon, would protect me. It was an inspired prayer that neither of us expected. God's presence was with us both in that moment. At the most dire time in all my life, I gave the situation to God. For the first time, I truly and fully submitted to him and trusted that his will would be done - even if his will including me dying. I felt something that still to this day is indescribable. It was the moment that changed my life forever.

In my darkest moment, a soft halo of light surrounded my circumstance: giving me hope no matter what the outcome would be.

As I was being positioned on the surgical table, technicians performed the new set of x-rays on my legs and chest. Then, I heard what sounded like a little chuckle before one of the nurses asked another, "Do you see that?" The medical staff crowded the monitors in awe of what they were seeing.

I flipped over to see what was going on for myself and they explained as slowly as they could. What they saw in my ribcage, right below my heart, in the exact spot they wanted to put the filter, was a narrowing of my vein. This narrowing acted as a natural filter and never allowed anything to reach my internal organs, my heart being the closest one. It was in the perfect position to keep me from dying all this time.

One of my nurses reached up to a monitor and began contracting his thumb and forefinger together before he said, “It looks like someone reached in there and pinched it closed.” Someone indeed had pinched it - I knew exactly who it was - God had heard my prayer.

It was nothing short of a miracle.

A Picture for Living

It was in that quiet hospital suite that I felt the true power of prayer and the healing hand of God. I knew that he cared for me and wanted me to continue living. More importantly, I knew that He wanted me to capture what that looked like.

Once I recovered, I decided to move back to California. I had been laid off from my job and I felt like it was time to come home. A year after I got back to California, I met my wife, Julia.

A few years later, my career in photography had led me to a position in which I was in the studio setting but I felt the desire to shoot in ways that were more real to life. The possibility of my dream becoming a reality presented itself during an impromptu trip to northern California. As we were playing around with the camera on that trip, my wife went against every analytical bone in her body when she told me that she wanted to quit her cushy accounting job and start a photography business. I thought she was a little crazy but, with a lot of hard work and God’s guidance, we’ve built ourselves a way to capture God’s work in the lives of others.

New Vision

When my wife and I began our search for a new home church we wanted to find a place that would embrace our creativity. Our creative gifts are from God and we want to use them to serve him. Our first service at Sandals Church was on Mother’s Day in 2014 when the church revealed a home remodel project for a single mother in need. We were uncontrollably moved, knowing with certainty that we were home. The decision was confirmed when we saw an announcement that the church was looking for creatives to volunteer, specifically photographers. We reached out and accepted our first assignment the following week. We couldn’t have been happier that we had found a church that we could serve with our whole hearts.

It’s been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. I believe that a picture is worth so much more. A great photo that is taken from a different point of view tells a story in a different, interesting way. It is a photo that captures a story simply and authentically. Serving God through photography with the storytellers team at Sandals Church has been more than a blessing.

Photography is an area that I can use to help to serve God at Sandals Church. Along with creatively encouraging people to come to church, I also can use photography to make them feel comfortable and engaged with the environment while they’re on campus. Capturing real life moments that change lives is an important part of the Sandals Church culture. I hope to capture more life changing moments to help encourage our visitors, inspire new believers, and continue growing the family of Sandals Church.

I know that God spared my life that day in the hospital, and I hope to spend the rest of my life using the creativity he has given me to invite more people into a real relationship with him. Serving the church through photography is just one small way I can do that and I hope that I can inspire others to be a part of what God is doing here at Sandals Church. 

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