(KMSP) - To experience James and Rachael is to experience a miracle.
"When we first met in Texas student teaching, he said, ‘Hey you're from Minnesota aren't you? How about that hot dish?’ I was like, run for the hills! Then I fell in love with your cheesy pickup lines,” Rachael recalled.
Young, in love and fun, everything changed in an instant in 2011. James went for a run one evening and collapsed in a ditch. Someone found him and performed lifesaving CPR. James had gone into cardiac arrest. He had a heart history, but was seemingly healthy and there were no overt warning signs. He was given a 1 percent chance to live.
He was born with a congenital heart disease, had valve replacement two open heart surgeries before 18, but for the most part, remained fairly healthy and regularly took his medication. Rachael has been by his side ever since.
At their first Twin Cities Heart Walk, the couple completed 10 feet. The next year, two blocks, then last year, five blocks. This year, they plan to complete even more, smiling, laughing and shedding tears with every step.
James continues to improve and his speech is coming back. They will marry in August with James making the walk down the aisle. He has been practicing with Nate, his therapist, with the addition of a fake wedding dress so James can avoid stepping on it.
“It's been a long journey, but it's a testament to miracles can happen.”