Smiling through his own funeral day

Jerry Borth’s family knew more than the doctors did

By Bryan Richardson

The funeral of Jerry Borth, 66, of Manhattan, was supposed to have been held Friday.

It didn’t happen because Borth is very much alive despite doctors’ prognostications after he suffered a massive stroke and heart attack Nov. 25.

Borth, who continues to recuperate at Mercy Regional Health Center,  said he feels fine, just tired. “I just can’t believe it,” he said.

On Nov. 25, it looked like Borth would never again tend to his business, Jerry’s Flooring Center, and his cars as a part of the Yard Art Classics Car Club.

His wife, Linda, said they just finished watching a movie that Sunday when she went downstairs to do some computer work. About 10 minutes later, Linda heard Jerry call out to her, but she couldn’t make out what he said.

“He’s always hollering about something like ‘Come look at this on TV,’” she said.

Linda went upstairs to find him unresponsive in his chair. Jerry was without oxygen for several minutes before first responders restored it as he was being transported to Mercy.

Jerry’s son, Chris, sat with his dad for three days and nights in the hospital’s intensive care unit. “I was destroyed,” Chris said. “My wife, Nicole, had to force me to go home.”

In addition to the stroke and heart attack, Jerry had pneumonia. The family said doctors came to them after a few days about pulling the plug, but the family promised themselves they would give Jerry, who was in a coma at the time,  a week.

Throughout this time, the family tried different methods of getting a reaction such as talking to him and playing music from Chris’s iPod.

Chris remains adamant that he saw a response from Jerry at one point, but the doctors couldn’t verify it.

By the end of the week, Jerry was taken off life support and put in a comfort room in anticipation of his final moments. The family’s “Armageddon Day” had already occurred;  they planned the funeral and bought cemetery plots.

His friends said their final goodbyes and waited for the obituary in the newspaper. One friend would later remark on a rumor that Jerry had already died.

However, Jerry was still around, and on the morning of Dec. 3 a nurse saw him open his eyes when she said good morning.

At first, Linda said she didn’t get her hopes up. She said she read one of the books of televangelist Joel Osteen to Jerry when she asked him to stick out his tongue.

Linda was able to see for herself that Jerry was responsive. “I was like, ‘Oh my God! He did it!’” she said.

So instead of having a funeral Friday with family and friends mourning, Jerry’s family and friends visited him at Mercy with smiles on their faces.

Jerry said he praises God for the friends he has. “It’s been marvelous,” Jerry said. “There’s no question about that. Everybody has been so nice.”

Linda calls Jerry the family’s “Christmas miracle.” He’s a miracle to others in the hospital, too, as many have talked about him. “Did not know that,” Jerry said about his popularity.

Jerry and Linda both talked about the importance of praying every day and their relationship with God. Linda said she had groups around the country praying for Jerry.

Chris said he wasn’t a very religious person before this experience, but he also prayed. He said he now believes in the power of prayer.

“Don’t give up on somebody,” Chris said. “Prayer is more powerful than any doctor.”

Jerry’s determination is powerful as well with Chris deeming his dad a “flight risk.”

Major back surgery and having two knees replaced in recent years hadn’t stopped Jerry from continuing to be active. In addition to the business and cars, he raises German Shepherds and horses.

“I’d rather do it myself than ask for help,” Jerry said. “But that’s all going to change.” The last part of the quote required prompting from Chris and Jerry’s other son, Tracy. “Those cars are his kids,” Tracy said.

The road to recovery continues for Jerry. Chris said doctors told the family that the stroke on the left side of Jerry’s brain has made the right side of his body weak. Jerry will have to regain his walking abilities and body movements.

However, Jerry has taken the very important first step of waking up from the coma. “He’s my hero,” Chris said. “Plain and simple.”

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