Ian Clark will tell you that he probably should be dead. At 32, this fit dad suffered full cardiac arrest during a lunchtime run in April. A series of amazing events led to Clark’s survival, which he shares with us today. When he’s not running or working as the Director of Business Development for Newchapter, a Monticello company that builds private student housing facilities on college campuses, he serves as an elder for Crossroads Church. Clark and his wife, photographer Crystal Clark, reside in Monticello with their tw children: almost 9-year-old daughter Cloe Grace (yes, without the ‘h’) and son Hudson Ian (H.I. like in the movie Raising Arizona) who was adopted at birth two years ago. You can find Ian Clark on twitter and facebook and he also blogs at captureeverythought.com.
Find out why we think Ian Clark is a Chambana dad to know.
Q: You suffered a heart attack fairly recently, at a very young age. What happened and how has your life changed since?
On April 14 my world was turned upside down. During a run over my lunch hour, I went into full cardiac arrest and collapsed due to a 99% clogged artery. Being only 32 years old and in relatively good shape, this was completely unexpected and the circumstances surrounding my survival are nothing short of miraculous.
For starters, I’ve been a runner all of my adult life and I had completed a 4.5-mile run just two days earlier. I run about three days a week early in the morning. I have never run over the lunch hour before, but I had a race coming up the following weekend, so I thought I would try to fit in an extra run. I collapsed in front of someone’s house just as he happened to be coming home for lunch. This person, Carlos, hadn’t been home for lunch in eight years. When he found me, I was not breathing, I had no pulse, and my flesh was blue. Carlos called for help. A woman named Gayla was just one block away at a park eating lunch with her husband. When she heard Carlos yell, the two came as quickly as they could. Gayla was an administrator and former director of nursing at the local hospital and immediately sprang into action. As Gayla was performing CPR, Carlos was on the phone with the 911 operator. The Sheriff arrived first and – fortunately for me – had an AED, which ultimately got my heart started again. Gayla later told me that I had been without air for at least six to eight minutes. Experts say brain death starts to occur four to six minutes after someone experiences cardiac arrest.
There were several others involved in my rescue including the local ambulance and the staff at Kirby Hospital. The entire community has been incredibly supportive and encouraging during my recovery. I was in Carle Hospital for a full week, most of which I cannot remember. Actually, I don’t remember much of anything between the 14th and the 18th of April. The rest of that crazy week is fuzzy to this day.
My recovery has gone really well. I’ve recently completed 24 sessions of cardiac rehab and I’m happy to report that I’m running again.
Q: Did your health scare affect how you parent your children?
I’ve always been really active when playing with the kids. Whether it was jumping on the trampoline or wrestling in the living room, playtime has always been very physical. Now that I have a ICD (implanteable cardioverter defibrillator) it’s a bit more difficult to wrestle. Even five months later I’m a still a little sore when the kids grab me or lean their head on me when they give me a hug.
One of the other things is, as you can imagine, the emotional liability of my family was dramatically affected by this event. For nearly 24 hours after the heart attack, they were uncertain if I was going to survive. Everyone went through a little bit of trauma, so I have to take that in consideration when I do things. They still worry when I do things, even though the clog in my artery is gone and I feel almost 100%, I have to make sure I communicate with them exactly what I’m doing and how long I’ll be doing it. For example, if I say I’m only going to take a 20-minute run, I better only be gone for 20 minutes.
Q: You are very active in your church and deeply faithful. How did your faith impact your recovery?
This whole experience has challenged me theologically. You see, I’ve never liked hearing people say, ‘Everything happens for a reason,’ and I don’t think the families of the 95% of cardiac arrest victims that don’t survive like it either. One of the most frequent responses someone has when they hear my story is, “It’s a miracle” or “It just wasn’t your time yet” or something along those lines. Was I really the recipient of a miracle, or were the hundreds of little things that needed to occur at just the right time and in just the right order for me to survive, just a matter of chance? I think the ‘short’ answer to this question is that I don’t know. Maybe there’s a more productive way of looking at it. The apostle James wrote this:”Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1 v16 & 17 TNIV
This event has made a life changing impression on me. It’s all a gift. My survival is a gift. My wife, my children, a gift. My friends, my family, it’s all a gift. Working at Newchapter is a gift.
Q: What do you love about being a dad?
I love that I get to witness these two little people grow up and react to their surroundings with their own unique personalities and perspectives. I am constantly amazed that despite my deficiencies as a parent, I have seen them develop into individuals with indomitable spirits and compassionate hearts. This I am sure is largely due to my wife’s parental excellence. J
Q: You and your wife married young and recently celebrated your 10th wedding anniversary. What has been your secret to a happy marriage? Any advice that you would like to share?
Haha. I certainly don’t know if there’s a secret but having an amazingly patient and forgiving wife sure helps. Seriously though, we are both deeply committed to one another and to doing what Andy Stanley calls, ‘making love a verb.’ Love isn’t necessarily meant to be just some emotional feeling you have for someone. Maybe when you first ‘fall in love’ with someone it is, but in order to stay ‘in love’ you have to make a decision to keep loving. I think that’s what Crystal and I have done over the last 10 years. I feel the love Crystal has for me in her actions and my love for her is expressed in the same way.
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