Auburn's Joel Scott recounts near-death experienceBY MARK ROYALL
The articles I write for Auburn news I like the most are when I get to write about people. This week I’m writing about one of my favourite people, Auburn resident and friend, Joel Scott. Joel is a member of the beloved Scott family who own and operate one of Auburn’s greatest enterprises, the Auburn Riverside Retreat, a successful and popular family campground.
Back in 2008 Joel, along with his brother Jordan, embarked on a lengthy kayaking trip with 32 others that began in Quebec, went over to James Bay, then down through the United States and into Mexico. They were part of a program called W.I.L.D., which stands for Whitewater Intensive Leadership Development. Every day they paddled through class-four and class-five rapids and would frequently kayak over 20- and 30-foot waterfalls. There were times when they would have to rescue one another out of peril on the river.
Joel showed me pictures where he was standing on shore right at the edge of raging rapids with a rope attached to him. He would have to jump in to save fellow kayakers who go into trouble and needed help. In another picture Joel points out to me a rapid where he almost drowned.
The Scott brothers were on this excursion for their school, Summit College, training and learning how to rescue and save people in the exact situations they were throwing themselves into every day on the water. Joel said it was often dangerous recalling how one day he saw a person in another team just ahead of him die on the Upper Gauley River in West Virginia.
On Nov. 18, 2008 the Scott brothers and their team were on the Barranca Grande River in Mexico when Joel went over a rock and down under the water in a turbulent water hole but didn’t come back up. His brother Jordan yelled to the other kayakers who rushed over to where Joel went under. They pulled him up out of the water and dragged him onto the shore. Joel’s heart had stopped. Joel didn’t know it at the time but he had a condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – an enlarged heart muscle.
One of the amazing aspects of this story is that the team Joel was with was the only team that had been carrying a defibrillator. So there, on the side of a river in the jungles of Mexico, they cut Joel out of his suit and zapped him. They got his heart beating again. They were not out of the woods, or ‘jungle’ yet. They carried an unconscious Joel through thick jungle until they came to a road. They had a satellite phone and were able to call for help. A truck with medical supplies met them and rushed Joel to a Mexican hospital.
Meanwhile when Joel’s family back in Auburn had heard what had happened they rushed down to Mexico to be with him. Joel’s insurance company had sent a medevac plane to bring him back home to Canada. However, the hospital in Mexico was not wanting to release Joel. Apparently Joel’s insurance company was considered quite a financial windfall and they did not want to lose him as their customer. The family had to basically pull off a covert operation and kidnapped Joel out of the hospital, paying off armed guards and hospital personnel to help get him out.
With Joel still unconscious and in serious condition, they also paid a doctor to travel with Joel and the family from the hospital to the medevac plane. However, before leaving the hospital and wanting to save money, this doctor removed Joel’s intravenous and the tracheotomy tube that was helping him to breathe. When they were finally away from the hospital, this doctor simply jumped out of the vehicle at a red light and left them on their own. When they arrived at the medevac plane the medical staff there were shocked to find that the Mexican doctor had removed all these things that were helping to stabilize Joel.
Joel was transported to a hospital in London where they woke him up out of an induced coma. He had no recollection of the accident or what had happened to him afterwards. They fitted Joel with an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), a battery-powered device placed under the skin that would keep track of his heart rate. Thin wires connect the ICD to his heart. If an abnormal heart rhythm is detected, the device will deliver an electric shock to restore a normal heartbeat. Joel said it misfired once when he was on a ski-lift. It really hurt and it even shocked the others riding on the ski-lift with him.
In the summer of 2014 Joel was working and going to school in Alberta. He recalls how one day he could tell his heart condition was worsening. While driving himself to the hospital he had to pull over where he called 911 who sent an ambulance. The doctors at the hospital gave Joel little hope, telling him there was nothing more they could do for him.
About 10 days before this heart episode Joel recounts how he was reading Galatians 4 in the Bible. He remembers how all at once, the Bible passage made complete sense to him. In that same moment, he said he experienced the strong loving presence of God right there with him. He had an overwhelming sense of just how much God loved him. It was wonderful, he said. I really can’t describe how powerful that moment was. While in the hospital in Alberta he says he dropped to his knees and began to sincerely and genuinely thank and praise God. He wasn’t asking anything from God, he was just giving Him honour. Then Joel said in that moment God told him He would heal him of his heart condition. Not now…but he would do it.
When Joel got out of the hospital he came back home to Auburn. Last March, Huron Chapel in Auburn began holding prayer summits every other month where the church comes together to pray to God for about two hours. A week before our first prayer summit, Joel and I were having coffee together when he told me that God had told him that He would heal him at the prayer summit.
I remember feeling both excited and nervous. We prayed for Joel that night, we believed God would heal him of his hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Two weeks later Joel had an appointment with his doctor who told him that his septum had shrunk from 47 millimetres to 32 millimetres. Normal is 11 millimetres. The doctor was perplexed telling Joel that when the doctors had measured his septum in Alberta they must have made a mistake. This was the only way the doctor could account for his shrinking septum. However, Joel knew God was healing him and today Joel believes he is now fully healed.
What amazed me further was that there was another man at that first prayer summit who was also suffering from a heart condition. He had to take a leave of absence from his work. He too had been prayed for and was healed. Today he is fine and back at work. Amazing.
Today, Joel will tell you that he is glad he was sick because through it, he drew close to God and God drew close to him.
To help maintain his health Joel has changed his diet eating only whole foods that are free from additives or other artificial substances. Joel believes he needs to be faithful doing his part of his healing as God has been faithful in doing His. Joel read for me Mathew 6:14-15 from the Bible where it says, “In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part.”