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.

I’m Watching You Dad

With Father’s Day coming up, I am so thankful for a wonderful husband and father who knows his son is watching him and lives a life worthy of emulation. I love you, Sean Felker! I wish everyone could have a dad as great as you and that more fathers would take their role seriously and understand the impact they have on their children’s lives.

I am also thankful that those who have less than ideal relationships with our earthly fathers can always count on our Heavenly Father who is perfect and loves us passionately and unconditionally. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1a