“If he is not already brain dead, if he is somehow able to wake up and survive the trauma that so many of his organs endured . . . if he makes it through next weekend . . . it will be nothing short of a miracle beyond medical explanation. But . . . miracles happen.”
When Tony Nolan suffered a massive heart attack on July 15, in the hours and days that unfolded I called several doctors and nurses I know, shared his story, and asked what they thought of his prognosis. The unanimous response is what you just read above. According to the medical odds, Tony was not supposed to survive.
Tony was not supposed to suffer cardic arrest and lose consciousness, have his wife perform CPR on him at home until the ambulance arrived, endure a quintuple bypass later that afternoon, have his damaged body shocked back to life dozens of times, have a second massive heart attack four days after the first one, have his liver and his kidneys and his lungs and his pancreas fail him, spend multiple days on a heart/lung machine, be intentionally put so deep into sedation that he would go days without movement or discernable neurological activity . . . and still be alive more than three weeks later to tell his wife that he loves her. But . . . miracles happen. And he did.
I will not recount every detail of Tony’s surgeries or how the doctors have gone from saying that his prognosis was grim to where Tony is now, a week in which he officially has been kicked off the heart transplant list because his own heart is recovering so well. A week in which he got to kiss his wife and visit with his beautiful three-year-old twin girls through a computer screen. A week in which he has watched the Olympics while sitting in a chair. But, I encourage all of you to visit his wife’s Facebook page. She graciously has made her page public in order to share both their terrifying moments and every moment of victory, large and small, with the thousands of people around the world who are praying for Tony and his family. I promise you — you will be inspired and humbled by Leila’s strength, grace, and determination, as well as by the outpouring of love from family and friends who care so deeply for this man, when you take some time to scroll through the history of what life has been like for the Nolans since July 15. There is no better way to learn of his story than through the words of his wife and other family members and friends who have posted there.
So, instead of retracing the medical path that Tony has taken, I want to tell you what I know about Tony Nolan. And, I’ll begin by admitting that I’m not the best person to do this. I am not one of his close confidantes. I only have known him a couple of years. We don’t talk on a daily or weekly basis. But, I have been to Tony and Leila’s home for cookouts (man, can Tony grill a good burger!) and socialized with them at restaurants and dropped off my daughter to play with their girls and joined them on their deck for beers and enjoyed casual conversations outside of their home while walking through the neighborhood. Their girls will be going to kindergarten with my son. I consider Leila a dear friend. So, I can share what I know.
First, Tony loves his girls. All three of them. Tony and Leila clearly adore one another, but beyond the playful spark that is still evident between this couple, it also is obvious that there is a deep bond of trust and devotion and utter admiration for the other person. And, Tony loves his little girls, Romie and Cordy. In the times that I have spent with the Nolans, I see Tony’s entire face change when he looks at his daughters. He becomes softer and you know he is a daddy who would do anything for those kids to feel loved and safe . . . while also keeping them in line like a good daddy should!
Tony is a no-joke American hero. He was an Airborne Ranger who earned a Bronze Star and Purple Heart in Desert Storm. The dude jumps out of airplanes! He has put his life on the line for all of us. He has saved the lives of others. And now, he has been fighting just as hard to save his own. I have no doubt that the courage and strength he needed when stationed halfway around the world is providing a large part of his success in this very personal fight he is battling in a Nashville hospital today.
Tony is a good guy with an amazing heart (he’s proved that in new ways the past few weeks!). When I moved into my home and several times since, Tony has offered to help with whatever I needed. From lifting furniture to fixing my computer to making sure the locks worked on my doors, he was ready to help in any way possible. As a single mom, knowing there are guys like Tony who let you know they are only a phone call away offers a wonderful peace of mind. Walk down his street and talk to his other neighbors. You will hear similar stories time and again.
Tony needs our help. Tony’s progress over the past few weeks has brought me tears and goosebumps on many occasions. I continue to be in awe. But, he still has a long road ahead. His lungs need to get stronger and his kidneys need to do their job. He likely will be losing part of his right hand due to a thrown blood clot during one of his surgeries. He has physical therapy and speech therapy and you-name-it therapy ahead of him for who knows how long. He has an amazing wife and two beautiful young daughters who need comfort and hugs and encouragement. So, you can pray. You can join in the prayers that have been lifted up for him in the thousands without ceasing for the past 25 days. You can send him thoughts of healing, of positive energy, of peace.
You also can help the Nolans with the cost of Tony’s medical treatment, which is probably one of the last things on their minds right now, but is certain to be daunting. Please consider donating to Tony’s medical expense fund to ease this financial burden to come for this husband, father, friend, and veteran. You also can send notes of encouragement, gas cards, grocery cards, care packages for the girls, etc. to the Nolans at 1552 Goldfinch Circle, Hermitage, TN 37076.
Yes, I am asking you to help someone you don’t know. But we do that all the time, don’t we? That is what makes good people so awesome. We look out for one another. We are a collective family. Besides, who says you have to remain strangers? I hope you will take a few moments to get to know Tony through his wife’s writing. Giving to Tony’s family will be an opportunity to affect his life in a positive way, and reading his story is likely to do the same for you.
This article and all photos published with Leila’s permission!