A Light We Share
Brian & Kelsey McNeill
In 2018, I beat significant medical odds to overcome infective endocarditis, an infection in the aortic valve of my heart, which caused me to have multiple blood clots, including several strokes and a heart attack. I endured a grueling 14 hour surgery , which left my heart weakened to the point that it stopped, and I spent 4 days on Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) life support. Finally, I survived a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) during which I was administered CPR for over 40 minutes, and received 18 shocks from a defibrillator before my heartbeat finally returned.
When asked what I thought my return from these brushes with death meant, I responded that I felt I had always tried to bring positivity to a relatively dark environment (I was a teacher in a correctional complex at the time), and that I would simply try to, “Carry the light.”
Upon further reflection as to what that meant, I realized that what I really enjoyed about life was connecting with other people, regardless of our differences. I knew that I wanted to find a way to build that connection, and help others build connections with each other. I believe that the light inside each of us is our humanity-that which makes each of us unique, and yet also that which we all have in common. I questioned why I was able to live through such an experience, while some others do not. And I came to the belief that it was, in part, because so many people shined their lights on me.