How to Find Success in the Struggle

with Gary Miracle

Gary Miracle was MercyMe’s inspiration for their hit song ‘Say I Won’t’. Hit play to watch!

Let’s get one thing out of the way: Yes, Gary Miracle is his real name. But after you hear his story, he’ll forgive you if you think it sounds a little too on the nose.

The day after Christmas 2019, Miracle went to the hospital in Tampa with flu-like symptoms. Over the following week, as one treatment after another failed to make a difference, he would visit the ER three more times before being helicoptered to Orlando and rushed into the ICU. There, he flatlined and was actually clinically dead for seven minutes before being put into a coma. When he awoke 10 days later, he learned that an acute blood infection had claimed all four of his limbs.

But rather than give up on life, Miracle attacked it with newfound energy. With the help of a wheelchair and prosthetics, he’s learned to do simple personal tasks that at first might have seemed impossible. He also coaches his kids’ soccer and football teams, and even ran a two-mile race this past September. And he carries his inspirational message to as many people as possible that God’s grace, even in our darkest hour, is reason for gratitude.

“I just want to preach from the rooftops about God’s grace, how good God is, and how He doesn’t make mistakes,” Miracle says. “I try to spend every waking second convincing people that they are free in Christ, that they are brand-new, and that’s the only thing that matters, not what your body looks like or anything like that.”

Tell me about that day you first went into the hospital.

It was right after Christmas in 2019, that goofy time frame in between Christmas and New Year’s. I just figured I had the flu. They gave me Tamiflu, steroid shots, and sent me on my way, but I woke up the next couple days still not feeling better. I went back to the ER a total of four times, and they were kind of at a loss, they didn’t know what to do, so I was actually airlifted from one hospital to another. I arrived at the new hospital in Orlando about 1 or 2 a.m. on January 1, 2020. Happy new year!

Now, I don’t remember any of this. I remember going to the ER the day after Christmas, and that’s it. I don’t remember visits two, three, and four; I don’t remember the helicopter; I don’t remember anything. I arrived there at 1 or 2 am, I was rushed into the ICU, and then 7:08 a.m. is when I coded. I flatlined. I died for seven and a half minutes. They called in the crash carts, all the doctors flying in. [Wife] Kelly said it was right out of the movies, a nurse jumped on top of me and started pounding on my chest to try to bring me back. Fifteen or 20 minutes later the doctor came out and told her they did find a slight pulse and they were going to rush me into surgery to put me on this life support machine. It was a five- or six-hour surgery, and I was in a coma for 10 days.

The ECMO machine is a life support machine people are put on after a heart or lung transplant. Usually you’re on it for 24 or 48 hours at most, because it takes oxygen from your limbs and pumps everything into your core. I was on the ECMO for 10 days, so all the oxygen circulation from my extremities was sucked out and pumped into my core, and after that time my hands and legs started dying, they started becoming necrotic. Kelly was told while I was in the coma that because of this I was most likely going to lose my limbs if I ever woke up. They gave me like a 1% chance of even coming out of the coma. On January 10 I woke up, had brain activity, but my hands and legs were dying. They were kind of filling me in on this news that I was most likely going to lose my limbs but I got to keep my life.

Do you remember the moment when you realized you’d lost all four of your limbs? What emotions were you feeling?

Oddly enough—and I promise you this is not some crazy Christian-y answer—the very first thing that came to me was the verse from Job: “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.” I remember thinking that in my life, it was just my taking-away time. I can’t be thankful all my life for the things He’s given me and then be mad at Him for the things He’s taken away, because He’s told us He’s going to do that.

That was my first response, and things haven’t changed that much. I’m just so incredibly glad to be alive and to be part of my kids’ lives and watch them grow up, getting to watch them play sports and stuff. There was just kind of a line drawn in the sand: Am I gonna sit on my couch and throw a pity party for the rest of my life for what happened, or am I gonna fight like hell? And that’s what I decided to do. I decided to fight.

Were you ever angry about what happened to you?

Not yet! It may be coming—I mean, things get dark sometimes, there have been those nights when you bite your pillow and scream and you cuss and cry. It’s hard to think, in the heat of the moment, that I’ll never be able to hold somebody’s hands again. My mind will get the best of me and I think I’m never going to be able to walk my daughter down the aisle when she gets married, I’ll never be able to kick a soccer ball. There are times when I get really, really rash, but anger has not been one of the emotions just yet.

What’s your message to people now, and how are you getting that message out there? 

This is probably my favorite part. My message to people right now is two things: One, I just want to preach from the rooftops about God’s grace, how good God is, and how He doesn’t make mistakes. I try to spend every waking second convincing people that they are free in Christ, that they are brand-new, and that’s the only thing that matters, not what your body looks like or anything like that.

I tell people often—and this is kind of the kicker for me—every single one of us has struggles, we all struggle with things; right now, my struggles just happen to be visible. You can see me struggle, you can see that it’s difficult for me to hold a cup or brush my teeth or drive a car. And what I’ve found is when people see my struggles, they step up and help. We go out to restaurants and I drop my fork eating dinner, and somebody picks it up and gives it back to me. Sometimes my family, sometimes a waitress, sometimes a stranger, but when people see a struggle, they step into that.

I don’t know what other people struggle with today—depression, anxiety, problems with finances, relationships, we can fill in the blank with whatever harsh struggle there is. I truly believe it’s those invisible struggles, the ones you can’t see, that will eat you alive. It can get to you, and if you don’t have somebody in or around your life who knows your struggle, then they can’t help you. But if you can be brave enough, and if you can risk it with just one person in your life and just put this out there, say “Right now I’m struggling with this or that,” it’s amazing how loved you feel for the sharing of your struggle, because people will step up. People will give that fork back to you, whatever that may be in your life or situation. But people gotta know. I beg, beg people to find one person. Because I truly believe that sin and struggle find their power in your life when they’re hidden, and if they’re hidden, they have power over you. But if you share them with just one person, then they’ve lost their power.

The second thing is, you know the movie “Rocky,” the scene where he’s working out, he’s running, he runs to the top of the steps and he reaches the top and he throws his arms in the air and says “I did it”? I want everyone to have one of those overcoming “Rocky” moments where they share what they’re going through with someone and fight their way out of it, and then they can stand over that struggle with their hands in the air.

When you’ve got something like that to be grateful for, it really can change your whole outlook on life.

I’m handling it really well because I do have a totally different outlook now on life and tragedy and all these little blips in our story on a daily basis. When you see Christ show up and literally save your life over and over—He brought me back to life after seven minutes!—how dare I not give everything I got to Him? I look different, and sometimes it’s hard to go out in public. And sometimes people stare at me or whatever, but at the end of the day, goodness gracious, God kept me alive for a reason, and I want to figure out why.

What kinds of things do your kids ask you?

These kids are so incredibly gracious—they have honestly turned a blind eye to all this. I’ve coached their soccer and football teams for the past five years, and one of my biggest heartaches was thinking I wouldn’t ever be able to do that again. But when I got mobile, it was approved for me to take my wheelchair out on to that soccer field. I get some kids that are grossed out, they stare at my arms or legs when I’m not wearing my prosthetics. They ask, “How are you even alive? Why do you look like that?” But I’m just so thankful that they feel the freedom to say whatever. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people grab their kids and say, “Don’t stare, don’t do this, don’t do that,” et cetera. I tell the parents of the kids that I coach, you guys can ask me questions, you can stare at me, it’s OK. I’m alive, let’s have a conversation about it.

I remember asking my oldest son, before I got approval to coach, if he would allow me to coach because I never wanted my kids to get bullied. And he just said, “Dad, nobody cares what you look like, I just want you to coach.” I cried like a baby after that.

Restoration

What does restoration mean to you?

I watched this documentary not too long ago in which a doctor had this one-liner—”If you’re given a second chance at life, make sure you live it better than the first.” That just stuck with me, and I believe God restored my life to give me this platform to speak to as many people as I can. When we let Christ into our lives, He makes us brand-new, He restores us, and we never need to be restored again because He hasn’t held anything back.

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