Gardell Martin was being raised in a rural Pennsylvania town. He had fields to run in and creeks to play in. He had a mom who got to stay home and take care of the kids.
He had a dad who worked out of town a lot, but would come home and say, “Hey, Gardell, I’ve come home from trucking to play with you. Do you want to play?”
Doyle and Rose Martin tried to give their kids the life that most kids don’t have anymore. One without video games and television. They were encouraged to go outside and play. To use their imagination and explore.
Gardell was one of the youngest of eight children. Two months shy of two. He got to hang out with his older brothers and he was treated like one of the big kids.
The snow had finally melted in their sleepy town.
It rained for a few days, helping to melt the last of it. The melting snow and rain caused Gardell’s favorite creek to rise.
To him and his brothers, it was going to be a lot more fun.
Gardell was out playing with two of his brothers, playing near the creek and picking up sticks for a fire when he got closer than he should have. And slipped in.
In a blink, he was swept into the current. The water was usually only waist deep on the toddler. But that day, it was waist deep on a grown man.
Gardell went under. Flipping and spinning head over heels under the swiftly moving rapids.
Even if he could have gotten his footing, the water was over his head.
Before long he was gone. Disappeared out of sight
His brothers had no idea where he went. They ran back to the house shouting frantically to their mom: “We can’t find Gardell.”
But Rose knew. She knew that property like the back of her hand. He could only be one place. She called 911 while she was putting her shoes on. Then she ran to the creek.
The kids all followed behind her, yelling their brother’s name in a panic.
“Gardell!” “Gardell.” “Gardell.”
Their neighbor, Randall, heard the commotion from his kitchen window. He was doing dishes.
He looked outside and saw Rose in a panic — and listened to hear what they were yelling.
Randall looked at the children. And he looked at the creek passing by his house. He had to do something. It wasn’t his family — or his child — but he was committed to doing whatever he could.
Rose and her boys hadn’t made it to his property yet, but Randall and his wife sprang into action and headed straight for the part of the creek that passed his house.
He scanned the water. Nothing.
He kept walking. Nothing.
And faster. Nothing.
Until he was running. He never took his eyes off the water. Nothing.
“Gardddddddeeeeeelllllllllllllll…,” he yelled.
Randall and his wife got to the electric fence that separated them from the creek. Without hesitation, Randall grabbed the wires to open it up so his wife could get through.
Raw adrenaline streamed through his muscles. And he ignored the shock to his still-damp hands. And then he climbed through.
His wife headed downstream to look for Gardell.
Randall headed upstream back towards the Martin’s house. Surely he hadn’t come this far.
And then his heart dropped. Ahead of him, two tiny blue boots were floating on top of the water.
Running closer, he saw the boy lying lifeless in his snowsuit. He had gotten stuck on a grassy knoll that was now underwater in the frozen waters of the melting snow.
Without hesitation, Randall jumped in.
The frozen water took his breath away.
He forced his shocked limbs in the direction of the baby. The swiftly moving current took him under — temporarily paralyzing him.
Quickly, Randall found his footing and pushed on. Trying to grab the child. Each step a struggle to move forward.
Within minutes he got to Gardell and pulled him close.
As he trudged slowly out of the 35-degree water and back onto dry land, he could hear the sounds of the ambulance screaming towards him.
Waving his arms wildly, he flagged it down. And ran with the baby. Water dripped off his lifeless body.
The paramedics saw him.
They knew it was no longer a search and rescue. It was just a rescue.
Randall handed the limp child to the paramedics like a sack of potatoes. Lifeless. Cold. And heavy.
They immediately rushed Gardell to the ambulance, where they cut his clothes off. They put a mask over his face to get air into his tiny, breathless lungs and started compressions.
They continued CPR as the ambulance sped away to the hospital without waiting for Rose and the children to catch up.
The hospital ride was one of the longest ever for the paramedics. They had learned infant CPR. They practiced it monthly in their classes. They dreaded having to use it in real life.
And by the time they got to the hospital, they had been using it for almost an hour.
“If he survives, it will be a miracle,” the paramedics said.
The doctors at the hospital weren’t any more hopeful.
The medical team decided they couldn’t help him there and they had to air lift him to a trauma center wtith better equipment.
Rose and the rest of the family rushed to the hospital. But again, they missed seeing their little boy. He was already gone.
As she was told of the new plan, Rose rushed to the window to see the helicopter holding him slowly rise into the air.
Fifteen more minutes go by. The doctors on board continued CPR on Gardell. Finally, the helicopter landed at the Children’s Hospital in Danville, Pennsylvania.
Dr. Frank Maffei and his team were waiting for Gardell’s arrival. But they weren’t optimistic.
Rushing quickly, as the boy was rolled into the emergency room, they delicately pushed a breathing tube down his throat.
Residents lined up next to Gardell — taking turns giving compressions to Gardell’s lifeless body.
Two minutes of intense CPR. And then the next resident would take over. But that wasn’t producing results — so the medical team switched tactics.
Gardell’s temperature was only 77 degrees — still 20 degrees below normal, after more than an hour of focused work. To speed up that process, they inserted a new IV and two catheters and push warm fluids through his body.
And continued the compressions. Two minutes of intense CPR. And then the next resident doctor would take over. Two minutes. Switch. Two minutes. Switch. Two minutes. Switch. Two minutes. Switch.
Dr. Maffei looked at the clock in the emergency room and shook his head. It had been an hour and a half — and Gardell still had no heartbeat.
He was dead.
But something inside Dr. Maffei told him differently. He refused to call it. Something inside of him wouldn’t let him quit.
“Keep going.” He told his team.
Two minutes. Switch. Two minutes. Switch. Two minutes. Switch. Two minutes. Switch.
As a last-ditch effort, the medical team decided to put Gardell on a bypass machine. The strategy was to do open-heart surgery, remove his heart and pump warm blood back into his body.
As Dr. Maffei picked up the scalpel to begin the surgery, a resident doctor called out: “I feel a pulse…”
To be sure, Dr. Maffei stood patiently over the young Gardell and monitored his heartbeat for the next hour — as Rose waited in prayer with her family in the waiting room.
When he finally delivered news to the family, it was good news.
“Gardell is alive; however, we have to understand that he’s alive after essentially being dead for an hour and 41 minutes.”
Rose sat next to her baby in the emergency room and continued to pray. Her husband arrived home from travel in the middle of the night. When he walked into Gardell’s room he said what he had said so many trips before, “Gardell, I’ve come home from trucking to play with you. Do you want to play?”
It had been eight hours since he had been dead, but those words did the trick. Gardell opened his eyes and looked right at his father. Excited to see him.
Within a week, Gardell was back at home, playing with his brothers just like before the accident — alive and well.
It’s been 3 years since that fateful day — and little Gardell is a vibrant, active young boy.
This isn’t a story about how a young boy refused to give up. How he refused to die.
This is a story about the power of belief. About what can happen when a group of strangers working together believe in possibility.
Nobody was ready to give up. Nobody was ready to call it quits.
The boy was dead. But they kept trying. He was frozen. They warmed him. He was lifeless. They had hope.
It’s not often that every single person in a situation decides that now is not the time to give up.
“THAT’S THE MAGIC BEHIND BELIEF. IT CHANGES YOU. EMPOWERS YOU. DELIVERS A MIRACLE FROM THE ASHES OF DISASTER.”
Gardell Martin is a miracle. He survived something that others will never live to tell about.
But the real story is the power of belief.
The neighbor who raced into action. The paramedics who kept doing CPR even when, logically, Gardell should have been long gone. The doctor who exhausted all of his options.
The community who prayed and never lost faith.
It took a team of people to keep Gardell alive. More than 50, to be exact. A team of people who all believed one thing: “This baby is not going to die today.”
Find the team with infectious belief. Those who believe that this baby is not going to die today. And be a part of that team.
Develop those beliefs. That’s how miracles happen.