Choice, Not Chance
By Paul Bryan Cronan 14C
Cardiologist Terry Gordon 72C has come to the hard-won conclusion that adversity—even tragedy—can lead to personal strength. It’s a conviction he now tries to share with others through his blog, podcasts, and new book.
Gordon’s acquaintance with tragedy began with families other than his own. Twelve years ago, sophomore Josh Miller was playing in the final game of the 2000 football season for his high school in Barberton, Ohio, when he collapsed on the field in sudden cardiac arrest. A football player at a nearby Catholic school had collapsed from a similar cardiac crisis during a game just two weeks earlier. Both players died.
Their deaths started a movement, led by Gordon, then president of the Summit County American Heart Association, for automated external defibrillators (AEDs) to be placed in every junior and senior high school in the county and eventually in more than four thousand schools throughout Ohio.
At least fifteen lives have been saved by AEDs placed in Ohio schools since then, and he began a mission: to put AEDs in every school in the nation.
“This is not like we’re trying to find funding for a new gymnasium or a new gym floor,” says Gordon, who frequently speaks with elected officials and the media about his quest. “This is to protect the lives of our most precious resource—our children.”
Gordon’s pursuit led the American Heart Association to name him the 2002 National Physician of the Year.
Ten years later, Gordon, who practiced invasive cardiology at Akron General Medical Center for more than two decades before his retirement, published the book No Storm Lasts Forever, a personal work about finding positive transformation in chaos.
His own spiritual awakening began in 2000—the same year Josh Miller died—at his family’s vacation home at Lake Mohawk. The day after their arrival, Gordon was weeding in the garden when his daughter Laila ran from the house, screaming for him. A man on the road that led to their cabin had suffered cardiac arrest. Gordon tended to the stranger until an ambulance arrived and he was taken to a hospital, where he survived.
The incident was marked by a series of remarkable coincidences—including Gordon hearing his wife call to him when the man collapsed, even though she was much too far away. Gordon told the story as part of a TEDx lecture, an independent version of the TED lecture series.
Then, tragedy struck closer to home. On June 30, 2009, his college-age son was in a car accident in Colorado, shattering his neck.
“I heard the dreaded words, your son is a quadriplegic,” Gordon says. On the flight to Denver, he prayed for his son’s safety. “I can’t honestly tell you I heard the voice of God, but the message was clear: Everything is in perfect order, even this. Treat this as if it was something you had chosen,” he says.
Three years later, his publisher, Hay House, began planning the celebratory release day for his book. Out of 365 possibilities, “They chose July 17, my son’s birthday.”
Gordon, self-described “wounded healer,” has stopped believing that such things happen by chance and has started seeing positive, transformational opportunities in these coincidences—the central message of his book.
“The falls of your life,” Gordon says, quoting the Kabbalah, “provide you the energy to propel you on to a higher path.”