A Heart Healed Twice
By Robert Hull
The 700 Club
CBN.com -Claudette Hill-Atkinson says she has miraculously received a new heart—twice! Her first heart transplant was a spiritual one and came on Easter 2000 when God saved her from a life of alcoholism, abuse, and homelessness.
“I know the things that the Lord saved me from when I was out there drinking and drugging,” Claudette said. “It was the love that I'd been looking for all my life. I'm no longer the same person that I was.”
But in 2008, she needed a new heart again, this time to keep her from the brink of death. On November 3rd of that year she checked into St. Thomas Hospital in Nashville, TN for a minor heart procedure.
“I had rheumatic fever at the age of seven, which built a massive wall around my heart. They found out that I had a micro-valve leak.”
Dr. Rick Bennett is her cardiologist.
“The discovery was that she had a bad valve in her heart,” Dr. Bennett said. “It was malformed and it was very diseased. So we called in our surgical team. The surgical team assessed her and thought; well this will be a pretty routine surgery.”
Her long-time friends Pastor Dave Thompson and wife Treva were at the hospital to offer support and prayer.
“We just went thinking it was a normal heart procedure,” Pastor Dave Thompson said, “So we didn't anticipate anything. We'd been prayed up and were asking the Lord for favor.”
“And so after the surgery – a very successful surgery--was over, my husband and I had left the hospital because everything was great,” Treva said.
But, on the way to the recovery room, doctors noticed that something terrible was happening.
“Literally on the way back to the recovery room, it was recognized that she had a major problem going on,” Dr. Bennett said. “She appeared to be bleeding internally and this is what prompted in a sense an emergent return to the operation room. The surgeon promptly recognized that there was a tear or a rupture in the place where the upper chamber of the heart connects to the lower chamber of the heart where this valve was seated and that is where the tear was, the rupture, she was bleeding from that area and because it was on the backside of the heart it really was something that was almost impossible to repair. Again, it looked like she really had no hope at all.”
Pastor Dave and Treva were called back to the hospital to receive the devastating news.
“Obviously I was already just sobbing and pouring my heart out to God at the time that he would just let me make it back before she died. That was my prayer then,” Treva said.
“There was very little hope in the physician's eyes,” Pastor Dave said. “And so they basically prepared us for the worst.”
With no opportunity to perform CPR, one of the doctors was ready to call the time of death. But, the lead surgeon, Dr. John Lea, was prompted to attempt a last chance surgery.
“The decision was made at that time the only chance to save her life was to actually remove her heart from her chest, and this is extraordinarily unusual,” Dr. Bennett said. “It's sort of the same idea as when someone gets a heart transplant...and they put a new heart in and take the old heart and they literally explanted her heart and took it out of her body.”
It took 36 ½ hours to rebuild Claudette’s heart. But during those 36 hours, a worldwide prayer effort was taking place on Claudette’s behalf.
“We began to pray,” Treva said. “We went to the waiting room with her daughters and-and brothers and other family and then church members began to show up
and we just continued to pray for the next 36 hours, you know, that-that God would do something miraculous.”
“All of our faith was stretched and we were challenged toreally seek the Lord on a level that we never have before,” Pastor Dave said, “and to uh call out to Him and expect great things from God.”
“To kind of put in the perspective of a doctor,” Dr. Bennett said. “the stamina of the surgeon and the taxing nature of that event—to just continue on, persevere, not give up—from my view this is an area where clearly God was present working through surgeons and nurses and staff. Ultimately after that repair was performed to a satisfactory condition they re-implanted her heart and praise God as soon as they shocked it, it immediately started back. It was no doubt an amazing event that took place.”
Even after the surgery was successfully completed, doctors prepared Claudette’s friends and family that no one had ever survived a similar surgery long term and that even if the surgery was a success-that she would most likely have significant brain damage. But after a week in a medically induced coma—Claudette woke up and never missed a beat.
“She was able to carry on a conversation from the first time she opened her eyes,” Treva said. There's no other word but miraculous for this.”
“The rupture of the back wall of the heart is something that has probably only happened in 4 or 5 cases,” Dr. Bennett said. “Most of those were fatal. She is the only one I can find in all of our surgical team that we can remember that has survived it. This is miraculous in so many aspects. There is no doubt she was covered in prayer.”
“God is great,” Claudette said. “God chose me And I say that because He knew that I wouldn’t keep my mouth shut. He knew that I would go everywhere anybody asked me and tell them what He did for me. He is performing miracles like He did in the Biblical days.”
“It's about the power of God, it's about the grace of God,” Pastor Dave said. “He gives everyone a new heart who by faith and repentance looks to Christ and what He did on the cross for them.”
“She's excited about telling people that God is in the miracle business,” Treva said. “He's still the God who has not grown weak from-from the miracles of-of Scripture and that He cannot only give you a new heart physical, as He has done for Claudette, but He can give you a new heart spiritually.”
“I want people to know that God is real,” Claudette said. “He's real. He can move mountains and He loves us. We're his children. And He'll do anything for us. Have faith and believe and never, never ever give up hope.”
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