- Associated Press - Saturday, May 2, 2015

FLOWERS, Ala. (AP) - James Barnes died just after 9:30 a.m. Monday, April 13. Family members said doctors told them he had passed. They started making funeral arrangements. Friends were contacted and began pouring in to Flowers Hospital. Organ harvest personnel were contacted to come take his corneas.

The family re-entered the room later to spend last moments before they began to prepare his body for the cornea harvest.

That’s when he woke up.

“I can’t put my mind around this,” Barnes said April 24, 11 days after his heart stopped beating. “It’s more than this little mind can grasp.”

Barnes has cancer. Three tumors are located in and around the heart. He had been undergoing aggressive chemotherapy treatments when he started feeling ill last Monday morning.

He phoned his wife, Laura, and asked her to return home to take him to the emergency room. He called his son, Matt, to tell him he was headed to the ER because of his heart.

“I think you need to come too,” he told Matt.

Barnes was whisked into the ER, and his heart was beating out of his chest. He doesn’t remember much after that. But, Matt was there and family friend Sammy Prim, a retired doctor, came later.

Family members started contacting friends. At 10:14 a.m., this was posted on the James Barnes Cancer Fund Facebook page:

“James passed away this morning in Dothan. I don’t have any other details at this time. Please keep Laura, Matt and the grandchildren in your prayers.”

Soon, Prim showed up at the ER.

“When I got there to the waiting room, the family was in there and they just said ‘Sammy, we lost him,’” Sammy Prim said. “A little while later I went into the room with the family and I noticed there was some breathing. It wasn’t much, slow but regular. He had not lost color and I thought ‘Gosh, he can’t be dead.’

“An hour went on, and then into another hour. As we were all in the room a little bit later a family friend went over to the bed side and just held his hand just to say a little prayer. She said ‘Big Daddy, this is Faye. I just want to tell you I love you.’ He opened one eye. You can just imagine. I was saying ‘James! James!’ Matt was saying something and I am telling you he moved his lips like he was trying to say something. … They said they had done an ultrasound on his heart and it had absolutely no activity. None. But there he was.”

James Barnes was alive. But, no one knew for how long, maybe only time for a few last goodbyes. Matt Barnes brought his children into the room, a 4-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter. They’re crazy about their grandfather and he never could stop talking about them.

“At that point in time, I didn’t know how much more time I had with him. So I told them to talk to him and tell him everything you’ve always wanted to tell him, tell him you love him and don’t hold back. And they did, and then others started coming in,” Matt Barnes said.

Matt said doctors estimated James had 24 hours. At the end of 24 hours, they estimated 48. But James Barnes didn’t decline. He improved. Eleven days later, he went through rehab at HealthSouth and is hoping to gain enough strength to make the trip to Houston to visit MD Anderson Cancer Clinic for a visit.

Flowers Hospital declined to confirm details of Barnes’ experience, citing privacy laws.

Barnes doesn’t remember anything after the electric shock of his heart and the CPR attempt. No bright light. No tunnel.

“My granddaughter asked me if I saw Jesus’ face. I said ‘Well, I don’t know what Jesus looks like’,” he quipped.

Barnes said he is still trying to grasp what the events of last week mean.

“I see things different,” he said. “I’ve always thought things were in control. But, we have no control. None. We just need to help each other and love each other.

“I don’t take things for granted. It humbles you,” he added.

Many questions are still there for Barnes, and they may go unanswered. He does plan, however, to “finish the drill,” as Mark Richt, the football coach of Barnes’ beloved Georgia Bulldogs, told him to do in a letter last year.

“I don’t know why God kept me here. I don’t know what he has for me, but he has something,” Barnes said.


Information from: The Dothan Eagle, https://www.dothaneagle.com

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