We can take our lives for granted, caught up in life’s daily churn, but when you have an experience like Heidi’s, every breath offers a new leash on life. Her story of being brought back to life is tangible, having walked from the edge of life & death, to recovery and renewed health. Her relationship with the Lord is revitalized, with new priorities and a fresh outlook on life. Heidi’s story is a miraculous one, reflecting the glory and grace of our Heavenly Father.
Special thanks to our sponsor Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission, who have been serving the homeless population and helping the lost become found for over 90 years. Our vision is to see every homeless neighbor — beloved, redeemed, restored. Find out more about them at ugm.org.
Heidi Martin: I’ve been a Christian my whole life. I became a Christian when I was a little kid. I grew up in a Christian home. I have seen miracles, and I think I’m probably not alone when things are going good, you don’t make God as important as you should. I wasn’t as devoted as I should have been, but this, this experience was something that really, really changed me.
Narrator: We’ve all experienced it. You run into a friend from the past, but there’s something different. They are changed. Maybe there is a calm where there once was a storm. Maybe there is gentleness, instead of harshness. There’s a new passion, a new life. What changed? Welcome to Brought Back to Life, a podcast where we explore stories of ordinary transformation.
Luke: Hey, producer Luke here. I’m so excited to share my brave coworker Heidi’s journey of finding new purpose in [00:01:00] life after a near death experience with Covid. And don’t forget to listen all the way to the end for another insightful testimony from our sponsor, UGM.
Heidi Martin: Hi, my name is Heidi Martin, and this is my journey through Covid that brought me back to life. I just wanna start off by saying I was listening to a different podcast, and it was a Christian podcast, and they were just talking about they had like five kids and how they were told the older kids the story of their life and they assumed it would trickle down to the younger.
And then they found out that that wasn’t happening. The moral was, keep telling your story cuz you think people have heard it; you think maybe your friends have heard it, your family has heard it, but maybe they haven’t. And you know, and my story is really about giving God glory. And so, I hope that accomplishes that, cuz that’s really my goal.
So, back last year, 2021, very memorable day, August 7th. It was a [00:02:00] Saturday morning. I had; my husband had covid. And he was sick for a couple weeks and he has autoimmune diseases, so we were more worried about him. I wasn’t feeling good for about 10 days and, but I’m not usually the person who’s that sick, so I was just resting and thought, I’ll just get better. It’ll go away. We were monitoring our oxygen levels and mine were staying mid to high nineties, so that was good. And so, we went to bed that Friday night. We’re both sick. And Saturday morning, it’s like 11 o’clock in the morning, which is very unusual for me. I’m a morning person and even if I’m not feeling good, I’m not in bed until 11 o’clock.
And the next thing I know, it’s all a blur, but the next thing I remember is my sister is standing in my bedroom and I’m thinking, where did she come from? How did she even get in my house? I’m just really confused. And she has my [00:03:00] sister or my daughter-in-law, sorry, on the phone, on speaker phone who’s a nurse, and she was a covid nurse at Harborview in Seattle during 2020. And so, she saw the worst of the worst. And so, the next thing anyway is they’re taking my oxygen levels and they had dropped overnight to 72, which is drastic. And you know, pretty much you better get to the hospital or else, you know, you pretty, you could probably just sleep and die in your sleep at that point.
And so, I’m completely out of it because my oxygen levels are so low my brain is not functioning properly. And so, she just, that this, I believe is the first miracle because she didn’t call us first. She lives about 40 minutes away. And she had just heard that I hadn’t really had food or anything for about a week and I was taking minimal fluids, and she knew we had kind of been sick and she listened to the Holy Spirit who said, get in your [00:04:00] car and go get Heidi.
And I’m so thankful for her because my husband couldn’t have done it, cuz he was, he was also sick, and he wasn’t really functioning properly either. So, she shows up and takes her 45 minutes to get me downstairs into the car because I have no energy. I don’t really remember any of that. I remember getting to the ER and lying on the bed in there, and they were checking my vitals and all that kind of stuff, and they had put an oxygen mask on me.
That was August 7th, and so for about a week I was in the ER, and honestly, my brain just couldn’t even function like where I was, or why I wasn’t at home. None of that really was in my brain. I was just like, I guess this is just where I need to be. And I really believe God is protecting my mind through all of my hospital stay because I wasn’t like, I wanna go home. When can I get outta here? I [00:05:00] didn’t even think that way. And I know that that’s not normal. So, anyway, so about a week I was in the ER. A week later they moved me to the ICU because I needed more help with breathing. And the ICU had better equipment and better staffing to give me more attention, more one-on-one attention, and it started out as just a precautionary move.
The next day I was moved onto a BiPAP. Which is a breathing machine, like a mask. I wasn’t able to be moved at all or be moved without my oxygen levels dropping drastically. Even if they tried to turn me on my side, or on my stomach, because they want you to lay on your stomach. I never did lay on my stomach because I couldn’t do it, so I would, they would lay me on my side. I was on a hundred percent oxygen, double masked, and 40 liters a minute being pumped into me. 60 liters is the max you can have pumped into you. So, I’m, I’m getting up there. I ended up with a double lung infection; viral [00:06:00] and bacterial. So, they started treating me with antibiotics, and this is when anxiety started to kick in and, which was something very foreign to me. I’ve never been an anxious person, never been depressed, none of that. They were giving me anxiety meds to help. Then the next day my vitals started to stabilize, and all this time there’s no visitors. I haven’t really talked to my husband that much. Maybe a video call here and there with the nurse’s help. Texting all that, out the window.
I just did not have any energy for any of that. So, I had to tell my husband at the very beginning, please tell people to quit texting me. And so, we would have a point person. You know, my husband, and then we had Roger at my office was also a point person. So, then that next day, the vital started to stabilize. my nurse called my daughter-in-law, Marissa, she’s the nurse, called her phone so I could have Zoom call with my family. This was the first time we had seen each other since I was admitted. So, now we’re 10 days in and it’s the first [00:07:00] time I’m seeing my family. My youngest son and his wife and my granddaughter were not able to get to my house in time for this call. And my husband tried really hard to get everybody there.
The next day my husband gets a call, and again, remember I’m starting to stabilize, but now the next day they’re calling my husband, telling me they’re gonna, telling him they’re gonna put me on the ventilator, which was a surprise because they thought things were maybe starting to go, be going well. Because I had maxed out three breathing machines and I was still unable to maintain a safe oxygen level. My husband asked if they could wait 45 minutes so all of my families could gather to see me before I went on the ventilator. Sorry. So, they did wait the 45 minutes. My husband told my granddaughter, who is nine at the time, and we’re super close, and to look in my eyes when she saw me on the video because she would see my me [00:08:00] smiling be through the, because I’d have a breathing mask on my face. So, look at my eyes and, but quite the opposite happened.
I looked terrified and she started to cry. At this point, my family didn’t know if this was the last time they would ever see me, but they were praying along with many, many others. The doctors think that I had a bacterial infection in my lung that had been there for, maybe even years, which made me more susceptible to Covid.
And so, after I was put on the ventilator, they were able to x-ray my lungs and discovered I had air around my lungs, and that was, that was adding additional pressure. The next day after I was on the ventilator, they had to put two chest tubes in me to help release that air pressure. So, I had two chest, two chest tubes put in.
My white blood cell count started to trend down, which meant the antibiotics were starting to work. I had asked my family at the beginning, which I don’t remember asking, but I had asked them for picture boards to put in [00:09:00] my room. And so, they, my daughter, my other daughter-in-law, Rachel, had made three picture boards. One had my family with pictures, and they all wrote stuff on it. The other one had my work family with pictures, and they all wrote stuff. And then another one was just an encouraging verse. And I don’t remember what that is at the moment. But so I was on the ventilator and at the hospital in Bellingham, they don’t put you complete… they don’t put you in a coma. They put you under, but you can still wake. and then you go back to sleep. So, I, I’ve heard that that’s a little bit better way to deal with it. So, I would wake, I don’t remember this at all, but the nurses told me later I would wake up, I would point to my granddaughter’s picture, and I would smile, and I’d go back to sleep.
So, I told her afterwards, I said, Arianna, you helped get me through the, you and God helped get me through this. So, then the next day the doctors landed on the baseline, and they’re not gonna make any adjustments for a few days, unless those, it’s required. So, I basically, [00:10:00] Hanging out on that ventilator. And three days in a row I had incremental improvement. My fever came down and my white blood cell count was almost normal. They started seeing increased lung capacity and my lungs were starting to loosen up.
So, a couple days later, my nurse called my husband again, cuz I really wanted to see my family. My husband was able to gather everybody for a zoom call and my eyes were closed. But I would nod my head in response. I couldn’t talk or anything cuz I had, you know, obviously the ventilator down my throat and into my lungs. And we ended up the call by singing Jesus Loves Me. Which I guess I had requested they sing every day. Probably to calm and reassure my granddaughter and myself. And a little bit of medical jargon, jargon here. Each oxygen machine has an F 1 0 2 setting, which controls the concentration percentage.
The air that we breathe every day is 21% oxygen. The machine can go up to a 100%. I was able to max out the first three machines [00:11:00] all the way to a hundred percent, which is why I was moved to the ventilator. My body was having to try and do the breathing and the ventilator was able just to do that for me, so I didn’t have to work so hard because I couldn’t do it. I, there was just no way. I started the ventilator at 80%, which did not leave a lot of room to go up. The first day I was at 80% the second day, 70 to 80, the third day, 70 to 75, and so on. I was going, trending down, which was good. Once I could reach 21% oxygen, I could be taken off of the ventilator and work my way back through the same three machines that I had gone through to get to the ventilator.
August 27th, 25th, seven days now on the ventilator. When I was put on the ventilator, I was in the high severity range for mortality. But after seven, but after seven days, I moved into the mild range. I still had high anxiety. Just going back for a second here, my daughter-in-law, who’s the nurse, Marissa, in 2020 when [00:12:00] Covid was new and we didn’t know a whole lot about it, she had put a hundred people on the ventilator in at Harborview and only took one person off. The rest died. And so she kept telling my husband, at least I was a year later, so they had more knowledge. She kept telling my husband and my son, as long as she doesn’t go on the ventilator, we’re gonna be okay. So, when I went on the ventilator, she freaked out a little bit, obviously, but my husband and my oldest son Taylor are researchers. So, they started doing tons of research and figured out, okay, there’s a good chance she’s in a good category cuz of her age, and she doesn’t have a lot of preexisting conditions and trying to find the hope, right? I mean, they obviously know God is our hope, but they’re analytical. So, they wanna find out the numbers.
So, august 26th, vitals continued to move in the right direction. So much so that they [00:13:00] decided to do a breathing test in the next 24 hours. They would turn off my ventilator for 30 minutes and see how I did. My white blood cells jump back up. August 28th is 10 days on the ventilator. I was finally taken off and only using six liters of oxygen, which is amazing. Six liters is, in the grand scheme is nothing, right? I mean, it’s still, it’s still s you still need it, but which is another miracle. Doctors are now telling my family they’ll probably keep me in the hospital another two weeks. So, starting August 30th, I still go have to go back through those three breathing machines, and I was on number two.
I was extremely weak and disoriented and hadn’t been able to take a step. Still major anxiety. September 1st, I was moved out of ICU into general care. I had been using a feeding tube down my throat still, and not able to swallow, so I had to have everything thickened. And because of the ventilator, it had paralyzed one of my vocal cords, and [00:14:00] so I had zero voice. I literally couldn’t even hardly whisper. And that made swallowing impossible, because your vocal cords have to smack together to be able to swallow, otherwise things could go in the wrong direction. Like go into your lungs or whatever. So, my doctor was great. He actually had one of the ENTs come in and scope my throat and confirmed that it was paralyzed and Before I left the hospital, he was able to come in and do a procedure on my throat and inject that vocal cord, which made it so it was more permanent.
So, the right vocal cord had something to smack against so I could swallow. Because they weren’t gonna let me go home until I could swallow. And now I wanna go home. Now I’m starting to realize I want to get outta here. So, September 4th, I stood and I walked a few steps. And at this point, you have to remember, I am completely [00:15:00] dependent on oxygen, and I am very panicky. Like if the oxygen isn’t on my face immediately, like if they change tubes or masks or anything, I am very scared. And so, and I really didn’t sleep hardly at all in the hospital except for when they had me sleeping with drugs. I’m still dealing with anxiety, but I finally asked them to quit giving me anxiety meds and sleeping pills since they weren’t working, and I don’t wanna, I just didn’t want that in my system.
September 7th, I was moved outta the Covid unit. Thank you, Jesus. Because in the Covid unit, everybody looks like they’re wearing a hazmat suit. No visitors. You feel like an alien. I mean, they were super nice and everything like that, but you, you just feel like an alien.
And it, just not a good place to be. Anyways, so then so when I got moved outta the Covid unit, I had people that had regular nurses and doctor’s uniforms on, [00:16:00] and sometimes they were, and most of them weren’t even wearing masks at the time. And I felt like a human again. You know, and some of them would even gimme hugs and things like that.
And I did go through a phase where when I was so anxious, anytime somebody came into my room, a doctor, somebody even who was cleaning my room, a nurse, anybody, I would ask them to please rub my arm. And I just needed that human touch so bad. And so, they were, most of them were so kind and would literally sit and just rub my arm.
And later on when I got home and I was reading some articles about Covid, that was actually one of the things that someone said in one of the doctors said in the articles, like, people want them to rub their arm. And I thought, what an interesting thing that I would ask for that. So, and every time a nurse came into my off or my room, I would always ask them, do you believe in prayer? And sometimes I had to write that down on a piece of paper cause I couldn’t talk. And if they say yes, I asked if they [00:17:00] would pray for me. And I wanted them to know I believe in God, and I want you to pray for me please, because I believe in healing and I believe in miracles. And anyways my one son, Taylor, the one that’s married to the nurse, they actually lived down south in Bothell and he was so great. He came up because he works from home. He came up and probably spent three to four nights at our house every single week, even when I was in the hospital, to help my husband out because he didn’t know if he was gonna have a wife anymore. You know, is my wife coming home? I believe she’s coming home, but I don’t know what the plan is.
And you know, we’ve been married a long time. We’ve been married 35 years at that point. And we just didn’t know anything different. Has always been the two of us and our kids, right? So, and another thing my husband had read, was a lot of people that went through Covid came out with basically PTSD, and they were super afraid to go outside.
They were super [00:18:00] afraid to get sick, and many other things. And it’s a miracle I literally have none of that. I came home and I was like, I mean, even though I had a long recovery, but I didn’t have the fear. I had zero fear. And my husband was actually more worried about that. Before I came home, they had, cause I had a feeding tube, and so they actually took that out, which I was so thankful. That was probably one of the worst things, and they put a feeding tube in my stomach so my husband could feed me. And so, when my husband came to pick me up, it was pretty, it was pretty interesting because I had had that throat procedure and so I had to pass a swallow test. So, I passed a swallow test on a Tuesday morning. They let me go home Tuesday afternoon. So, this is 37 days in the hospital. The nurses were crying. I was crying, cuz I was so happy to go home. My husband picked me up. [00:19:00] He was in full dress clothes, huge bouquet of flowers, the whole works. I mean they; it was, it was very sweet and that made, I think everybody cry more. So, and my husband, my son was laughing because, Dad was speeding all the way to the hospital. So cuz he was so excited to come get you.
So, but one of the cool things that happened while I was in the hospital that I heard about was we live in a small town up in Lynden. We have a pretty visible house, cause we’re on a corner, and my husband and my two sons were at home one of the days that I was in the hospital. And they look out the window and they see like 20 plus people all of a sudden coming onto our front lawn. And they’re like, what in the heck is going on around here? Right? So, they go out there and these people are, some of them we know. Some of them are just strangers, and they’re all there to have an impromptu prayer meeting for me, which was pretty [00:20:00] powerful.
And so, my sons and my husband all went out and joined them. And there was a prayer meeting right on my front lawn in Lynden. We live, like I said, in a pretty visible area, so I’m sure a lot of people saw that driving by. That’s pretty cool. So, and another cool thing that happened when I was in the hospital too, was when I couldn’t talk and I was so anxious, and I just needed to hear someone pray for me or anything, I would call Roger and Linda Burke from my office, and I would just put him on speakerphone and no questions asked, he would, and then we’re talking like 9 30, 10 o’clock at night and they would literally just start praying. And it was kind of funny cuz my husband and my son were like, well, why did you call them and not call us? And they, but they figured it out because I, they said if I called them, they would’ve asked me questions like, what do you need? What’s wrong? You know? Like normal family stuff, right? But I knew Roger and Linda would [00:21:00] literally just pray. They wouldn’t ask me questions; they would just pray. So, I called them quite a few times cuz I just needed someone to pray. And I had a lot of Christian music playing in my room at night. So, whoever walked in there also heard that.
So, but I think one of the things that really changed me was cause I, I was, I’ve been a Christian my whole life. I became a Christian when I was a little kid. I grew up in a Christian home. I have seen miracles and I think I’m probably not alone, when things are going good, you don’t make God as important as you should.
I wasn’t as devoted as I should have been. But this, this experience was something that really, really changed me. And I take life, I take God more serious. And I definitely put him first. Instead of making him equal with my family, he’s now first, and my family is now second. And that has changed how I look at everything.
And I would always say when I was a kid up through [00:22:00] adulthood. Jesus, don’t come now. I wanna get married. Jesus, don’t come now. I wanna have kids. Don’t come yet because I wanna have grandkids. Don’t, I mean, there was always something that I was waiting for, but now I’m like, okay, God, you can come and you can come anytime you want. I’m ready. I’m ready to go home anytime you want. Doesn’t mean I don’t love my family dearly. I love my family dearly, but I know they’ll be okay, and God has a plan, and I wanna be part of God’s plan and I wanna do his will. And I was never really an emotional person before this happened, but now I’m very emotional, and I’m emotional about the right things, not the wrong things.
I used to get emotional when I was really mad, or I was really sick or frustrated or any of that, but most of that stuff now doesn’t really phase me. I’m like in the big scheme, that’s small potatoes. It doesn’t really matter. You know, life will go on. We don’t need to freak out over that [00:23:00] situation. And I’ve turned into a hugger. I didn’t used to be a hugger, so now I’m a hugger. Anyways, and I want people to know when they come into my office, or they come into my house that I love God. You’ll see it. You’ll see it in my office. You’ll see it in my house. I hope you see it in my life. I hope you see it the way I treat people, the way I talk, the way I live, and I hope nobody else has to go through this. But I don’t know why God spared me, because I know there was a couple of people that I knew that were in the hospital similar time to me was similar situations that didn’t make it. So, I don’t know why God chose to spare me, but God’s God, and I just, you know, I’m thankful that I’m here and that’s my story.
Luke: Heidi, thank you so much for continuing to tell your story. Through you, we know how a relationship with God can give us life and sometimes even [00:24:00] save it. UGM has been in the hands and feet for God for years and years. Here’s just one story about how they’ve impacted a life. Take a listen. Helping
Narrator: The Lost Become found with Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission. Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission doesn’t just provide food and shelter. They offer a path out of homelessness. Giving men and women a safe place to recover from addiction and start on the path toward a new life.
UGM Testimonial: My childhood was really rough. I was abandoned by my mom and dad, and I was abused at a young age, and that caused a lot of mental issues for me. When I was 23, I discovered meth and it ruined my life. My kids were taken away from me. For five years, I was homeless. I was pleading with God to save me, and he brought me to the mission. I received intense trauma therapy in classes to heal my inner child. I didn’t think [00:25:00] I could ever reach this point in my life, but with God’s love, and the mission, here I am. I am clean and sober, and I have a loving and stable relationship with my kids.
Narrator: Even when it seems impossible to see, hope can be found. Local men and women in our area desperately need a fresh start, and that’s what they find at Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission. From learning to trust again, to that first hot meal to a recovery program, and then job training. The Mission’s recovery programs offer counseling, case management, chemical dependency classes, and so much more. To hear more, volunteer, or donate, visit ugm.org. [00:17:00]