This morning we told the story of Jill Finley, a thirty-two-year-old woman who suffered a heart attack and went into a coma, only to wake up after her husband took her off life support. WATCH VIDEO.
I chatted with Jill and Ryan Finley after their segment, because it truly is an amazing story and hard to wrap your head around. After watching his wife remain in a coma for fourteen days, Ryan Finley made the difficult decision to take his wife of four years off of life support. Shockingly, Jill began responding and waking up once life support was removed. Within six days she was back to - for all intents and purposes - 'normal'.
While it is amazing to hear Jill speak and go through her first memories (her first real memory after waking up was in rehab), and talk about the first thing she said (she asked to be taken to her favorite Mexican restaurant), I wanted to hear from Ryan, her husband, who was forced to make one of the hardest decisions and experienced the most miraculous outcome.
Q: Ryan, this must have been an emotional rollercoaster for you. Had you and Jill discussed the issue of life support prior to her heart attack?
Ryan: No, we really hadn't discussed it. I did remember a couple of years ago that my aunt, who I was very close to, passed away after being on a respirator. I remember Jill seeing her and saying, "I would never want to live that way." That memory did come back to me as people were telling me that I needed to start making decisions. She couldn't stay in the hospital anymore, and no re-hab facility would take her in a comatose state. The only option was a nursing home, and I just couldn't put her in a nursing home in that state.
Q: Many people have asked Jill what she remembers from that first day, what was the first thing she said, etc.- but for you, was that in some ways a difficult emotional adjustment going from one extreme to the other?
Ryan: Oh it was definitely an adjustment. I don't want to say I gave up hope, because I didn't, but I was trying to adjust myself to the fact that Jill wasn't going to be here. About three days before she woke up, I contemplated - I mean people were saying, "You have to start making decisions." No rehab facility would take her - I was thinking, you know, I don't want her in a nursing home. So I had to start preparing myself.
Q: So what was it like when she started making noises and waking up?
Ryan: It was, um, it was euphoric. It was - I can't imagine a feeling better than what I felt right then. I call it euphoric, it was just - I couldn't believe it was happening. I kind of had to take a double-take, and that went on for about twenty-four hours. I really couldn't believe it was happening. The two or three days prior I was preparing for the worst and the best happened. It was just like living in a dream for a day - then it hit me, 'She's back, dummy.'