My life changed instantly when my car left the road, burst though a fence and smashed head-on into a tree. Everyone else escaped, but the car had crumpled around my seat. There was no way out for me. If it caught fire, I was dead.
All I could do was sit and look at my mangled body. The 45 minutes before the ambulance arrived seemed an eternity. But they could to nothing. This required the "jaws of life" to cut me from the wreck, which meant another 45-minute wait in pain.
I spent a day-and-a-half in Sydney's Windsor Hospital--another car-accident victim in a "satisfactory" condition. That changed during the night.
Bone marrow escaped from my broken legs and broken sternum. The bone marrow was carried through my bloodstream until it found a blood vessel too small to fit through. Then it blocked that blood vessel.
Most of the bone marrow lodged in my lungs, where it blocked almost every blood vessel. My body became oxygen deprived and this "satisfactory" patient was moments away from death.
The nurse on night duty walked into my ward at that moment. She saw my face, a blotch of white and red. She understood the telltale signs.
Windsor Hospital didn't have the equipment or staff to keep me alive, so she immediately called an ambulance and arranged transfer to a larger hospital with more sophisticated equipment.
At 3 am the phone woke my parents: "If you want to see your son alive again, go to Westmead Hospital. We're transferring him and he may not survive the transfer."
My parents and wife arrived at Westmead at the same time as the ambulance carrying my near-lifeless frame. They watched in horror, as I almost died being transferred from one resuscitation system to another. Normally, when the bone marrow is carried through the blood vessels, within two days a person is either taken off the resuscitator or they have died. I was on the resuscitator for more than a week.
Two things kept me alive: I had never had a cigarette (except one when I was three years old!), so my lungs were in good working order. And I'd been a vegetarian for 18 years, so my blood vessels were in the best working order. If not, I would have died.
However, I was about to take a turn for the worse. My brain wasn't getting enough oxygen. Strange thoughts occur when your brain is oxygen deprived. As I slipped in and out of a comatose state, my mind told me, I've paid for private health insurance. I should be in a private hospital. I want to transfer to a private hospital. I didn't know I couldn't survive the transfer.
I wanted to get out. I reached for the tubes keeping me alive to pull them out of my body. If I did, I was dead. A nurse grabbed my hands and held them away from the tubes. She called for help, and they tied my hands to the bed.
Another phone call to my parents. "We're losing him, Mrs Ward. If you want to see him alive, come now."
As I wrestled to free my hands, my parents tried to talk sense to me. But my brain wasn't getting enough oxygen to listen to their pleadings.
Eventually the nurse said, "Mrs Ward, this isn't doing you any good. And it isn't doing Philip any good. You'll have to leave."
My parents had been praying. But while Heaven was listening, their prayers didn't seem to be getting through.
On their drive home they decided to go to a church, any church, to find people to pray with them. It was Wednesday night and they thought they'd find people at a prayer meeting. They hadn't realised how late it was. Prayer meetings were over.
They drove from one closed church to another until they came to the church I attended, the Epping church, in Sydney. The door was slightly ajar. There was a faint light inside. A chubby young man was playing a brand-new organ.
"Philip's trying to tear the tubes from his body. Will you pray with us?" "Certainly," said the young man. In the semidarkness, they knelt and poured their hearts out to God.
My parents drove the 10 minutes home, then immediately phoned the nurse at my bedside. "A wonderful thing, Mrs Ward. The crisis is over. Ten minutes ago he stopped fighting. Now he's resting peacefully. He's going to live."
The next Sabbath, my parents decided they must tell the young man about their answer to prayer. They went to the Epping church to find him and looked around the congregation, but he wasn't there. They described him to regular worshippers who said, "There's no-one here of that description."
Eventually they spoke to a church elder. He said, "The church was locked on Wednesday night. I personally locked it. And that's a brand-new organ and we haven't issued the keys yet. The organ was locked. I have the only keys."
My parents were stunned. They could think of only one explanation. When they so desperately wanted to pray with someone, my parents had prayed with an angel.
Even when I walk through the dark valley of death, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. Psalm 23:4.
Phil Ward works full-time as a Bible translator and lives on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland.