Prayer Breaks the Power of Death
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“He was like a dog panting. And I kept telling him, ‘If you don’t stop breathing like that I’m going to take you to the ER,’ you know, slow down, take deep breaths. And he just couldn’t,” Stephanie Stryker says.
In September of 2020, Russ Stryker got what he thought was a cold. After several days, his symptoms got worse and his wife, Stephanie, rushed him to the hospital. “He just kept saying, 'I feel like my body’s shutting down.' He was panting, just wasn’t breathing normally,” she says. "I wheeled him in myself. They immediately took him in, intubated him and tested him.”
Russ tested positive for Covid-19. Before Stephanie could even process the night’s events, Russ was put on a ventilator. “They basically were saying he, you know, he was dying and there was nothing they could do.”
Russ was a beloved high school football coach and teacher in Kingman Arizona. He and Stephanie had three children together. She began reaching out to the school, family, and friends for prayer. Stephanie says, “I got on Facebook and I just briefly let everybody know. He probably had thousands of people praying for him. My cousin lives in Nashville, for example, and she has a church and she has a prayer chain and she’s like, ‘We’ve got him on there.’ You know, and just so many people that did that."
Dianah recalls, “I got this call from Stephanie and she said that she had taken Russell to the hospital and at that time the doctors said that they did not think Russell would make it through the night.”
Due to Covid restrictions, Stephanie was not even allowed to be with her husband as his condition deteriorated quickly. “He was in a room. Then there was another room outside of that that the hospital staff would go in and, you know, trade out. We went to a room and prayed and prayed and prayed.”
Stephanie clung to her faith, but also began to consider a worse-case scenario. “I had my Abraham and Isaac moment where I had to tell God, ‘If you want to take him, I lay him down. What I want is perfect healing. I want him to come out of this, but, you know, I relinquish to your will, whatever it is.”
Russ spent the next month in a coma and on a ventilator. In the middle of the night on October 26, Russ coded. He was revived but doctors held out little hope for him. “The doctor calls me again at about 5:30, or 6 that morning and said, ‘His blood pressure is extremely low. We’ve thrown everything at it and we just can’t keep it up. You should come down.’”
That morning, Stephanie, her sister, and her friend, Dianah, arrived at Kingman hospital and started a prayer vigil outside his room. “We stayed there for, I believe it was, about seven hours, and we prayed the whole time,” Dianah recalls.
Then something miraculous happened. “I’d put that worship music on and we’d just-- I can’t tell you what it is to look at that monitor thing and see that his blood pressure started out at like 50 over 30, and even lower,” Stephanie says. “And as we prayed and sang, his blood pressure began to climb, and climb, and climb. And that was the – like the first time that I just witnessed, you know, ‘Wow, this is crazy.’”
Russ eventually stabilized and was transferred to the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, where he spent another month on the ventilator. In mid-December, he finally began to regain consciousness.
“I had no idea of what the time frame was at all,” Russ says. “I had a feeling that I had missed my football season, but I wasn’t sure, you know, like if Christmas had already come and gone. I just didn’t know how much – how much time had elapsed. Seventy-seven days on a ventilator.”
Russ went home on December 17. It was the best Christmas gift Stephanie ever had. “We all spend Christmas Eve together at my parents. And you know, part of the festivities that we always do is we say what you're thankful for through the year. So many things God did through that experience, both for us and people close to us, and people we’ve never even met. He still performs miracles just as big as they were in the Bible, and my husband is one of them.”
Today Russ is nearly fully recovered and is back to coaching. He loves telling the story of his healing every chance he gets. “There is no medical explanation. I’ve talked to several of my nursing friends,” he says. “It was 100% a God thing and no reason I should be alive other than that God decided that I was going to be alive.”
“As I get older, I just believe in the power of prayer,” Dianah adds, “more than I ever have.”
“I just believed God would bring him through it. And He did,” Stephanie adds.
“I don’t know why God did it. I have no idea why,” Russ says. “I don’t deserve it any more than anyone else. It’s no different than Biblical times. It’s no different. He was the same then as He is now, you know. He could heal people then. He raised people from the dead then. And he did the same with me.”
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