Here’s proof that mir­a­cles still hap­pen

Daily Times (Primos, PA) - - OPINION - Chris­tine Flow­ers Colum­nist Chris­tine Flow­ers is an at­tor­ney and Delaware County res­i­dent. Her col­umn ap­pears ev­ery Sun­day. Email her at cflow­

We of­ten talk about mir­a­cles, an­gels, the power of prayer and the in­vis­i­bly thin, ti­ta­nium-strong con­nec­tion be­tween hope and re­al­ity. Those of us who have faith in some­thing greater than our­selves are never sur­prised when good things hap­pen to the need­ful, but call­ing them “mir­a­cles” is usu­ally just our way of say­ing we can­not con­trol our own des­tiny. I like the idea that we are, at some level, sub­ject to des­tiny and for­tune, be­cause it’s much too much of a re­spon­si­bil­ity to ac­cept that we have do­min­ion over every­thing in our lives. The poem “In­vic­tus” is one that I adore, but the idea that “I am the mas­ter of my fate, I am the cap­tain of my soul” is a bit over­whelm­ing.

So let’s just say that what I’m about to tell you is my ver­sion of a mir­a­cle, and if you don’t agree with my be­lief that there are in­tan­gi­ble forces at work in our lives, you can still en­joy the story.

Arty Erle has been a po­lice of­fi­cer in Up­per Darby for al­most 20 years. He grew up in Glenolden, is a mem­ber of the In­ter­boro Class of 1990, and lives in Se­cane. Arty is about as lo­cal as you can get, spend­ing most of his 45 years within the same area code. He is one of our finest, a man who has given his life to pro­tect­ing the peo­ple he grew up with, or their near neigh­bors.

Sadly, he hasn’t been spared his share of hard­ship. In 2007, Arty was di­ag­nosed with Stage 3 colon can­cer. For some, that would have been a death sen­tence, but this son of Delco was able to beat it and was given a clean bill of health in 2010. Well, that’s not ac­tu­ally true. He was told that there was no longer any trace of the can­cer, but he was also di­ag­nosed in that same year with a con­di­tion that is com­mon to peo­ple who’ve suf­fered from colon can­cer, Pri­mary Scle­ro­sis Coloridi­tis. As a re­sult of the PSC, Arty’s liver stopped func­tion­ing, and in De­cem­ber 2016 he was placed on a trans­plant list.

Those who have fam­ily or friends await­ing a trans­plant know the mixed feel­ings that are cre­ated. On the one hand, you des­per­ately want your loved one to be­come an or­gan re­cip­i­ent and have that se­cond chance at life. On the other, you re­al­ize that your hap­pi­ness must come at the ex­pense of an­other per­son’s sor­row, and in some cases, tragedy.

Last month, the tragedy of a stranger led to sal­va­tion for Arty, although after you read what fol­lows, you’ll re­al­ize that there are no real strangers in this story.

On Aug. 10, 17-year-old Jamahri Syd­nor was shot while driv­ing through north­east Wash­ing­ton. The bul­let was in­tended for some­one else. She lin­gered on life sup­port for three days, but died the fol­low­ing Satur­day. Jamahri was the daugh­ter of a po­lice sergeant in D.C. When the fam­ily re­al­ized that their beloved child was not go­ing to make it, they sent out an email to the po­lice depart­ment where Jamahri’s mother, De­tec­tive Q. Wal­lace, worked, get­ting the word out that they wanted to be able to do­nate their daugh­ter’s or­gans to other po­lice of­fi­cers.

By chance (be­cause we are not go­ing to use “mir­a­cle” here), one of the po­lice of­fi­cers in D.C. was a friend of a friend of Arty’s up here in Penn­syl­va­nia, Jeff Dougherty. Of­fi­cer Dougherty’s buddy in D.C. sent him a copy of the email, hav­ing no idea about Arty’s predica­ment but sim­ply want­ing to un­der­score the ab­so­lute self­less­ness of this griev­ing fam­ily. Look, he said, how in the midst of such tragedy they have the abil­ity to think about other peo­ple who are suf­fer­ing.

Of­fi­cer Dougherty im­me­di­ately thought of Arty, called him and urged him to con­tact Jamahri’s fam­ily. After hes­i­tat­ing, be­cause he was un­com­fort­able about ap­proach­ing griev­ing par­ents, Arty de­cided to reach out to them. He reached one of the fam­ily mem­bers on Sun­day night, and by the next af­ter­noon the match was made: Arty would be re­ceiv­ing Jamahri’s liver.

On Aug. 15, dur­ing a 12½hour surgery at Jef­fer­son, a 17-year-old girl’s liver was trans­planted into the body of a 45-year-old po­lice of­fi­cer.

I wish that I could say the rest of the story was as mirac­u­lous (oops, that word again, sorry) but I can’t. Two days after the trans­plant, Arty went into car­diac ar­rest, and was in a coma for al­most two weeks. He ac­tu­ally flat­lined for six min­utes, and there was lit­tle hope that he was go­ing to recover. It was so dire that they called in a priest, an Au­gus­tinian from Vil­lanova named, ap­pro­pri­ately, Father Gus, to bless him.

But then, some­thing hap­pened. Maybe it was a func­tion of the amaz­ing care he was re­ceiv­ing at Jeff, maybe it was that visit from Father Gus, maybe it was Jamahri’s spirit push­ing through and will­ing him to live, or maybe it was all of the above, but Arty woke up, opened his eyes and be­gan to re­spond to com­mands. He is, to­day, alert and, with the sup­port of his de­voted, long­time girl­friend Kristin Dor­tone, on his way to a re­cov­ery. He is able to watch his 11-year-old daugh­ter Brooke to grow up.

When I spoke with Kristin, call­ing from Arty’s hos­pi­tal room, she still seemed a bit over­whelmed with every­thing that has hap­pened over the last month. But the most im­por­tant thing for them, the thing that they in­sisted I fo­cus on, was the self­less gift of life that Jamahri Syd­nor and her fam­ily gave to a stranger, who is no longer a stranger. In the depths of their grief, a grief that can barely be imag­ined, they looked out­side of them­selves and changed the life of a po­lice of­fi­cer.

This sin­gle act of gun vi­o­lence in D.C. could have re­mained a unique, heartwrench­ing loss. But be­cause a po­lice fam­ily, which un­der­stood bet­ter than most the car­nage cre­ated by guns in the wrong hands, de­cided to make some­thing good out of some­thing so sor­row­ful, this son of Delaware County has a fu­ture.

And Jamahri Syd­nor lives on.

(To do­nate to Arty, please use this link: https://www. go­­fi­cer-arty­er­les-re­cov­ery-fund)

Up­per Darby Po­lice Of­fi­cer Arty Earle

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