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90 Minutes in Heaven, Book Review
Nothing can prepare us for the loss of a loved one. Typical reactions progress through phases of disbelief, denial, pain, guilt, and anger as we process our emotions. The Chaplain's enthusiastic recommendation of this true story at a recent funeral convinced me to buy and read the book.
Don Piper's captivating story is not only about faith in the hereafter. It describes in detail the devastation of facing personal and physical conditions well beyond what most people will ever have to endure. His true story of overcoming immeasurable pain, battling severe depression during his recovery, learning to accept help from others and adjusting to new physical limitations serves as a testament to the awesome power of faith and prayer.
Don tells the story that began with a statewide Baptist Convention in Texas that he attended with the hopes of starting his own congregation. He wanted to learn as much as possible before embarking on that journey.
Driving away that rainy January morning in his 1986 Ford Escort he buckled his seat belt not knowing that act might be the clearest defining and critical decision of his life to that point. At some point early in his drive, he reached a fork in the road. When he decided to take the Gulf Freeway it was just one of many hundreds of choices each of us make every day that upon reflection after an incident of this nature, makes one wonder what might have been different on the other path.
1986 Ford Escort Hatchback
Dick Onerecker, another minister that had attended the Baptist conference was minutes behind Don driving on the same highway when an eighteen wheeler veered into Don's car on a narrow bridge. The accident brought traffic to a standstill for miles in both directions. By the time Dick walked up to the scene asking if anyone needed prayer, Don had already been declared dead by first responders. His legs remained pinned below the dashboard of his car which was covered by a plastic tarp to keep onlookers from seeing the body. The first ambulance attendants on the scene had moved on to the injured parties in the other vehicles, leaving Don for dead. He had no pulse.
Dick crawled into the hatchback of Don's automobile wreckage and prayed fervently for ninety minutes asking God for a miracle. He says that was something out of the ordinary for him, that he did not usually pray for the dead. But something or someone told him he needed to pray and he did as he was told.
Confess your faults one to another and pray for one another that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.— James 5:16
A major automobile accident can traumatize a person even when the injuries are minor. The experience changes the way a person looks at driving. A friend that wrecked her car while driving in a rainstorm hesitated to drive in the rain from that time forward. When someone is driving across a bridge when an accident occurs their confidence driving on bridges from that point forward is forever altered.
In the case of Don Piper, his accident on that fateful day in January 1989, would change his entire life. When paramedics arrived on the scene and found no pulse, he was declared dead and covered with a tarp awaiting the proper medical transport to a morgue. Their attention moved to those in the other vehicle that could still be helped.
Don Piper died in his car and was presumed dead for an hour and a half before returning to consciousness. Upon his return, his life was turned completely around, in part because of the severity of his injuries but mostly because of the story he shared about where he traveled during those ninety minutes.
The Ilizarov External Fixator, is named after Gavriil Abramovich Ilizarov, the orthopedic surgeon from the Soviet Union, who pioneered the technique used to lengthen bones in cases of congenital defects where one leg or arm is longer than the other. It's also used as a limb-sparing technique to treat complex and/or open bone fractures with a space of missing bone tissue to help regenerate the missing section. Often the alternative to this treatment and sometimes despite the treatment amputation of the limb becomes necessary.
The process of wearing the Ilizarov Apparatus requires immobility for a number of months and includes tensile metal rods to be drilled into the bones and wired to a helical frame on which daily adjustments attempt to length existing bone. It's often worn for a period of at least six months and is an extremely painful treatment.
Don's left leg was nearly severed in the accident with four inches of bone missing from his femur. At times during his long recovery, Don says he wished he could die rather than continue to suffer the constant pain he describes as "off the scale."
His journey back to physical and mental health was not an easy trip.
In the book, Don gives details of his lengthy recovery from injuries that required thirty-four surgeries and complete immobility for many months. During his convalescence, he discovered the meaning of despair and debilitating depression.
While confined to a bed, unable to move or even turn over due to medical devices so invasive as to prevent any motion, he had to learn to let others do for him every personal and private action that a person wants to do for themselves.
But the most important part of his lengthy return to normalcy was strengthened by his memory of his journey during the time he was legally dead. During those 90 minutes he experienced what he describes as the most joyful and exhilarating trip to Heaven's Gate imaginable. The strength of his faith and the assurance in God's plan for his life were major factors in his recovery.
His description of Heaven creates a mental image both real and believable. His complete assurance of the reality of Heaven serves to give comfort to anyone who has lost a loved one or family member that suffers the pain of separation and grief. His story fills the reader with hope and possibility.
Age expresses time passing and there is no time there (in Heaven.)"— Don Piper
The story of this man's journey is a tale of endurance, of pain, of humiliation, family pressures, loss of mobility, ongoing sorrow and a return to strength of his faith. He shares his deepest fears, his doubts, his compelling desire to return to that Heavenly Gate during the months of slow, agonizingly painful recovery from his devastating injuries.
He speaks about how his pain and sorrow transformed over time into celebration of a renewed purpose; into belief and a genuine confidence that there is a very real place where we will go when life as we know it is over.
The music selections were the stimulus that helped bring back Don's hope.
Praise the Lord - Russ Taff
This book's inspirational message and amazing story is uplifting and renews a sense of faith when it's most needed. Don Piper's personal story, 90 Minutes in Heaven, is one you'll want to read and share with others.
We are the Reason - David Meese
© 2018 Peg Cole