A brain-dead man regains consciousness to greet his family one final time. Divine intervention or medical miracle?
In straightforward, journalistic prose, Blake, a financial journalist and senior editor of Trader Monthly, painstakingly recounts the life of Donny Herbert, the eldest of seven children born to a Navy veteran and a bus driver. In his youth, Herbert was an avid bow hunter and outdoorsman, and he went on to become a proud father, loyal husband and charitable neighbor. At age 25, Herbert began living his dream of being a Buffalo, N.Y., firefighter. His initial 14-hour shift included fighting a massive five-alarm church blaze, managing a major car accident and battling an electrical fire. His wife, Linda, and their three young sons would come to bear the brunt of Herbert’s rigorous schedule. In 1995, after many frugal years of living off “life’s simple joys,” things became stressful. He and Linda, both devout Catholics, began squabbling and the house seemed in constant disarray. Near the end of that year, while Herbert was on duty fighting an attic fire, the roof caved in, trapping him beneath a ceiling beam without oxygen for more than six minutes. Two months later, conflicting medical reports classified him as either permanently brain damaged, unable to see or speak, or well enough to make a complete recovery. He then entered into a coma-like state for nearly a decade. In 2005, Herbert was treated with neurostimulant medication by a Muslim doctor and suddenly began to speak coherently and conversationally. Linda, who had continually prayed for her husband’s recovery, viewed the event as a miracle, while doctors characterized it as a medical mystery. Much later in the narrative, Blake comes alive as well, as he tells of Herbert’s friends, family, clergy and a ravenous media rallying around him. Sixteen hours after that event, Herbert closed his eyes and was never fully coherent again. His death from pneumonia at age 44 put his family’s agonizing vigil at rest.
The carpe-diem message resonates clearly in this moving, bittersweet account of another of life’s mysterious miracles.