Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Guest: Stephen Arrington, Part 3

I loved teaching at the College of Oceaneering in Los Angeles Harbor. Surprisingly, Terminal Island Prison was just a mile away, which made me very uncomfortable. Inmate dreams stalked my sleep leading to many restless nights. I was living in a truck that I called Revelstoke, which had been my home in Hawaii. I parked it in a Mexican family’s driveway just a few blocks from the school. I was socially wounded spending most of my evenings alone. On weekends, I surfed and hung out at the beach. I daydreamed a lot about talking at schools, but was too nervous to approach a principal as a convicted felon. A year passed as I slowly healed.

Medic, College of Oceaneering
In the Navy, I had been a hyperbaric chamber supervisor and an EMTD (Emergency Medical Technician Diver), which is why they made me the school medic at the College of Oceaneering. I was teaching in the classroom when the door was abruptly thrown open and a student yelled, “Mr. Arrington, get to the harbor. Chris is drowning!” I grabbed my first aid kit and ran.

Chris was trapped underwater at a depth of 55 feet. Later, I would later learn that he had been cheating on a project, which made it unstable. A 300 lb pontoon had fallen on him. It knocked his helmet off his head and drove him facedown into the cold mud. On the diving barge, they heard him scream over the intercom followed by the sound of water filling his helmet, and then it went silent. The Time Keeper Recorder logged the exact time of the incident. Chris was trapped underwater, without air, for over 8½ minutes. That meant he was dead!

When they finally got him to the surface, I pulled the lifeless body onto the rusty deck. I knew he was gone. His eyes were fixed and staring, his skin flaccid and purple from lack of oxygen and excessive CO2. I was looking at a cadaver. Yet, as a CPR instructor, I had an obligation to try to save him. As I blew that first breath into his lungs, I silently prayed, “Your breath Father, not mine. It’s too late for me, but it’s never too late for You.”

Assisted by two other instructors, we worked on Chris for 20 minutes until the fire department arrived and took him away. En route to the hospital they abruptly got a spontaneous heart beat and breathing. Yet we still had little hope, it had been just too long.

The next night his mother sat by his side in the intensive care unit. He was in a comma, as expected. Organ donation was being discussed, when suddenly he woke up!

Chris returned to The College of Oceaneering where he graduated second in his class. I received two awards for lifesaving, one from the Los Angeles Fire Department, and one from the Red Cross signed by President Ronald Reagan.

The medical consensus was that Chris had survived after being so long without oxygen because of the cold water and high partial pressure of oxygen in his blood from the depth. Yet, I had a different take. If God could use my breath to save the life of this young man—then why couldn’t I trust Him to use that same breath to help other youth? Saving Chris also helped to save me. I came out of my shell and began speaking at schools. I told the students that the key to success in life was to do good, work hard, and to be the best you could be all the time.

My second year out of prison was greeted with a telephone call from The Cousteau Society. It was an invitation to join their diving teams as a chief diver and expedition leader. James Walsh, my prosecutor, got my special parole dropped so I could tour the world on an underwater odyssey of adventure diving with whales, dolphins, and great white sharks. After 5 ½ years of incredible journeys, I resigned the job of my dreams to become a full-time motivational speaker, writer, and lay youth minister. I have now spoken at over 3,000 public school assemblies, at youth and adult lockups, for universities, youth organizations, and at churches. My television program, a 26 part series called High on Adventure, has aired in 110 countries. It is still airing today on various Christian networks.

Sixteen years ago, my wife Cindy and I founded the Dream Machine Foundation. We provide free medical clinics in rural Fiji. On July 19, I am leaving for Fiji with a 35-member mission group consisting of 7 physicians, a dentist, nurses, and 20 youth. We will be doing health evaluations at three Fijian public schools and treating rural Fijians. To date we have treated over 30,000 Fijians and brought 6 youth and young adults to the USA for life and limb saving surgeries. If you would like to help please visit www.dreammachinefoundation.com.

I again want to thank Professor Ruckman for this opportunity to share my story on his wonderful blog. I remain hopeful to be forgiven by my country with a Presidential Pardon.Remember, do good work. And if you make a mistake, it doesn’t mean you are a mistake. Sincerely, Stephen Lee Arrington. See also: Part 1, Part 2.

Pictures of Revelstoke and copies of my lifesaving awards can been found in my autobiography exTreme. The title is spelt with a capital T as a constant reminder of WHOM I serve. An autographed copy can be obtained at www.drugsbite.com. It is also available on Amazon. I can be contacted via my webpage for speaking presentations.

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