Pastor who escaped death arranges to meet his wife after organ harvesting

Ryan Marlow returned to North Carolina in February after spending half a year in several hospitals and medical facilities. Megan Marlow

  • Last year, doctors pronounced a North Carolina pastor brain dead and agreed to harvest his organs.
  • But Megan Marlow demanded further tests and thus saved her husband’s life.
  • Now, a year after their ordeal, the couple celebrated their anniversary with a meaningful date.

Earlier this month, Ryan Marlow did what was once unthinkable: he took his wife of 17 years to an anniversary date.

It was a seemingly minor surprise that other women in other marriages might have taken for granted. But just a year ago, Megan Marlow was planning her husband’s funeral.

The incredible saga of the family headlines last year when Doctors mistakenly pronounced Ryan brain dead after an attack of rapidly onset listeria and subsequent hemorrhagic stroke. Doctors told Megan that her husband was unresponsive and had suffered a “neurological death,” and even put an official time of death on Ryan’s death certificate, she told Insider last year.

As an organ donor, Ryan would remain on life support until suitable mates could be found. But on the morning of his organ harvest, as family members gathered in the hospital room and played videos of the couple’s three children singing and laughing, Ryan wiggled his toes, Megan said. She immediately called for another round of testing.

A CT scan showed Ryan’s brain was still coursing with blood, Megan, 36, said in an interview with Insider earlier this year. After all, Ryan wasn’t brain dead, he was in a coma. The organ surgery was stopped just a few minutes before it began.

It has been almost a year since Ryan first fell ill and six months since he returned to Wilkesboro with his wife and three children after months of inpatient recovery work.

In an interview this week, Megan told Insider the past six months have been filled with difficulties – including insurance disputes and infections – as well as joyous triumphs. Ryan’s home rehabilitation is going well, she said. He can stand with assistance and recently even reflexively kicked a ball with his left leg, despite having little or no mobility full-sided.

“He’s just gotten a lot stronger over the past two months,” Megan said. “It was amazing to see.”

Ryan still has trouble swallowing and has to eat through a feeding tube. He can’t speak yet due to nerve damage, Megan said, but he communicates with friends and family using sign language on his right side and can nod his head to yes or no questions.

He romantically used that hard-won mobility earlier this month in anticipation of the couple’s seventeenth wedding anniversary, Megan said. Ryan set out to plan a dream date for his wife, who currently serves as a caregiver and nurse to her husband, as well as a mother and home teacher to the couple’s three young children.

Ryan spoke to Megan’s sister and niece to dictate exactly what he needed for the occasion. He wanted to give her a big bouquet, she said, signing her family members exactly what kind of flowers he wanted.

“Those were all my favorite strains,” Megan said.

Ryan also organized dinner reservations and gave Megan a gift certificate to buy a new outfit, she wrote in a Facebook post about her anniversary.

“We got dressed up and were looking forward to a date,” Megan told Insider. “We went out but he can’t eat so I felt weird. But that’s exactly what he wanted to do!”

To celebrate the momentous anniversary, Megan said she created a slideshow full of photos of the couple over the past 17 years. The memories brought tears to all family members, she said, as the Marlows reflected on everything they had overcome together over the past year.

“There are times when I struggle, but I try to stay pretty positive for him,” Megan said. “He says he gets sad or frustrated because he can’t speak or communicate. He can’t tell his kids he loves them.”

But the family is confident about the coming year. Megan said Ryan’s next goals are to learn to walk with an aid and try to speak again. The continued support from the community has been indelible, she added.

“I asked him if he was angry,” she said. “He says that’s not the case. He knows that God has a purpose and a plan.”

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Christopher Hill

Providing balanced news amidst polarization. Dedicated to sharing well-rounded perspectives.

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