It was April of 2014, and Rich and his wife, Kelley, had driven up to Portland for the day to get some more Immanuel approach training from their friends, Diane and Sharon. They had gathered with about ten others, and after a block of teaching in the afternoon and some fun fellowship over dinner, Sharon asked for a volunteer for the live demonstration that she wanted to provide as the last part of the training. Rich thought to himself, “Hey, this is just a free Immanuel session!” So he quickly put his hand up and took the spot.
Rich had already had maybe four or five Immanuel sessions, so he was familiar with the process and not at all anxious since it usually went pretty smoothly and easily for him. And the first steps of the process seemed to proceed in the usual smooth and easy manner. Sharon said a brief opening prayer, he went to a memory of a recent positive experience with the Lord, he focused on the aspects of the experience for which he was especially grateful and deliberately stirred up appreciation, he welcomed Jesus to be with him in the memory as a living presence, he asked for help to perceive Jesus and establish an interactive connection, he quickly sensed the Lord as a living, interactive presence in the memory, and when Sharon asked, “Can you see Jesus here in the room with you?” he immediately had a clear mental picture. “He’s right over here, leaning against the wall, chewing on a piece of grass with his hands in his pockets. He has a thick black beard, blue eyes, and tan skin. And he’s wearing wrangler jeans, a cowboy shirt, and a ball cap.” But when Sharon and Rich asked, “So, Jesus, what do You want to do today?” Rich was suddenly in the middle of the memory for the worst experience of his life – he was at the airport in Portland Oregon, the year was 1996, and he was doing CPR on one of his friends.
Rich had been a construction worker. And not just any construction worker – he had been an ironworker – one of those guys that put up the steel girder skeletons for skyscrapers. (You know, those crazy guys you see in movies, walking around on the big steel beams forty stories above the street, with no safety net or safety harness.) By 1996 he had been doing this for twenty years, and he was working on a team that was putting up a parking garage at the Portland airport. Some of the men were putting in anchoring bolts and rigging stabilizing cables for the girder frame that had just been put up, when something went terribly wrong and the part of the structure that had not yet been fully anchored and stabilized collapsed.
Rich was maybe a hundred feet away when the structure collapsed, and he watched in horror as three of the men on his crew fell fifty feet to the concrete deck below. He raced to the scene of the accident, and being the first one to reach the bodies he immediately started CPR on Chris, who was closest. As soon as another crew member came running up, Rich quickly instructed him to take over CPR for Chris and then moved to start CPR on Don. And as soon as yet another man came running up, Rich instructed him to take over CPR for Don and then moved on to start CPR on Nick, who was a personal friend and a fellow believer.
The Portland airport has their own fire department, so firemen EMTs were on the scene in minutes. Maybe fifteen to twenty minutes after he first started CPR on Chris, three firemen were standing beside Rich and asking him to stop. “The leader of the fireman EMTs said, ‘You need to stop now. You’ve done all you can. Let us take over now.” But this was the worst part of this worst experience of Rich’s life, because this was the moment at which it really sunk in that the three men on his crew, including his friend Nick, were dead. “When he said, ‘Let us take over now,’ but then they didn’t resume CPR when we stopped, stood up, and stepped back, I knew that Nick and the other two guys were all dead.”
This post was taken from Dr. Karl Lehman’s piece “Rich, CPR, and the Immanuel Fireman.” You can read the entire chapter here.