By Mark Ellis –
Tina Hines was standing in her driveway, preparing to hike the Deem Hills Ridgeline trail near Phoenix, when she suffered a near-fatal heart attack. Efforts to revive her appeared futile at first, and for 27 long minutes her brain was deprived of oxygen – which should have resulted in permanent brain damage or death.
Growing up in Pasadena, California, Tina prayed to receive Jesus with her mom when she was six years old and they attended Lake Avenue Congregational Church, where she was influenced by Pastor Ray Ortlund and his wife Anne. Later, she graduated from Biola University, after meeting her future husband there, Brian.
“I did not need this (near-death) experience to push me to Jesus,” Tina says. “I had a true, active, walking relationship with Christ.”
February 12th, 2018 started as an ordinary day, with Tina meeting a prayer partner in the morning and having lunch with a friend. She and her husband planned to meet at 4:30 p.m. at the house to start their hike. “It was a normal day, and I wasn’t feeling any stress or anxiety,” she recalls.
A few months earlier, Tina visited a cardiologist because she had experienced an irregular heartbeat. They diagnosed a left bundle branch block but did not seem overly concerned. “I got a call from the doctor and they said everything is good, everything is clear, we’ll see you next year.” She works out regularly and is very fit for her age, so was somewhat blinded by her own pride to any potential problem, she admits.
On that providential afternoon in February, as Tina chatted in the driveway with a close friend, she collapsed and stopped breathing. “I didn’t have a huge amount of pain. There was no warning. I went to my knees, feeling like I’m going to faint, and I completely blacked out.”
Within 30 seconds, her lips turned blue and her eyes rolled back in her head. Her whole face was bleeding after scraping against rocks bordering the driveway.
Brian called 911 and their friend started CPR. Within 3-4 minutes, the paramedics arrived and used a defibrillator to shock her heart three times. On the way to HonorHealth Deer Valley Medical Center, there were two more failed attempts to revive her heart using the defibrillator.
“They called me dead on arrival,” she says.
In the emergency room, sometime between 5:05 and 5:10pm, the doctors defibrillated Tina for a sixth time, and her heart finally began to beat again, but her brain had been deprived of oxygen for 27 minutes.
“That’s when I saw Jesus in those 27 minutes,” she says. “He didn’t say anything to me.
He was standing there in a white robe with arms stretched out.”
There was a bright yellow glow – like the sun — emanating from him. “It was almost blinding,” she says. There were also clouds behind him and Tina felt “incredible warmth and peace.”
When Tina’s heart began to beat again, she was already intubated. “When they woke me up after that sixth shock, I tried to pull my tube out and tell people what happened. I opened my eyes and saw the hospital room and just wanted to tell them in those moments about seeing Jesus.”
“They saw me reaching for my tube, so they strapped my arms down. They were surprised in a good way, hopeful there might be brain activity.”
Once she was stabilized, they transferred Tina to ICU. Dr. Lopez went out to talk to Brian and the family. Word had gotten out, and there were already over 100 people in the waiting area. Brian was prepared for the worst.
“Your wife is alive and breathing, but is very very sick,” the doctor informed them.
Next, Tina was placed on a ventilator and in a medically induced coma. Family and friends had begun to pray around the clock.
The following afternoon they decided to wean her off the medication. “As I was getting weaned off, I tried to pull tube out again,” Tina recounts. “They were encouraged by that but strapped my arms down once more.”
All four of her children were there, along with her sister and brother-in-law. Tina shocked everyone by displaying more signs of cognitive thinking. She expressed herself nonverbally by moving her hands and fingers, attempting to point at people when they spoke, even though her eyes would remain closed for the next hour.
“In my mind and spirit, I had this unbelievable peace. I wanted to tell people I saw Jesus face-to-face, and how I saw him and what I experienced. I didn’t even care about why I was in the hospital. I had to tell them about seeing Jesus.”
At some point, she turned her hands over and mouthed “what happened?”
Brian leaned down and said gently, “Baby you had a heart attack, a sudden cardiac arrest, and you’re in the hospital.”
A tear formed in her eye and began to roll down her cheek. “It was all so hard to process,” she recalls.
Tina motioned with her hands that she wanted to write something. “I knew I couldn’t talk. I could hear them warning me not to pull the tube out. They were saying they were going to get it out soon.”
Her son Jacob, attending ASU, pulled a pen out of his backpack, and handed her the pen and his journal.
She started writing slowly, attempting to form the words I…t…s…R…E…A…L.
They couldn’t read it, so she went over it again. This time, she went over the ‘t’ three times, so it looked like three crosses. I…t t t…s……R…E…A…L
She lifted her hands as if to say, Do you guys get it?
“What’s real?” Brian asked.
She pointed up toward the ceiling with one of her fingers and then tried to form a ‘J.’
Her daughter blurted out, “Heaven Mom?”
She nodded and everyone in the room started bawling.
Before the doctor removed the tube from her throat, he informed the family she probably wouldn’t be able to talk right away.
But as soon as the tube came out the words gushed out. “Oh my gosh!” she exclaimed. “Do you understand what happened? I saw Jesus face-to-face! It was a bright light and his arms stretched out toward me. It was the most peaceful and incredible experience I’ve ever had in my life.”
Everyone in the room was shocked and stunned. Celebration broke out in the room when her family knew she was going to be fine. Her daughter-in-law, a speech pathologist, said, “I can’t believe she’s able to talk right now.”
Every time a nurse or doctor entered the room, Tina kept sharing the amazing news: “I saw Jesus! I saw Jesus!”
“I wanted to give them the details about how I saw Him face-to-face, how beautiful He was, the light and the color and the experience I had.”
The next day, Tina was surprisingly active, walking around the ICU making new friends and sharing her message of hope. Everyone concluded her recovery was miraculous.
On February 16th Tina was released from the hospital, overwhelmed with joy for the
miracle she experienced.
Six months after her heart event she attended a funeral in Washington, staying with friends. They asked her if she had ever seen the painting of Jesus by the young artist, Akiane – painted when she was only eight years old.
Tina had never seen the painting or heard of the artist. When they showed her a book with an image of the painting, she couldn’t believe it. “That’s Him!” she cried out. “This is who I saw. This is the one who was comforting me, with the bright yellow light behind Him. This is the one I saw face-to-face.”
She marvels at how much God was in the details of the medical emergency. If it happened 20 minutes later, she would have been up on the mountain and it would have been difficult for paramedics to reach her. If it happened 20 minutes earlier, she had been at the wheel of her car with four young people inside, potentially causing a serious accident.
Today, Tina loves to share with others about her hope in Christ — and hope of heaven. “I want to be intentional, authentic and open about my beautiful experience with Jesus, and seeing him face-to-face. In the process I also want to share how dying has changed living.”
About Tina Hines — Tina is a wife of 33 years and mother of four. She is a woman of deep, vibrant faith that equipped herself to help others through dual degree in psychology and secondary education. She teaches and mentors high school students. Tina is also an active and accomplished athlete. Learn more about Tina here