Nathan Cook always told people that God could work miracles, but he wasn’t entirely certain he believed it.
But now, the 39-year-old pastor knows God can do anything.
“Any prayer requests, any need, anything,” he said Wednesday. “I believe it 100 percent because of what he’s done in my life.”
Nearly three months ago, Cook suffered a major stroke and two seizures that took away his ability to walk, hold his children or play basketball.
But today, he is on the road to full recovery, thanks to physical therapy and his faith in God.
Cook will tell his story at 10:30 a.m. Sunday at the First Assembly of God Church, where he serves as the youth and music pastor.
He said he wants to send the message that when people worship God, he will help them.
“We’re created to praise him and give him worship,” Cook said. “And when we do, no matter what the circumstance is, he sees it and he moves on our behalf.”
Cook’s story began at 3:30 a.m. March 30, when he woke up with severe chest pains. He thought he was having a heart attack and asked his wife to call paramedics.
As he waited for the ambulance, he began feeling worse. His legs were numb from the waist down, and the paramedics treated him for a heart attack.
But when the doctors at Western Plains Medical Complex conducted a CT scan, they discovered Cook had suffered a stroke with three brain bleeds.
Cook was later airlifted to Wesley Medical Center in Wichita for treatment.
He said he was glad that he hadn’t suffered a heart attack.
“I felt relieved, thinking that maybe my struggles were over — for the most part, anyway,” he said.
But his struggle was just beginning.
The Wesley doctors found that Cook’s aorta had ruptured, and the arteries had started to spill out.
Cook said he later learned that high blood pressure had caused the stroke and the ruptured aorta.
“I did have a history of high blood pressure,” he said. “But two years ago, it wasn’t very high at all, so I stopped taking my medicine. I didn’t know that this would happen and it would go right through the roof. It was in the high 200s when it happened that night.”
He said the Wesley doctors weren’t sure what caused the problem in his legs, so they checked him for a tumor but didn’t find anything.
Nine days after the stroke, Cook suffered two seizures three hours apart that caused his heart to stop. He quit breathing and began slipping toward death.
Several hours later, the doctors revived Cook, started him breathing again and put him on life support. He did not slip into a coma, but he was so heavily sedated and in so much pain that he was unconscious for the next three and a half weeks.
When Cook finally awoke, he started therapy so he could learn to walk and talk again. By the time he left Wesley, he could use a walker to travel a few feet before he had to sit down.
Cook’s upper body, speech and cognitive skills began to return, and he was on the road to recovery. He later transferred to Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln, Neb., to continue his therapy.
‘You are a miracle’
When Cook arrived in Lincoln, a team of therapists started working with him every day on moving his muscles and improving his cognitive skills. But his therapists were reluctant to push him because of his dissected aorta.
He said the therapists told him even if he had surgery to fix the aorta, he could not lift more than 20 pounds, walk briskly or run for the rest of his life.
“I’m a youth pastor, so I was very active with youth,” he said. “I have four kids. So to think that I could never lift my kids again for the rest of my life, that crushed me.”
Cook later visited Dr. Mohammed Quader, a topflight heart surgeon in Omaha, to discuss his aorta.
After studying Cook’s medical records, Quader had some startling news.
“He looked me into the face, introduced himself and he said, ‘I can’t believe that I’m looking at you.’ He said, ‘You are a miracle.
“‘Because everyone that has this with their dissected aorta happen to them, no one has lived. Everyone has died. But you’re alive, and you’re doing great.'”
Quader said in most cases, the arteries spill out of the aorta and find their way into the body’s vital organs, spoiling them. When that happens, the patient dies.
Cook’s arteries had spilled out of the aorta, but they stopped and began to regrow before spoiling any vital organs.
Cook would not need surgery to repair his heart, and his therapists could start pushing him harder. Once his legs recovered, he could run, walk and play basketball again.
“I just said ‘Praise God’ and walked out with my wife and rejoiced in the fact that God worked with what we felt was our last obstacle,” Cook said. “God did an amazing thing.”
Armed with that knowledge, Cook returned to Lincoln and resumed working with his therapists. But this time, they worked him much harder.
‘The extra mile’
Today, Cook is undergoing outpatient therapy three times a week at the Dodge City Medical Center. He started the therapy June 1 and will continue for another two and a half months.
Cook can walk again, although he needs a walker. He cannot stand up with a sitting position without help, so he’s working on that with his therapist.
But he’s pushing himself to improve every day, and he’s pleased with his progress so far.
Cook said when he awoke three and a half weeks after his seizures, he wondered why he was still alive. But the next day, Cook and his wife clasped hands and vowed to trust God, no matter what happened.
“God kind of put some faith in me the next day just to keep believing in him for the extra mile,” he said. “And it’s been that way every day.
“He’s been just doing radical things in my life every day.”
Reach Eric Swanson at (620) 408-9917 or email him at email@example.com.
Copyright 2011 Dodge City Daily Globe. Some rights reserved
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