In mid-2009 Californian Yvonne Sklar had only three days left before her doctors were going to take her off life support. For Sklar – a chaplain and pastor – the prognosis wasn’t good. After all, her organs had failed multiple times while she was in a medically induced coma.
In fact, in just two weeks Sklar had coded three times. There are varying definitions of the word “code” in the field of medicine, but in this case it meant that the patient had no sign of pulse and had stopped breathing. Essentially, she had died. Still, defying the odds, Sklar came back to life each time.
And, just days before the doctors were due to pull the plug, Sklar amazingly opened her eyes. Almost as soon as she did, too, the pastor began to talk about the incredible things that she had seen on the other side. She also revealed that while she had been there she had been given a message to bring back.
But how had she got there in the first place? Well, before becoming ill, Sklar lived a thoroughly devout life. In fact, she dedicated her days to ministry, serving as a pastor and chaplain in the upmarket resort city of Palm Desert, California, for some two decades.
In late June 2009, though, Sklar had been ill for about a couple of weeks. She thought she had been suffering from a simple flu virus. Speaking in 2014, she told the Christian Broadcast Network (CBN), “I thought to myself, ‘Well, I’ve got to get to a doctor and just get some antibiotics.’ I just hadn’t taken the time to do it.”
Unfortunately, Sklar was too busy to seek medical attention until her illness had progressed way beyond her control. Indeed, she’d started to notice that her breathing had become so shallow she couldn’t hear her own exhalations. Then she collapsed. An ambulance subsequently brought her to the Seventh-day Adventist Loma Linda University Medical Center in San Bernardino, California.
Doctors there quickly realized that Sklar didn’t have the flu. Instead, they diagnosed her as suffering from pneumonia – a much more serious diagnosis because of how far the condition had progressed. Pneumonia causes infected inflammation of lung tissue as tiny air sacs within the organ become filled with fluid. Mild cases can be cured at home – but Sklar’s was not a mild case.
Dr. Takkin Lo was the one to discover just how severe Sklar’s situation had become. “Out of the six lobes in her lung, four of them were actually involved in the pneumonia,” he said. Not only that, but further tests also showed her infection was now in her bloodstream.
Dr. Lo further discovered that Sklar’s body was beginning to go into septic shock. This occurs when the body attempts to fight an infection of the bloodstream. Septic shock is life threatening, though survival rates vary depending on the speed of diagnosis, the patient’s age and any other medical conditions they may have.
So Dr. Lo knew the only way to save Sklar would be to place her into a medically induced coma to treat her infection. He would also have to intubate her with an airway tube to help her breathe throughout the process. The devout Sklar, however, was weary to commit to such a treatment plan.
“I didn’t think I would ever wake up,” she said. “And I kept telling [Dr. Lo], ‘I’ve had a really good life, and I know where I’m going, and it’s okay just to let me go.’” But Dr. Lo was able to persuade Sklar to undertake the process. He gained her trust following prayer and what the doctor described to CBN as a “heart-to-heart talk.”
After Sklar drifted off into her medically induced sleep, though, her health rapidly deteriorated. Her organs failed multiple times, presenting almost insurmountable odds for her survival. Dr. Lo said, “For each of the organs that failed, there is an associated approximately 20 percent chance of dying. So, her lungs failed, her heart failed, her kidneys failed, her endocrine system… So at that moment, she had approximately 70 to 80 percent chance of dying.”
Sklar’s friends from church rallied around her while she remained seemingly lifeless in her coma. But Loma Linda University Medical Center Chaplain Donna Herrick — whose job it was to pray next to patients in such situations — thought her friend would not recover. “When you are on a respirator like that, day after day after day, this is not something you recover from,” she said. “I had prepared myself that she was not gonna survive.”
Herrick even advised her unconscious friend to let go if she was ready. “She didn’t appear to be with me, but she wasn’t gone either,” Herrick told CBN. “I took her hand and I said to her, ‘Yvonne, I love you and it’s okay if you want to stay where you are… it is absolutely okay. I will miss you; we will miss you. But it’s okay.’”
Sklar’s doctors began to think along similar lines, too. They met with Sklar’s friends – she did not have any family present – to decide whether or not to remove the pastor from life support. They collectively agreed upon a date on which to do so, but – three days before the fateful hour – Sklar defied all the odds and woke up. And she was bursting to tell a story of her own.
Yes, Sklar claimed to have seen the afterlife when she coded. “I remember when I left my body that I was in a beautiful, beautiful field. The flowers were so vibrant and alive…” she recalled to CBN. “The music was more beautiful than any tabernacle choir, any orchestra. There isn’t even an inkling of any other emotion than happy.”
Then, Sklar said, she had received a message directly from God. “He told me, ‘I tell you in my word, to ask for all things small or large.’ And people don’t either feel worthy or they feel like they’re bothering him or it’s too much to ask or that they don’t believe in Christ or heaven. And he says, ‘But remember to tell people, ‘Ask.’”
Sklar believes she was allowed to come back from heaven to share that very message. She described to CBN God’s final thoughts, “‘I want you to tell people everything I’ve shown you. I want you to tell them about my love, my forgiveness, and that they can come as they are. I want them to repent with a sincere heart and follow my laws.’”
And with that Sklar returned to life and the San Bernardino hospital room. This was a “bittersweet” moment after experiencing the afterlife, she said. But Sklar’s friends and doctors could not be happier – or more surprised – that she had made such a miraculous comeback.
“Yvonne is a miracle,” Dr. Lo told CBN. “Normally, it’s very hard for a patient like her to have such a miraculous recovery, and to the point where she can go back to the community at large and kind of contribute actively.” And Sklar has certainly done that. Not only has she married Rick, one of the friends who rallied around her in the hospital, but she also continues to serve as a pastor and chaplain and share her story of the other side, just as she promised.