When little Annie Powell was just nine years old, tragedy struck. She drowned in a swimming pool.
Annie doesn't remember much about the accident, but she does remember a man in white who helped her, and an unforgettable visit to heaven.
On Saturday, June 9, 2018, a day of fun at a park swimming pool turned into a nightmare.
Annie's dad Dave remembers, "I noticed that a man was bringing out a young girl and she was just drooped over his arms. And he was asking for help. He was, 'Help me! Help me!'"
As a lifeguard jumped in to begin CPR, Pastors Dave and Cathy Powell realized the drowned girl was their daughter, Annie.
'God, Don't Take Her. Let Her Come Back.'
Cathy recalls, "During the CPR I noticed that Annie was blue from her chest up, and her eyes were rolled back in her head. She looked so lifeless. And she was my little girl. She was only 9. And I felt very helpless, and I was asking God, 'God, don't take her. Let her come back.'"
Dave shares, "I was at her feet and just praying that the CPR would work. But just praying that she would come back to life."
When an ambulance crew arrived, they gave Annie oxygen and rushed her to a hospital two minutes away. When the Powells arrived at the emergency room, doctors told them although she was stabilized, Annie was still critical. She had suffered cardiac arrest and respiratory failure. Now in a comatose state, Annie needed to be life-flighted to J. W. Ruby Memorial Hospital, a level one trauma center in Morgantown, West Virginia for specialized care.
"I was really concerned about her," Dave shares. And I think that's when it really started to click, you know, that she's not perfectly okay, even though she is breathing. And I was wondering what is going on there? And if she would ever be the same."
On the drive, the Powells prayed, calling on friends and members of their church to pray with them. Cathy says she prayed fervently, "'Please raise my Annie. Please give her back to me.'"
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After the chopper landed, doctors said the next 72 hours were critical. Now in a medically induced coma, her blood and oxygen levels were dangerously low. The extended time without oxygen might have caused irreversible damage to her heart and brain if she survived. Even then, Dave and Cathy held on to hope.
Cathy recalls, "She looked like a little robot. She had a cap on her head with all these wires, and I found out that that was for measuring seizures. She had a trache, and I just felt so helpless because I couldn't do anything to help her."
By now, dozens of people filled the hospital waiting room praying for a miracle.
Dave shares, "And all we could do was just lean on God and pray 'Lord, just help us. Help Annie at this point, you know, even help the doctors, with the wisdom and help them to be able to help her to get back to-to normal.'"
The following day, Sunday, the Powells' home church held a special time of prayer for Annie and her family.
Church Prays: 'Annie Arise. Annie Arise.'
Cathy says, "And they were saying, 'Rise, Annie; Rise, Annie,' and that touched my heart. And from that point on I knew in my heart that she would be okay."
Prayers continued throughout the day and into the night. The next day at the hospital, Dave and Cathy got the good news…Annie's oxygen and blood levels had started to improve.
Two days later on Wednesday afternoon, doctors brought Annie out of her coma. As she awoke, doctors asked her to move her fingers, looking for signs she was aware and could move.
Cathy remembers, "The doctor was leaning down like this, and Annie thrust her fist in her face and the doctor said, 'She's gonna be okay, Cathy.' I knew my feisty Annie was back."
Dave says, "You know, obviously an answer to prayer. We're thanking Jesus. 'Thank you, God, thank you Lord, thank you God.' We're just praising God."
'There Was a Man in White Who Was Helping Me in the Pool'
While Annie doesn't remember much, she does remember going to heaven. You see, while in the helicopter, Annie died and had to be resuscitated.
Annie shares, "I saw butterflies, and they were all different colors. They weren't just regular, you know, everyday colors. They were colors you couldn't even imagine. I felt very happy and joyful and very loved, and I just felt it all around me."
She says she also remembers someone helping her in the pool.
Annie remembers, "There was a man in white who was helping me in the pool, and I think maybe it was Jesus or maybe an angel."
Just five days after drowning, Annie was released from the hospital with no cognitive or physical impairment and no memory loss. Today, Annie is happy and doing well in school. She and her parents tell everyone nothing is impossible when you trust God.
Annie says, "I'm very happy today because I get to do hobbies that I like, like riding my bike or reading books. When I pray to God and think of my miracle, I always say 'Thank you, God, for letting me live.'"
Dave shares, "We can trust and rely on Him that no matter what we go through, God is there to help us through."