As a cough from early February worsened late into March, David Henry, a Sweetser Elementary School teacher in Marion, Indiana, checked himself into Marion General Hospital -- only to be intubated a day later.
The previously diagnosed pneumonia was quickly understood to be COVID-19, leading David on a path of severe lung infections, kidney failure and dialysis, and near-death conditions.
His wife, Michele, who serves as pastor to families and children at Brookhaven Wesleyan Church, said, “We figured he'd be in 14 days or so and be out.”
Within hours, health professionals grew increasingly wary of David’s condition and issued a transfer request to Lutheran Hospital in Ft. Wayne, Indiana.
But the transfer was initially denied by both hospitals, as David would not have survived it.
“My health deteriorated so quickly that within a day I was sedated and intubated, and I didn't wake up for 28 days,” David said.
Recovering just enough for the transfer, David spent the next four weeks at Lutheran Hospital, where he could benefit from a wider range of medical resources. But optimism again waned, as doctors saw no possibility of recovery.
“The day following his transfer was the worst for me personally,” Michele said. “It was also physically one of his worst days. The doctors called and told me there was really nothing that could be done for him.
He was not going to make it, and we had to prepare ourselves that he was not coming home.
“I had to have a conversation with my children that he very well might not make it. And we would have to believe that God is still with us and our faith is still strong, but that he's going to help us in a different way than what we thought. That was hard.”
Michele and David have 11 children — biological, adopted and foster — and though he was largely unconscious, David sensed the extent of his sickness and pleaded with God to prevent his adopted children from experiencing another loss.
“I remember telling the Lord, ‘I feel like the best part of my life is coming right here soon. And I'd really like to be present for it. I want to see my kids marry, and I want to have grandkids,’” David said. “And I didn't want to let my kids have another loss, because as beautiful as adoption is it doesn't come without a substantial loss for the child. They have lost and grieved a family, and I was asking the Lord not to make them grieve me.”
Doctors urged Michele to consent to a do-not-resuscitate order, but she could not bring herself to do it. “Why would God go through all that trouble to transfer him, if he was just going to let him go?”
The community church-goers, students past and present, families, Facebook acquaintances and strangers to the Henrys — began a fervent, month-long prayer marathon.
Michele’s Facebook updates garnered hundreds of responses and shares as the community and believers across the world prayed for David.
“The growth of support we were receiving was exponential. The whole school and community rallied: people from his corporation, former students, parents, people that just knew who he was, teachers and former teachers, our church family, they surrounded us,” Michele said. “Every time we prayed for something specific, the very next day or even that night, it would happen. It was just incredible to see God begin to work.”
One small miracle after another, David’s health began to improve, baffling medical experts.
“The doctors couldn’t deny he was getting better, but it didn’t make sense to them as to why because there wasn’t any good reason medically,” Michele said.
On Easter morning, Michele and her kids were able to experience David’s first moments of semi-consciousness, as doctors attempted to wake him up to allow him to try to breathe on his own. The fact that God began to wake up David on Easter, the day Christians celebrate Christ’s resurrection, was not lost on her.
“We started to experience very minor improvements, but improvements nonetheless, which they said probably would never happen. So, every little thing was something I was able to cling to that God was working. God was doing something. It was just very, very, very slow,” Michele said.
David recalls few moments from the early stages of his recovery, but he is certain of the interactions and conversations he had with God.
“I think there were three separate experiences for me: one my mind had, one my soul had and one my body had,” David said. “There was a point where my spirit was very much present with the Lord. My soul was in this beautiful communion with God. And we had this amazing back and forth conversation and prayer.
“And I felt strongly impressed that when I woke, I was to declare, ‘My name is David Henry, and I'm a child of the one true God.’”
In late April, David fully awoke with this declaration on his lips.
Met with a parade gathered outside the hospital as he was released, the Henrys were overwhelmed with the number of people who pled with God for David’s health.
“People just came out of the woodwork. People that haven't prayed in a real long time. And God did that,” Michele said. “So, if this was what it took for some people to wake up and realize that God is still active in our lives and he does care and he is God, then, yes, it was hard, but I would do it again.”
The unity of Christ’s body, revealed in the faithful prayers of hundreds and thousands, was what most astounded the Henrys.
“All of us, together, were on our knees, together, to the same God, together, and giving him praise, together,” Michele said. She added that as much as they appreciate the dedicated work of the health professionals,
“Nobody could say that the doctors healed David. It was so evidently God who did that.”