PEOPLE OF UCA: Job McCully

Junior Job McCully rides his electric scooter from class to class. Six months ago, his body started rejecting his double-lung transplant making it difficult to breathe, so he began riding his scooter for medical purposes.

photo by Emily Gist

He remembers floating on a cloud and staring at the back of his body. A bright orange, like the center of a Dreamsicle, glowed beneath the cloud he rode, and he “just felt at peace.”

In reality, on the seventh floor in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, 9-year-old Job McCully (pronounced Jobe) went into cardiac arrest. Though in his memory he floated on a cloud, doctors and nurses were giving McCully open heart CPR on a recovery table. A nurse massaged his heart, seeking a pulse.

Junior Job McCully was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a blood and bone cancer, when he was 4 years old. Because of the radiation, McCully’s growth was stunted. ALL has a less than 10 percent survival rate. He underwent radiation therapy and bone surgery. The radiation, among a plethora of other lung-related health complications, led to Job needing a double-lung transplant.

On Oct. 24, 2007, Job waited in the hospital for his lungs to arrive. According to caringbridgeclassic.org/job, the doctors met Job’s family with an ultimatum.

“The Doctors came in and said we had two options: One, sedate Job, put him in a medically induced coma, [or] two, call everyone that wanted to tell Job bye. They said without sedation, he had a few days left,” Job’s grandmother said, according to caringbridgeclassic.org.

His family chose sedation, but while a nurse was putting McCully’s meds in his IV, he went into cardiac arrest. His grandmother, sitting at the edge of his bed, watched the doctors and nurses flood in, working frantically to find her dying grandson’s heartbeat.

“[My grandmother] couldn’t explain it, but she was at the foot of the bed at the time and she was watching all of this go down, but she was calm,” McCully said. “And whenever she looked out the window, she saw a cloud in the perfect shape of a dove. And she said she has no other way to explain it other than the peace of God had come over her.”

McCully said he died on the bed, but someone was watching over him.

“[My grandmother] said as soon as she heard the nurse say, ‘What was the time of death?’ that’s whenever she heard them get a heartbeat,” McCully said.

McCully’s heart started beating again. However, his struggles were far from over.

Less than two months later, McCully underwent surgery for his double-lung transplant.

After his surgery, McCully was lying on the recovery table when his stitches came undone, causing blood to pool under the bed. That was when Job fell into cardiac arrest for the second time and floated on an orange cloud.

Remarkably, Job lived through two cardiac arrests.

“That’s twice now that I’m not supposed to be here, and I have no explanation for that other than God’s watching over me,” McCully said.

Because McCully was in his first cardiac arrest for 10 minutes, the doctors told his mother that he “wasn’t going to be the same.” They told her Job was going to basically be a vegetable in a wheelchair, unable to communicate.

“But here I am talking to you, so obviously something happened,” McCully said.

Sixty-one days after his surgery, McCully was released. He received physical therapy and occupational therapy for his leg muscles — which had atrophied while he recovered in the hospital — until he could walk again.

Prior to his double-lung surgery, McCully faced other lung issues including Bronchiolitis Obliterans (commonly known as popcorn lungs), which caused progressive scarring in his lungs, and fungal pneumonia.

Fungi from standing water beneath Job’s house had caused his fungal pneumonia. Job needed a new house but didn’t have the money for it.

So, in 2008, a group of women in Bigelow urged people through the local newspaper to send letters to ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

“Everybody wrote to ABC in a two-week period; they got so many letters from Bigelow, Arkansas that they called us and said that they had to stop their mail room because it was so backed up,” McCully said.

The Extreme Makeover team built Job and his family a new house, and after the episode ended, the producers brought Job to a campsite they’d built behind the new house and told his mom ABC bought Job and his sister full-ride scholarships to UCA.

“So that’s the reason I came to UCA,” McCully said.

McCully is a computer science major with an Asian studies minor. He said, ideally, he would like to create video games because, growing up in hospitals, McCully grew attached to them. Ultimately, he said he wants to live and work in Japan.

“I want to be a missionary to Japan, and since Japan has a big computer science division, that’s the reason for the computer science major,” McCully said.

McCully said he believes his name was prophetic. He said his parents were reading the book of Job from The Bible before he was born, so they decided to name him Job.

According to the Bible, Job’s story is one of patience and suffering. God told Satan he could torment Job, betting Job would not curse God’s name. However, Satan could not kill Job.

Prophecy or not, McCully’s story mirrors that of Job’s.

“I’ve been through so much that I’ve learned the patience to deal with all of this stuff,” McCully said. “You can get really frustrated at it, but that just takes a lot more energy than it’s worth. You’ve just got to take what comes and do the best with what you’ve got.”

 

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