Megan Marlow firmly believes that her husband’s survival is a genuine miracle from God. After an extraordinary series of events, including doctors declaring him dead and preparing his body for organ donation, Ryan Marlow spent six months in various hospitals and medical centers undergoing treatment.

“I even worked on his funeral plans,” Megan recounted to Insider. “I told my children that he was no longer with us.”

Despite these initial assessments, Ryan is now back home with his wife and three young children in Wilkesboro, North Carolina.

According to Megan, a timely movement of Ryan’s toes, combined with her persistent advocacy on behalf of her husband of 16 years, played a crucial role in saving his life. She shared this account in an interview with Insider earlier this month.

“I felt desperate and panicked. Who am I against this group of doctors and nurses?” Megan said. “But I knew in my heart I couldn’t go through with it knowing they had made a mistake once already.” 

Ryan, who had been a pastor for nearly 17 years, was admitted to the hospital in August 2022 due to vertigo symptoms. During a series of tests, doctors discovered lesions on his brain, as reported by Megan.

Over the next two weeks, Ryan experienced a progressive loss of mobility in various parts of his body, and he eventually lost the ability to swallow, leading to intubation by doctors, according to Megan. Ryan was eventually diagnosed with listeria on August 26th.

Listeria is a severe bacterial infection that can be treated with antibiotics. After the diagnosis, Megan returned home to rest, anticipating an easy recovery for her husband.

However, that same night, Ryan suffered a hemorrhagic stroke. When Megan arrived at the hospital the next day, she was devastated to learn from the doctor that Ryan was non-responsive. Doctors confirmed his condition with three tests and informed Megan that her husband had experienced “neurological death” and was “clinically deceased.” According to Megan, a doctor had even recorded an official time of death on Ryan’s death certificate.

As an organ donor, Ryan would be kept on life support until suitable matches could be identified. His organ procurement procedure was scheduled for two days later, on Monday, August 29th.

Megan, on the other hand, returned home to mourn. She began planning her husband’s funeral and had a difficult conversation with her three young children, attempting to explain why their father wouldn’t be returning home.

Megan said that her now-5-year-old son, Levi, “just screamed and cried, begging it not to be true.” Her twin daughters, who were only 2 at the time, struggled to grasp the situation.

Then, on the Monday that Ryan was scheduled for organ surgery, Megan received a bewildering call from the hospital. Her husband, it turned out, was actually still alive, the doctor told her. Ryan’s case was rare enough that the hospital called in an expert panel to review his status and the medical professionals discovered he was not, in fact, “neurologically deceased.” The doctor warned, however, that Ryan had still suffered a traumatic brain injury from which he was unlikely to recover,  Megan said.

The only thing the discovery would change, Megan said the doctor told her, would be the official time of Ryan’s death, which would now be recorded the following day, when he would be extubated following the organ removal. 

In a Facebook Live video, Megan shared that she had almost decided not to go to the hospital on the day her husband was scheduled to be removed from life support, which was Tuesday, August 27. She had been unable to bear the thought of watching him pass away. However, she ultimately decided to go because she felt that she needed to be there.

When Megan arrived at the hospital, she received more shocking news: Ryan’s feet had moved while they were playing videos of their children singing and laughing earlier that morning, according to Megan’s niece. The monitors showed a slight change in his heartbeat when he heard the kids’ voices, she said. Megan cleared the room and spoke to Ryan, urging him to fight and promising to demand more tests.

A subsequent CT scan revealed blood flow in Ryan’s brain, meaning he was in a coma, not brain dead. The organ donation was called off, and Ryan’s recovery process began. He remained in the ICU for another month before being transferred to a long-term care facility in Tennessee, where he remained in a coma.

“I was convinced he would wake up,” Megan said. “He just needed more time.”

Ryan finally awoke on October 6. Two months later he was transferred to a rehab center in Georgia where he began to learn to use the right side of his body again. 

After six grueling months, Ryan returned home to North Carolina last month and has spent the last two weeks continuing his slow but steady progress with his family by his side.

The family has been overwhelmed with support from the community. Money raised in a GoFundMe is helping to pay for Ryan’s extensive therapy sessions and a handicap-accessible accommodation to their home. 

The road ahead is long and uncertain. Recovery from brain injuries looks different for everyone, but Ryan has already hit milestones that doctors said would be out of reach forever, Megan said.