INDIAN HILLS — On a road surrounded by pine trees, there is a log cabin-style home. At this home, a Colorado couple has a story of purpose, love and a medical miracle.
“I’m so in love with you honey…and everything will bring a chain of love." Those are lyrics to that same couple's wedding song, "Danny's Song," by soft rock artist Kenny Loggins. Clay Meers sent those words via text to his wife Tami Meers late one Friday afternoon in June.
A couple of hours later, he was in the emergency room at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, intubated because he was unable to breathe on his own.
Clay and Tami Meers fell in love in 2010 while they were ski bums in Vail. They moved to Steamboat Springs and eventually Indian Hills -- a community in Jefferson County -- where they started their family and their business. They own The Yampa Valley Sauce Company, which creates items like hot sauce.
Clay Meers also had a childhood dream of becoming a pilot -- something Tami Meers encouraged him to pursue.
“Flying is so exhilarating," said Clay Meers. "It opens so many doors of opportunity. There’s a challenge and it was so fun."
Clay Meers went to Florida for six weeks in May of this year to pursue his dream.
It was June 29, and Clay Meers was just one week from graduating when he sent that text message to his wife and headed to the pool to meet some of his fellow flight students. They started playing a game where they swam underwater, checking to see who could swim the longest without taking a breath.
Clay Meers was winning the game until he passed out. The medical term is "shallow water blackout."
Dr. Beth Grieninger, an emergency medicine physician who treated Clay Meers at the Jacksonville Mayo Clinic, said she recalled he was unconscious and had no signs of trauma. Within minutes she said she asked social workers if they had reached his family. She said she feared the worst, saying he was about as sick as you can be and still be alive.
“I was talking to her and I could hear her children in the background playground playing," said Grieninger, remembering the phone call where she brought the news to Tami Meer. "I was like, 'Oh my God, he’s got babies.'"
Tami Meer immediately flew to Jacksonville. Meanwhile, Grieninger consulted with colleagues about trying Therapeutic Hypothermia, a treatment plan that deliberately reduces the core body temperature to a range of about 32 degrees in patients who don’t regain consciousness. Grieninger said it was the only option left.
“To say it broke my heart is not an exaggeration," Grieninger said. "I did go home that night, and I lit candles and said prayers, and I prayed for a miracle.”
Tami Meers said it was nearly three days before the unbelievable happened.
“We were all there by his bedside, and he opened his eyes and he looked at all of us," Tami Meers said. "He couldn’t speak because he was intubated, but you could tell he recognized all of us right away."
Clay Meers said he doesn't remember anything from that night, except sending the text message right before heading to the pool. But he said he does remember the reaction of those who saw him open his eyes.
“These nurses and doctors were crying, some looking at me like I was a ghost, praising God," Clay Meers said. "It was just a very emotional experience.”
Grieninger called this her gift from the universe. Clay and Tami Meers called her a hero. And they all said they consider the event life-changing. Clay Meers said he still can’t shake one feeling in particular.
“Never ever have I felt so much peace and unconditional love… lack of fear, but desire to live every moment," he said.
And that's why they said their song -- Kenny Loggins's "Danny's Song" -- seem to tell the story perfectly:
And even though we ain't got money.
I'm so in love with you honey.
And everything will bring a chain of love.
And in the mornin' when I rise.
You bring a tear of joy to my eyes.
And tell me everything is gonna be alright.