Skip to main content

Radio Personality Gets His Voice Back

Share This article

Jeff Blackwell has been a beloved on-air talent for Catholic Community Radio in Baton Rouge for many years, but in 2020, Jeff was in a fight for his life. After going to dinner with his wife Diane, he became violently ill.  

“I knew I was sick,” Jeff says. “I had never felt that bad before in my life. I couldn’t hold anything down. I finally told my wife, ‘I've got to go to the ER. I can't handle it.’" 

Jeff was then admitted to a local hospital. He was later transferred to ICU where his stomach issues persisted. “The amount of bile my stomach was producing was through the roof. In fact, they had to remove 9 ½ liters of bile.” 

Jeff was then prepped for a routine CT scan that went horribly wrong. “I got very nauseous and told the technician, ‘I'm about to throw up, you need to get me out of here.’ Before they could even start backing the table out of the tube, I aspirated bile into my lungs and I can only remember about 5 seconds after that technicians saying, ‘Grab the crash cart.’ I mean, they started shoving tubes down my throat. At that point, I had passed out.’”

The aspiration resulted in a spiral effect that had Jeff’s family concerned for his life. Dr. Martin Setliff, who cared for Jeff, says “He had issues with his heart rate being able to stay in the correct rhythm. It was kind of bouncing all over the place, so they needed medication to manage that. He was on medication for the pneumonia. The nausea and vomiting which led to the aspiration pneumonia event--those certainly can be very fatal.”
“My heart went into AFIB, my kidneys started shutting down, my liver had become compromised, my lungs had become ulcerated. I had pneumonia, and it was just almost hopeless at that point,” Jeff recalls. 

His wife Diane adds, “He was so dehydrated, his potassium levels were so low at that point that his body was actually, you know, like really too sick to really handle his lungs being burnt at that point.”

As Jeff’s condition worsened, Diane contacted David Dawson, president of Catholic Community Radio, who then informed their listeners. “We had a pretty big prayer line going. I mean, it grew and grew every day,” says David. “A lot of people knew Jeff and a lot of folks loved Jeff and in the business that we're in, it just kept growing. We just kept passing it down the line. Every time she'd say, ‘This is a great day,’ it's like, ‘Great. We're going to keep praying, we're going to pull him through.’ Or, ‘This is a bad day,’ It's like, ‘Well, then tell us exactly what to pray for.’"

“In my mind, I couldn't be trusting God and looking for the doctors at the same time because my trust was in God to heal him.”

Jeff slipped into a coma and was put on life support, Diane continued to believe for his healing. as she was praying in the hospital chapel a book caught her attention. Diane says. “When I opened it, it opened immediately to the page where the woman in the Bible, she was hemorrhaging and she was like, ‘If I could just touch on Jesus' cloak, then I'll be healed.’ And it's like, "Lord, you worked a miracle for her, with just a simple touch, so work that same miracle for Jeff.”

At one point, doctors told Diane she may want to think about making funeral arrangements. “The doctor came in and just showed me some x-rays and said, ‘His lungs are bad again, it’s filling up again, so you need to call family in and you'll need to decide if you all want to pull the plug on him.’ My son-in-law made a comment like ‘Hey, Mr. Jeff, you've got to get out of here so we can barbeque.’ And Jeff gave just the tiniest little smirk. You could see it. And I looked at them and I said, ‘You saw it?" And they said, ‘Yeah.’ So I was like, ‘We can’t let him go.’” 

“Diane is a very, very strong, strong, strong woman, “David adds, “You know, she wasn't going to take no for an answer.” After several weeks in ICU and a coma, Jeff woke up. “I had no idea how long I had been in the hospital. And when I came to, the very first thought I had in my mind was 'people are praying for me.’ I just knew it!”

Doctors finally found the source of his original illness—a kink in his intestine. They later performed surgery to repair it. “It wasn't until a month after that, that the problem resurfaced and then they took care of it, through emergency surgery,” says Jeff. 

Although he had more challenges to overcome, Jeff eventually made a full recovery. Today he is healthy and back on the air at Catholic Community Radio.

"The power of prayer—it’s real,” Dr Setliff adds. “He had a group of prayer warriors praying for him, to help him get through that, to give him the strength. And I think that played an immense part in his recovery.”

“It's really remarkable,” Jeff adds. “People still to this day will say, ‘I was praying for you when you were sick, I heard about that.’”

“I was just amazed at the fact that God actually blessed me with a total miracle that I got to witness it with my own eyes,” Diane says. “There's no reason why Jeff is still walking this earth. There's no reason for that. He had too many strikes against him.” 

“From the world's stand point, there was no hope,” says Jeff. However, that trust in God which is far deeper a commitment that I can even explain. To be able to say ‘Father, I trust you. I trust you with my life.’ And let go, and let God.”

Share This article

About The Author

Randy Rudder

Randy Rudder received an MFA in creative writing from the University of Memphis and taught college English and journalism for 15 years. At CBN, he’s produced over 150 testimony and music segments and two independent documentaries. He lives in Mount Juliet, Tennessee, with his wife, Clare, and daughter Abigail.