Chris looked at himself in the mirror one day and realized that if he didn’t get honest with himself about who he was and where he was going he wasn’t going to make it. By the time he was 18 he had already undergone 2 open heart surgeries. He had decided to abuse drugs and alcohol to cope. When he finally accepted treatment it was the small faith of a mustard seed that brought him out of the pit to a place where everything could change.
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Chris Whitman: Like I was talking about earlier, just the flimsy reed in my faith and where it started, and how it’s matured and grown and where it was on that day as I was rolled into that OR, confident and comfortable with what I was about to go through.
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.
Producer Luke: Producer Luke, here. I think you’ll be inspired by Chris’s story. It’s real, it’s raw, and tells the story of redemption. You’ll wanna stay tuned all the way to the end because we’re sharing another special testimony from Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission.
Chris Whitman: Hello, my name is Christopher Whitman. I am 37 years old. I’m a Seattle native. I currently am a husband and a father of two daughters, ages 10 and seven years old. My family’s still in the area very involved with them. Was brought up in a good home. Have close relations with both my mother and father. Grateful for that because I know not everybody gets that opportunity in their life. Thank you to my mom and dad for being there for me. My story starts with being very sick, and when I was born the doctors did not think I was gonna make it. I was born September 13th, 1985. Heart surgeries on young children, babies, was pretty rare and new. And so, I had my first open heart surgery at age six weeks.
And what they did was go in and repair part of my aortic valve. I was born with what’s called aortic stenosis. They did a great job and I recovered and got to live a pretty normal childhood until about the age of seven, where the repair that they did was starting to just give away and it was time for a new adjustment. And I went in for a second surgery, open heart surgery at seven years old. That also went well. And was able to continue life. I was a pretty normal kid, which was very cool and very fortunate to have that opportunity.
By the time I got to be a teenager, things started to fall off the rails a little bit. I’d always been a really, like, self-dependent person, and very, that could function well on my own. And, but I always felt like uncomfortable, like in my skin. And so, I started to look instead of to, to God, I started to look for worldly things to, to fill that void. And I ended up getting into drugs and alcohol. During that stint of using drugs and alcohol, I needed another heart surgery at the age of 18. By that point, I think I had dug myself in such a deep hole and beat myself up so badly with my thoughts and my words, that I didn’t have much regard for my life. And so, the night before I went into heart surgery, I decided, That I was going to pick up drugs and alcohol and use them and abuse them. And then proceeded to go into surgery the next morning.
During that surgery I had a stroke and lost feeling on the left side of my body. But, due to God’s grace I don’t really have any lingering effects from that occasion, except for a little bit of hand mobility issues, which I’ll take. The real scary and dark thing about that though was the day that I got outta the hospital, my arm was in a sling, and I couldn’t really walk from the stroke. I hobbled my way up the street to these people’s house that I knew, and I picked up drugs again that day. And I later found out that my mom watched me from the upstairs bedroom. Dragging myself up that hill and it just wrecked her, just seeing her boy, who she did everything for from day one, just have no concern for life. I wish I could say that it stopped there and I changed there, but I didn’t. I kept looking for, for God in the world instead of inside myself and in the people around me. And so, I kept getting the same results. And then I ended up becoming homeless. I was couch surfing and sleeping outside and just struggling with life. In and outta jail, treatment and I just couldn’t seem to get it.
I think what it took for me was the family just throwing up their hands and saying, we don’t know what to do for you. And my dad said, I’ll give you one last try and I’ll give you a ride to treatment. And he brought me to treatment in Yakima, and in treatment there I I started a relationship with Jesus. It started so small. Literally it started with a roommate that I had that was snoring uncontrollably, and I was praying, God, if you’re real, make this guy stop snoring. That’s how it started from me. It was a flimsy, it was a flimsy reed. And we’ll touch on that later of just the power and the strength of what it’s become.
But that’s where it started for me. So, with going to treatment and God’s grace, he gave me the, he gave me the mindset that if I wasn’t gonna be truthful and honest about who I truly was out there, that I wouldn’t recover. And so, for the first time in my life, I got honest about who I was, and the things that I had done, why I was using. And for me, what that did was clear enough space inside my head to allow for a higher power to enter inside of me and start to work. Work inside me and actually move. What that looked like for me was not focusing on myself like I was and reaching out to others and offering any type of help that I could give.
And through that, like, my relationship with God grew, and I started to treat people different. And I started to rely on and enjoy my relationship with my higher power. Fast forward, I had my two daughters; first 2012 we had our first daughter. And that was a great experience. Difficult as probably the other parents out there know. But absolutely a blessing. And same thing with my second daughter in 2015. Through the, through this time and through my recovery and walk with Jesus, we’ve been able to be good stewards to our children. Not perfect but good. I think that’s really what my goal is in life is to be a good steward, and not a perfect one because I think those standards are just too difficult to live up to.
Recently though rewind two and a half years, so that would be like 2020, end of 2019, was going on a trip with My wife and another couple. I got off the airplane and collapsed in the airport and was rushed to the hospital. And spent my vacation in the hospital and it started with I had GI issues and that’s why that happened. And through a few months of testing, what it turned out to be is that I was actually in heart failure, and because of the heart failure my lungs had been affected. And I was sent to Stanford Hospital in California, and they did assessment and testing and came to the conclusion that I needed a heart and double lung transplant. And when I heard that, I didn’t even know that they could do that. I’d heard of hearts, but I had no idea that they could do heart and double lung. So, there was instantly, there was fear there. There was, I was just, full of fear, leaving, am I gonna live? Am I gonna leave my children, my young children and my wife behind without a father? But, through this God, it has just been there and walked with me through this whole thing. I waited on the transplant list for just over two years towards the end of my wait time, I was passing out all the time. I couldn’t walk up my set of stairs at my house without passing out.
And things were scary and looking very bleak. Checked into the hospital, waited for a week in Overlake in Bellevue, was waiting for a medical transport down to Stanford, Stanford that never came. Covid was very high at the time, so there wasn’t any empty beds. So, what ended up happening is me and my mom drove up here, Seattle to California, and I checked in through the ER and waited about three weeks in Stanford, and I got the call on February 18th, 2022 and went down to the OR… and like I was talking about earlier, just the flimsy reed in my faith and where it started, and how it’s matured and grown and where it was on that day, is I was rolled into that or confident and comfortable with what I was about to go through. And that’s something that I could not do by myself. That’s only something that a relationship with a higher power can provide. I was in surgery for 16 hours and had no complications. The lungs and the heart have taken very well.
I’m able to, I’m eight months post now and I’m able to play with my kids again. I’m able to take them swimming and walk up the stairs, go down the slides. I’m able to play some softball. I’m able to just participate in life again, which has just been a huge blessing. And I have no doubt in my mind that without my relationship with Jesus, that my positivity and state of mind would’ve looked nothing like it does. And I give a lot of credit to you know, people that are in challenging times how our mindset is. And I feel like that mindset comes from God. And just the belief that he has good things for us. Coupled with just the overwhelming amount of prayer that I received during that time, which I am just absolutely grateful.
With all that being said, that kind of surgery is not a easy process and I’ve taken on some like mental health counseling and really just dove into like, my spirit and in my thoughts, and just clearing back that room for the Lord to continue to do his work because, I’ve learned that no matter how far I get down my walk, there’s always going to be new challenges that present themselves. And that’s my call to do the footwork and then let God do the rest. And right now, I’m doing the footwork and then watching God just move along right side me. I am just a grateful man that I’m able to sit here and just tell this story, and I really just hope that it connects with somebody out there and that there’s just a message heard of just love from the Lord and just courage that we all have inside of us. Just the willingness to connect with life, and with the people around us.
Producer Luke: Thank you Chris, for sharing your story. It’s amazing what God can do, and now your life is a living testimony to his power. This next story from Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission, is another perfect reflection of what God can do when you have the faith of a mustard seed.
Narrator: Helping 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: I would describe my childhood as fight or flight. My stepfather was abusive, and I was so scared of him, I couldn’t concentrate in school. I had bruises from the buckle of his belt. I was raped at the age of 14. I started drinking to numb some of the things I was going through, and I began hanging out with people who drank and were into everything. I was abused, I was shot at. I thank God every day for bringing me to the mission. I found a safe home at the mission and the help I needed to escape domestic violence. Today, I’m sharing my story and helping other women as a case manager at the mission.
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 this story again and hear other stories, visit kcisradio.com/ugm.
To hear more, volunteer or donate, visit ugm.org.