We don’t normally tell stories about the lives of the people who work at Fox 2 or KPLR 11, but one of our colleagues recently went through an experience so extraordinary, it's worth sharing. It’s a story of how one man’s entire life was changed by something that lasted just seven minutes.
Dave Earnhart works at Fox 2 News in the promotions department. Even though the job involves a lot of sitting around, Dave has always maintained an active lifestyle. He especially loves to go running.
But on January 4, 2016—one month after his birthday—Dave died. It’s a date his family will never forget, even though Dave can’t remember a thing about it.
“That was such a significant day in my life, I feel a little cheated out of the experience because I don`t have any recollection of it at all,” he said.
“It turned out to be something called an aortic dissection. Something I never heard of before I had one.”
Dave’s aorta, the main artery from his heart, suddenly began tearing apart. No one really knows why.
Doctors at Missouri Baptist Hospital rushed Dave into surgery; it didn’t take long before things went from desperate to dire.
“Once it ruptured, I was told I lost about half the blood in my body,” he said.
A few minutes after that, Dave’s heart stopped.
“I ‘died’ for seven minutes,” he said.
But he lived to tell the tale.
“No bright lights, no long-lost relatives that I saw, just no memory of that at all,” Dave said. “It just wasn’t my time.”
His heart stopping was not the only medical emergency Dave suffered that day.
Dave had a stroke during surgery, which paralyzed his left side. Doctors weren’t event sure he’d survive the surgery.
Even before his health crisis, Dave had already experienced his share of heartache. A difficult divorce left him a single father raising his three children alone; too busy and too dispirited to believe in anything divine. But going through a near death experience has changed him profoundly.
Dave spent 48 days in the hospital and more than four months in physical therapy. The only physical struggle he is still fighting is weakness in his left leg, which is why he takes long walks every single day.
“Once in a while, I’ll have a dream where I’m running and it just feels like it did before, but then I have the realization when I’m awake that I’ll probably never do that...but there is always hope,” Dave said.
Five months after his surgery, Dave returned to work.
“My first day back at work I was driving to Channel 2, I had to go past Missouri Baptist on the way to work, I was listening to a radio station and it was playing It’s A Great Day To Be Alive and the tears just flowed,” he said. “Every day is a great day to be alive.”
For Dave Earnhart, coming back from a near death experience has been the longest journey of his life. You might even call it a pilgrimage. Because when it comes to celebrating his blessings, Dave doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk.