It’s the 10 Year Anniversary of my Husband’s Death

Well, depending on your technical definition of death 🙂 In any case, Sean came seconds away from meeting Jesus face to face 10 years ago today. An article was written about the incident in January of 2003 in the Pleasanton Weekly from his dad’s perspective, which I copied and pasted below:

The Day His Son’s Heart Stopped

Brian Felker headed out to the garage the morning of Nov. 9 with his son Sean, 18, happy to have him home from UC Santa Barbara for the weekend. As they were moving things in the minivan, Sean suddenly stepped out of the vehicle and lay on the ground.

“I thought he was goofing around,” said Brian Felker, who was feeling great to be with his son again. But his high spirits plummeted as he saw that Sean looked like he was having a seizure.

“His eyes rolled back. I went over to him and put my hand under his head,” recalled Felker. “I yelled at my wife to call 911.”

“His heart rate continued to climb and climb, like a horse in a race,” said Felker. “He was turning bright red. After some period of time, he then absolutely deflated. He then stopped breathing, his color went white. I couldn’t believe my son’s heart was stopping.”

Luckily Felker, who is a mechanical engineer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, receives CPR and first aid training regularly.

“All I could remember was ABC – airway clearing, breathing and chest compression,” said Felker. “I stuck my fingers down his throat and pulled his tongue out. He took a breath on his own. He took a second breath but it was much weaker. Then he took in no breaths.”

Felker knew he had to do Sean’s breathing for him. “My first breath went into his stomach, I could see that it rose and that really disturbed me. I thought, ‘I know this is wrong because I want the air to go into his chest.’ I couldn’t remember what’s right. I went to give him air again and gave him a couple of breaths. This time his stomach was not bloating.”

At this point, his wife Joann came out of the house holding the portable phone. She relayed to the 911 dispatcher what was happening.

“I cleared his tongue again and said, all right, I have to do chest compressions. If I break his ribs I will love it if he hates me later,” remembered Felker.

All the time he wondered whether he was doing it right. He repositioned Sean’s neck, tipping his head back so he could blow the air in correctly. Chest compressions. Breathing. Chest compressions. Breathing.

“I kept this up, maybe six cycles and at that point could hear the sirens,” Felker said. “I said, ‘Thank you, Jesus.’ I lost track of time.”

Once he knew help was almost there, he relaxed and kept up the efforts. The paramedics told him to keep on going while they set up their equipment. “Within 15 to 30 seconds they said, ‘OK, sir, we’ll take over,'” Felker recalled.

“Another fireman touched me on the should and said, ‘Sir, you need to take care of your family.'”

He and Joann have three others sons: Drew, 15, Matthew, 12, and Jeffrey, 10. “Matthew had the presence of mind to run to our neighbor’s house, who is a fireman, but he wasn’t home.”

Capt. Scott Gatkin was on duty at Station 9 of the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department when the call came in.

“We found out the boy was in cardiac arrest,” said Gatkin. “We defibrillated. We put an endo-trachial tube in to facilitate his breathing and started an IV and started medications.”

He continued, “On the scene we were able to return his pulse and blood pressure. By the time we were at the hospital he had spontaneous breathing.”

“Even with all our equipment and our rapid response, if his father didn’t start CPR he may have survived, but he would not have been going back to school,” Gatkin said. “When the heart stops, there is no oxygen going to the brain and the cells start dying within just a few minutes. Even with all we can do and what can be done at the hospital to correct these problems, if you don’t keep the brain alive, someone may just survive to be on a ventilator, in a vegetative state.”

Sean’s story had a happy ending. He was taken to ValleyCare Medical Center, where he was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, which means an extra electrical pathway in his heart. He’d noticed symptoms in high school when he didn’t cool down during sports as others did. He was transferred to Mt. Diablo Medical Center where doctors operated to correct the condition.

“When the doctors came out, they were ecstatic,” reported Felker. “They said, ‘He is not just 50 percent better. Now he has a heart like yours or mine.'”

Sean was back at UC Santa Barbara 22 days later. His dad is signing up for another CPR class, although he has taken it about four times over his 23 years at the Lab.

Not only did he return to UCSB 22 days later, but four years later he graduated top of his class in the entire college of engineering…even with all that brain damage 🙂 Also, two facts the article didn’t mention are that Sean was defibrillated five times before a pulse was detected, and spent the subsequent four days in a coma.

Sean and his younger brothers, 3 weeks after his heart stopped. Amazing!

It’s an emotional day for me today as I reflect on how drastically different my life would be without Sean. The outcome would have been so different if he had been alone or with someone who didn’t know CPR. He is my very best friend and God’s greatest gift to me (aside from salvation of course). I’m grappling with words to fully describe how amazing he is, and how thankful I am for him. I truly believe he is the greatest husband and father, and I respect him so much. I come from a long line of broken relationships/divorce, and I will be the first generation to break that cycle, as we are both steadfastly committed to our marriage and faith. Equally as exciting, Caleb+ will be the first in my line to experience a peaceful home in which their parents love God and each other.

Personally, I don’t know anyone who better exemplifies the fruit of the spirit – anyone close to Sean knows he is so full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. He daily lives out Ephesians 5:25 with great humility – “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” For evidence of this, just read my series about my pregnancy with Caleb, and you will know exactly what I mean! I was once told that I hit the “jackpot” with Sean, and it’s true, I did 😉

Thank you, God, for saving my husband in more ways than one. His life has impacted so many, and my heart overflows with joy and gratitude today for your graciousness in allowing him to stay.

It’s funny, but seriously.

Sean already posted this video on our blog back in 2010, but earlier I was going through our archives and came across it and I decided to re-post because it is just that good. I seriously need to watch this video every single day so that 1. I get my laugh quota in for the day, and 2. so that I go about my day with a different perspective. As much as I am attracted to the “safe” life because of my personality and the way God has made me, I don’t want to live that life.

Salva Vida

Salva Vida means “lifesaver” in Spanish. It also happens to be the name of the most common beer in Honduras. It was interesting, because everywhere I traveled in Honduras…Salva Vida was available, however in all those places, if I had tried to drink the tap water I would have become sick. It seems like they should have called their bottled water Salva Vida, but I guess clean beer made it to Honduras before clean water.

A couple weeks ago I returned from Honduras where a small team of volunteers helped a hospital in Olanchito install a filtration system so that they could have access to clean water. They have a maternity ward there, and I just kept thinking how scared I would be if Melissa was going to have a baby AND she might get sick from the water while at the hospital. Maybe that is why the infant mortality rates in Honduras are over 5 times greater than here in the US. By the time we left, the hospital could use and drink the water without the fear of sickness/death, and that was a pretty cool feeling.

One thing that surprised me about the job was that it was not at all complicated or difficult. It makes sense though once I think about it. A very basic need should have a relatively basic solution. When I think of the world “water crisis” it seems like an insurmountable problem (which is actually not far from the truth), but for a very different reason than I had initially assumed. I guess I was thinking that facing a big problem like the clean water crisis meant it was going to be technically challenging, but that is really not the case here. We know how to make clean water, it will just cost us something to get it where it needs to go. The main challenge lies in getting the people who know how to do it to pay attention to people who don’t, and then commit the resources to get it done. We have the ability and the resources, all we lack currently is the will. It’s crazy to think about all the simple necessities we take for granted and how quickly we are able to forget about those who don’t have them. I am really glad I was privileged to be a part of addressing this issue (even in a small way), and I really hope that God is not done using me in this capacity!

Below are a couple pictures I took on the trip. The top one is from the day we arrived. It was 106 degrees and humid, and that was in March! The bottom one is a picture of the wiring job for the existing pump system. There was no “safety code” so they just cut some wires, twisted them together, and wrapped it up in a bunch of tape. Those red wires just hanging out at the top are 480 volts…enough to throw you across a room and kill you fyi. I also have a cool video I want to share but I’m still searching for it so I’ll put that up once I find it.

Flying to Honduras Tonight!

Water from Cornerstone Church on Vimeo.

Water is life, and because we have no water, life is miserable.
-a voice from Kenya

Right now, almost a billion people on the planet don’t have access to safe, clean drinking water. That’s one in eight of us.Unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation cause 80% of all sickness and disease, and kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. Many people in the developing world, usually women and children, walk more than three hours every day to fetch water that is likely to make them sick. Those hours are crucial, preventing many from working or attending school. Additionally, collecting water puts them at greater risk of sexual harassment and assault. Children are especially vulnerable to the consequences of unsafe water. Of the 42,000 deaths that occur every week from unsafe water and a lack of basic sanitation, 90% are children under 5 years old. Some other interesting statistics I found include:

-At any given time, half of the world’s hospital beds are occupied by patients suffering from a water-related disease.
-Children in poor environments often carry approximately 1,000 parasitic worms in their little bodies at any given time. Some of these worms can grow up to 3 ft. in length and once full grown will burrow out a person’s skin causing crippling pain and infections.
-An American taking a five-minute shower uses more water than the typical person living in a developing country slum uses in a whole day.
-Every 15 seconds, a child dies from a water-related disease.

These statistics are incredibly heartbreaking and the clean water crisis that the developing world continues to endure has been weighing heavily on my heart for awhile now. So you can imagine my excitement when the opportunity to actually go do something about it crossed my path! The opportunity came up through an organization called Assist International (run by my old pastor, Tim Reynolds). Assist International is a humanitarian organization that provides assistance and relief supplies to the poor and needy in developing nations. One of the many projects they take on is setting up systems to provide clean water. Since graduating in 2006 with a degree in mechanical engineering, it has been a dream of mine to use my skills to meet tangible needs in this world. When it turned out that the two years of experience I gained in the petrolium industry (before we joined staff with Campus Crusade) was directly applicable to this project, and Assist needed someone with engineering experience to help, AND I had the time and freedom to do so… I knew that God was at work and I jumped at the chance. A bonus on top of everything is that because this trip is sponsored byGeneral Electric, I will be receiving a large stipend for my work to put towards our financial goal for Campus Crusade!

So tonight my journey to Honduras begins. Tomorrow I will be in a city called Olanchito, working at a hospital that currently uses dirty water. Specifically we will be installing a water filtration system (in layman’s terms…it filters all the bad stuff out of the water) – check that bad boy out below! I’ll be in Honduras for 5 days and by next week, if all goes as planned, they will have access to filtered and purified water for their patients. I am so privileged and excited to be a part of this amazing work to bring the gospel to many in Olanchito in a tangible way. It’s so exciting to imagine all the lives that will literally be saved and changed just through this one system! “For…I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink…whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” -Jesus

Please pray for safe travels and safety within the country as well (Honduras is a country with much political unrest). Check back in a couple weeks for pictures and thoughts on the whole experience!

Melissa’s Story

Maybe it’s a female thing, because I know this video doesn’t have the same effect on Sean as it does on me…but seriously, I tear up every time I watch it…and if you know me well, you know I don’t tear up often. It’s just that every time the video hits the 4:33 point, I just lose it. This skit is such a beautiful picture of what Jesus did for us on the cross and the hardships he endured just so that we could be reconciled with God. Well and maybe it’s more than a female thing…maybe it’s because I see myself and my own story in the girl’s character. I haven’t experienced everything she did in the skit, but the hopelessness (when she has the gun to her head) and the pain and obstacles she endures as she desperately reaches out for Christ and the freedom/relief she experiences when Christ steps in on her behalf really speaks to my heart in the deepest of ways.

Although I was raised in a family that attended church on Sundays, I always thought that Christianity was about a bunch of rules that could be summed up as a moral code we are supposed to abide by. As you can imagine, this kind of stale and lifeless religion had no appeal to me as I entered my teens. Along with my misunderstanding of what Christianity was, my family situation was difficult growing up which only served to further alienate me from God, who I felt didn’t care about me. Although I always felt like there probably was a God, I went about the first 18 years of my life essentially ignoring Him as I always felt there were much bigger priorities in my life.

When I graduated from high school in 2003 and began my first year of college at UCSB, I felt like I had it all together. I was getting excellent grades, I was dancing on a hip hop team, I had freedom to do whatever I wanted for the first time in my life, and I was in love. I was living the typical college student life, complete with drinking and partying and all the rest. As the school year went on, however, I found myself unhappy and depressed. I had everything I thought I wanted but somehow I still felt empty inside. I began to isolate myself more and more from friends and only found happiness in spending time with my boyfriend.

Returning to UCSB for my sophomore year of college, I knew something had to change. I began attending Campus Crusade for Christ meetings, and I started to hear bits and pieces of the Gospel for the first time. I was intrigued that I could (and was made to have) a personal relationship with the living God and I was floored that there was salvation through faith (instead of good works). I was told that it wasn’t about rules…it was about believing that Jesus is the Savior of the world and subsequently letting that truth transform my life.

What I was hearing made sense to me, but I needed to research it on my own as well…I didn’t want to be swept into an emotional high without studying the facts and verifying that what I was believing was real. After researching, I found that Jesus was a real man who walked the earth over 2,000 years ago. He claimed to be God and he predicted that he would die and rise again 3 days later and this prediction was fulfilled. Because Jesus’ prediction was fulfilled (and I found compelling evidence for that), it made sense to me that I should really take the things he said seriously. The most important thing being that God loves me, but I am separated from him because of my imperfections. Jesus’ death and resurrection provides the only means of reconciliation to God through belief in Him which consequently enables me to follow in His footsteps.

To be honest, choosing to follow God has not been the easiest path by any means…but it is the right path and it is the path that leads to life. When I chose to surrender my life to God, it meant giving up my own will to follow His. Letting go of my boyfriend at the time is the hardest thing I’ve ever done and I still experience pain surrounding the whole situation to this day. I really did love him but I knew that the relationship was not healthy. Deciding to walk away from him and walk towards Christ was a most painful and gut-wrenching experience, but I now look back on it with an inexplicable fondness because I can see how much that experience shaped my faith. Looking back, I think the reason it was so difficult for me to let go of him was because I had made him my god – I had put my hope, trust, and faith in him rather than the true God who is the only one who will never disappoint.

I have known the Lord now for 5 ½ years and it’s so trippy for me to imagine how different my life would be if I hadn’t had the experience I had in college. I would be a completely different person…and honestly, I think I would be miserable. Life is not perfect and I experience many ups and downs in my journey with the Lord but I am truly a new person and my new life is more fulfilling, more adventurous, more edgy, more peaceful, more dangerous, more genuine, more exciting, and more loving that I ever imagined life could be. 2nd Corinthians 5:17 says “therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” Jesus redeemed and saved my life both on this earth and for eternity and He means everything to me. I strive to live my life every day as a testimony to Jesus’ love and in His power I plan to leave this world a different place because of my existence.