Most of us know someone who’s gotten a second chance after a near death experience. It’s rare, however, when second chances are too many to count. Scott Pate is thankful for his unnumbered blessings. He readily shares his unusual story in hopes it will be a blessing to others.
I met Scott a few years ago when he moved from Albany to Dooly County. Occasionally I would see him at Bank of Dooly, where I was employed. He was friends with local pilot David Chancy. He worked on airplanes and sometimes flew them. That’s all I knew about Scott until December of 2018.
Our choir at Vienna First Baptist combined with Pinehurst Baptist Church last Christmas for a cantata. Scott sat near me during a joint rehearsal. He turned the songbook pages a bit awkwardly with his left hand. Connie Christmas, a choir member from Pinehurst, asked me later if I’d heard Scott’s testimony. She said it was worth listening to and told me he didn’t mind being asked.
Scott agreed to share his story with our Brotherhood, a monthly breakfast meeting for men that’s sponsored by our church. “I’m by no means a speaker,” he said. “But if you want me to come, I’ll do my best.” He came one Sunday morning. When he left there was no doubt what’s in his heart.
Scott agreed to my writing a column about him provided it pointed toward Jesus and not him. He doesn’t take any credit for deserving second chances. “I’ve done nothing,” he said. “Jesus has done everything for me.”
In February of 2017 Scott had an annual physical, a familiar step in renewing his pilot’s license with the FAA. He was shocked when his doctor diagnosed him with cirrhosis of the liver. A second and third opinion confirmed he would eventually need a transplant.
He would soon learn that his liver was just one of several health issues. He began having trouble swallowing and talking. His speech would become slurred during even brief conversations. His son took him to Emory University Hospital, where Scott’s stroke-like symptoms landed him in the emergency room. The problem was determined to be myasthenia gravis, a breakdown in communication between nerves and muscles. It can be managed but not cured. He was treated and sent home with a plan.
Three months later, on the Monday after Memorial Day weekend, David Chancy took Scott to Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany. He had lost 60 pounds, down from a solid 200 to a frail 140. He almost died and spent ten days in CCU. Scott views this close call as another time where God used a problem to get his attention.
His next stop was Piedmont Hospital to determine eligibility for a liver transplant. A restriction was found in his coronary artery, something routinely repaired with a stent. Things went terribly downhill during the stent procedure. The lining in his artery separated and tore into his aorta. He was brought back to life three times and was too weak for further surgery. As the doctors tried to slowly build up his strength, his aorta unexpectedly healed. Scott views his unlikely healing as a miracle.
For three and a half weeks he wasn’t aware of his surroundings at Piedmont. While the medical team focused on keeping him alive, poor circulation ravaged his right hand. He lost his thumb and four fingers. He admits it can be frustrating, but he reflects on the Apostle Paul having a “thorn in the flesh.” Scott has a daily reminder, not of what he’s lost but of what he’s found on a closer walk with God.
He almost died from taking Coumadin, a powerful blood thinner. It was one more reprieve on his long list of close calls. In addition to matters of health, he can only guess at the number of potentially fatal mishaps he’s had in the air and on the ground. The odds of him still being here are far beyond improbable.
When Scott came home from his long stay in Piedmont, he randomly opened his Bible to Psalms 6 and read David’s plea for mercy. Scott’s daughter framed those verses with a photo of her holding her father’s hand. He finds comfort and confidence in David’s prayer, and in a clear picture of love.
Scott Pate’s story is one of second chances, of seeing opportunities in our troubles. He has some ongoing challenges, but through his trials he’s gained a deeper appreciation for what’s important. “I’ve done nothing,” he said. “Jesus has done everything for me.”
Scott believes he’s still here because God isn’t finished using him. And I believe Scott is right.