Thanksgiving Day, 2013, was the beginning of a long weekend that would forever change Matthew’s life. It was Thursday, November 28th, and he had no idea that in a matter of days, the doctors would tell him to say goodbye to his family because he might not survive.

At that point, Matthew and his wife, Julie, had enjoyed twenty-five years of marriage, and, like every holiday, were looking around the table at seven beautiful kids. The next day, without warning, Matthew started feeling sick, really sick. By the following Monday, his constant coughing and extreme headache turned into dizzy spells, which forced a visit to the doctor’s office. After being tested for the flu, the results came back negative, so he went home to take some Tylenol and get some rest. However, with his condition rapidly declining, both Julie and Matthew suspected there was something more going on. Very concerned, they decided to then go to the local hospital. After a quick test, the medical personnel discovered that Matthew’s oxygen levels were so low that they checked him in and he quickly ended up in intensive care. Over the next few days, he developed a massive case of pneumonia. With no improvement in his oxygen levels, it was then decided that he needed to be transferred to the Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Rushed to Vanderbilt, Matthew was promptly put into a medically induced coma, intubated, and placed on a ventilator. It was in the rush of prepping to send Matthew to Vanderbilt that the doctors weren’t sure he’d even survive the trip. That’s when they suggested that Matthew say goodbye to his family, just in case.

Even in such a state, Matthew says, ‘I was coherent enough to realize what they were suggesting. Say goodbye? To say I was scared is an understatement.’

It was at Vanderbilt that Matthew remained on the ventilator for about three weeks. The doctors ran more tests and discovered that Matthew had H1N1, also known as the swine flu. Additional complications such as ARDS would result in his having kidney failure, which required dialysis. Then, on the morning of Christmas Eve, he went into cardiac arrest, also known as ‘code blue.’

The medical staff did everything they could to save his life. Thankfully, their efforts were a success and he continued to hang on. His family and friends continued to pray and to everyone’s amazement, Matthew woke up the next morning, and it was Christmas morning.

Through what had seemed like a never-ending nightmare, Matthew’s wife Julie was continually by his side. The kids, knowing their ‘Pops,’ as they affectionately call Matthew, was in a life and death situation, did their best to keep up with schoolwork and everyday tasks. Their father was the one who was sick, but in struggles like this, the whole family suffers. This circumstance was the hardest thing his family had ever experienced.

After waking up from the coma on Christmas, Matthew remained in intensive care for one more week. Placed into rehabilitation where progress was slow, it took him weeks before he could begin to walk again. His lungs were so damaged that just lifting his arms would leave him breathless, even while aided by oxygen. After two months in the hospital, Matthew went home, where he remained on oxygen for six months. With numerous and lasting effects on his health, Matthew has needed to make some lifestyle adjustments, but he and his family have returned to a relatively normal life.

As you might imagine, one’s perspective can change after surviving something so traumatic.

Matthew now says, ‘Life is an amazing gift. We all know many people who work hard to protect and preserve the lives of others. They deserve our thanks. The nurses and doctors who cared for me are incredible. They did everything possible to save my life and help me recover from H1N1. I’m forever grateful to everyone who played a part in my treatment and recovery, most of all, thanks goes to Jesus, my Lord and Savior for answering the many prayers of my family and friends and giving me a second lease on life. As a survivor of H1N1, I now see life differently.’

Matthew’s story is the inspiration for The ThankYouPin. We’re each surrounded by everyday heroes, people throughout our communities, organizations, and circle of friends whose life’s work, volunteer efforts, and acts of compassion and generosity make all of our lives better. Those doing good deserve our thanks.

Saying thanks with a ThankYouPin is one way to make our gratitude go further and last longer.