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GOLDSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Josh Clark was at the edge of death in November 2015. But less than two years later, he completed the New York City Marathon.

During a community worship service on Nov. 14, 2015, Clark, pastor of Generation Church, had just asked the members of the congregation to close their eyes for a prayer. The next thing he knew, he was coming to on the floor at the bottom of the steps leading up to the pulpit.

Everything was fuzzy for Clark, and before he knew it, he was being loaded onto a stretcher.

“I think I was just barely conscious,” he said. “I got annoyed because I was thinking there’s nothing wrong with me, why are they carrying me out of the church on a stretcher.”

Once inside the ambulance, Clark realized something was horribly wrong. He couldn’t move his arms or legs.

“They took me to the emergency room at Wayne Memorial Hospital,” he said. “They weren’t sure exactly sure what was going on. I was kind of combative, talking out of my head. They asked me who the president was, and I said Joe Biden. I was giving just weird answers.”

Sometime during the night, Clark’s wife, Amber, told one of the physicians that her husband had fallen down the concrete steps at church. The doctor ordered a CT scan to see if he had a head injury.

“That’s when they found out I had massive bleeding in my brain,” Clark said. He had had a brain aneurysm and was bleeding in five different places in his brain.

“They immediately sent me to UNC Chapel Hill,” Clark said. “They didn’t tell me until later that the mortality rate for the type of aneurysm I had was very high.”

Clark believes that a miracle happened on the helicopter ride to Chapel Hill and that it was due to people praying for him. Once he got to Chapel Hill and more scans were done, the bleeding had stopped. — the aneurysm had clotted. So the blood that was putting pressure on his brain and causing the paralysis disappeared.

“They put a metal coil in the aneurysm,” Clark said. “They went in through my leg, up through my heart and into my brain to put the coil in to keep it from rupturing again.”

Clark was in ICU 10 days then recuperated with family in Rocky Mount for about two months.

“The main thing was to rest,” Clark said. “My number one symptom was fatigue. I was just exhausted. I had visual problems and couldn’t go anywhere with bright lights. The headaches were unbearable in the beginning of recovery, but got better.”

Back in January, the 34-year-old decided to run the New York City Marathon, which he did on Nov. 4.

“My doctor recommended going for walks outside and that kind of started the whole thought of running,” Clark said. “I ran around Goldsboro, starting with a mile, then a mile and a half and eventually I was running 25 miles. It was a long, slow process.”

Running was therapy for Clark.

“It’s been really good for my peace of mind,” he said. “I work out problems in my head while running. Sometimes I pray. Sometimes I think about work and family things. Sometimes I don’t think at all, just take in the world around me. It was one of the best things for me in recovery.”

When Clark first mentioned to his wife that he wanted to run the New York City Marathon, she asked if he didn’t want to start with a 5K or something shorter.

“I told her if I was going to do it, it had to be a big goal or I wouldn’t do the work,” he said. “I do best under pressure so I needed that kind of big, audacious goal and that deadline to make myself start to get back in shape.”

Clark said the longest part of the entire 26.2-mile run was the last two-tenths of a mile.

“In my mind, I hit mile 26 and was thinking I was done and that two-tenths of a mile was so long. I finished in 5 hours and 28 minutes.

“It was a great sense of accomplishment and a great sense of responsibility knowing I’ve come this far. It was good motivation for me to keep working.”

After being so close to death, Clark now treats every day of his life as a precious gift and constantly reassesses his priorities.

“I’m not living in fear, but I also know that I have a brain aneurysm in my head and it could rupture,” he said. “I want to make the most of every day. I take time to slow down a lot more than I used to.”

He’s doing more with his family, like taking walks in their neighborhood or at the park and playing board games at home.

And Clark is spending more of his time with his 3-year-old son, Hudson.

“I take time to spend with him and do things when, normally, I would say I’ve got to work right now,” he said. “I’m more likely now to stop and just enjoy time with him. This morning I was working at home and Hudson went over to the piano and said, ‘Daddy, dance.’ I went in there and I danced while he played the piano.”


Information from: Goldsboro News-Argus,