Written By: Pastor Joe Ritchie
25 years ago, I died. It was in the early morning hours of May 27th, 1990 that it happened and I was 15 years old. A friend and I, who always took turns stealing our parent’s cars, took another wrong turn in life.
It was his opportunity this time to take his mom’s car. We didn’t make it home. On Charron Line in Belle River he lost control on the gravel shoulder at about 120km/h. It was possible that the car clipped a guard wire for a telephone pole as the car flipped front to rear three or four times, bounced out of a ditch, and landed on all four tires in a farmer’s field. The car was totaled and so was I.
My friend was able to run to a house and call for help. I laid lifeless between the front bucket seats with broken ribs on each side, one punctured lung as the other lung filled with blood, and a broken neck at C5,6,7 vertebrae.
The Rochester fire department was first on scene and began to use the Jaws of Life to extract me from the rear window area. Once the paramedics arrived they said it was taking too long and they were losing me.
At that point a firefighter jumped up on the roof and began to peel the roof back like a tin can. The others stood for a moment in awe like they were watching an act of God. The paramedics were then able to secure me to a body board and pull me out, but as they did… I died. I was dead as they put me in the ambulance and drove away doing everything they could to bring me back.
They said it lasted approximately seven minutes. However, once I arrived at Metropolitan Hospital in Windsor and was received into the ER, I died again. This time it was clocked for six minutes. Revived once more and in serious critical condition, the phone call was made to my mom and dad.
It was terrible news and I cannot imagine the pain they felt. After a few days of traction, where they put screws in my scull that were tied to weights to keep my head and neck straight, the decision was made for surgery. A fusion was done on my vertebrae and the wait began for me to come back to a conscious state. It took two weeks. I remember that day as I opened my eyes I had no idea what happened, where I was, or why more than half my body didn’t move.
On life support, unable to feel from chest down, unable to move my arms, hands and fingers, and unable to speak from a tracheotomy, I was told what happened and tears rushed in like rain. Then it happened again; I was moved from my bed in ICU to a lazy boy recliner, why I don’t know, but I died again. This time I was able to experience it.
Three minutes of no heart beat and clinically dead. Everything was black, but I could hear all that was happening. I was unaware that my heart stopped for three minutes until it was all over and they told me what happened. After a couple more days they filled me in on what my life expectancy should be.
A low functioning quadriplegic who will never walk again and will always need medical care and nursing aid. I get it. They gave me the worst case scenario. Oh it took a while to adjust; six years of depression and many wrong choices. The incredible suffering I endured physically was no match for the pain I felt in my heart, mind, and soul. I turned to alcohol, drugs, and promiscuity attempting anything to create joy in my life to mask the pain. Nothing worked.
The truth is I had to die one last time; to myself. In October 1996 something happened that I never would or could have imagined or made up. I met Jesus Christ, of all places in my kitchen. My personal drug dealer pretended to be Jesus Christ dead on a cross as a joke. Jesus Christ showed Himself to me right then and in that moment I believed for the first time. I died to myself that day and began to live for Him. I have never looked back. Love, hope, joy, peace, and forgiveness flooded and filled my life like I had never known possible.
I had no idea in the past that such a life existed. Many miracles have happened since then, but the greatest of them all is my changed heart. I am so incredibly thankful. Yet further to the miracle of a changed heart, God gave me more. It was August of 1998 at a Christian festival called “Kingdom Bound” in Darien Lake, New York Six Flags amusement park.
It was the providence of God that I was there. You see, by 1998 it had been eight years since my accident. Eight years of being physically disabled in many ways. That included my limbs, my hands, my fingers, and my body from chest down. It also included things like the function of my bladder and bowels. I needed medical devices and medication in order to make them work. My bladder in particular was sadly a painful experience as I needed to insert a catheter every time I needed to empty it. Every time!
That was about six times a day every day for eight years up to that day. If you can imagine a plastic tube slightly lubricated and the word friction you’ll understand it didn’t always work right. It would get stuck and bleed and get infected. I was even hospitalized because of it.
So there I was in my tent at Darien Lake, New York needing to empty a full bladder and the catheter got stuck and I began to bleed. All I could think of was that I needed to go to the hospital again. I became very afraid of how that would have worked in another country not my own. So, instead of dwelling in that fear I decided to turn to God. In tears I asked the Lord to heal my bladder and enable me to “pee” without the use of a catheter. I got up out of my tent and went to the washroom.
I peed for the first time in eight years without one! It was not exactly normal but I could do it and I have been “peeing” on my own ever since! Hallelujah! God gave me a physical miracle! If you have read this far, I thank you so much for taking interest. My life now is more than I could have ever dreamed and it’s all because of God. My wife, my children, my family and friends – there are so many blessings, too many to count. If you do not know Jesus yet, please soften your heart to His voice. Cultivate a relationship with God in Christ and you’ll never be sorry you did, only sorry you didn’t. It was 25 years ago for me on May 27th 1990 that I died, but it was only physical death. Spiritual death would have been much worse. I am so thankful that I lived that day in order that I would die again. I would die to myself and live for Jesus Christ; a death worth dying and a life worth living.
About Pastor Joe Ritchie:
Joe Ritchie born November 22nd 1974 of the flesh and born again of the Spirit October 1996. From the wrong side of the tracks to riding the train bound for glory Joe has experienced much of life’s ups and downs. A motor vehicle accident on May 27th 1990 left him physically paralyzed for life, but not to be undone he has found his place and purpose in Christ. Through his journey he has been blessed with miraculous healing and a call to ministry. Married in 2000 to his beautiful wife Michelle and blessed with their three wonderful children Braeden, Olivia and Amelia, the Ritchie family serves in the ministry of the Gospel of Christ. Joe has been a pastor in the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada since 2001 and continues forward in his call, sharing his story, preaching the word and leading worship.