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Associate Athletic Director’s Life Saved by GAC Community and Support
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Associate Athletic Director’s Life Saved by GAC Community and Support

Cliff Shelton, GAC's Associate Athletic Director, and beloved former teacher and coach faced a health crisis that could have been devastating were it not for a remarkable twist of fate and the unwavering support of his school community.

It all started when Cliff began experiencing persistent chest and throat pain last summer. Initially dismissing it as heartburn, he eventually sought medical attention when, coincidentally, around the same time, two GAC alumni, former students of Cliff and his wife, Kristy, faced similar symptoms in conjunction with heart issues.

Upon learning of these connections, Kristy urged Cliff to see a doctor. Tests revealed severe blockages in Cliff's arteries, requiring emergency open-heart surgery. As Cliff prepared for the operation, his main concern was for his wife's well-being in his potential absence.

The surgery, performed by Dr. Willekes, was a success, bringing hope amid uncertainty. Providentially, just before the surgery, the Sheltons discovered that Dr. Willekes was the father of one of Kristy's P.E. students. It was another poignant reminder of God's guiding hand amidst life's intricacies.

Kristy reflected on the remarkable chain of events, expressing, "It was the coolest thing. Dr. Willekes went home, told his daughter and the next day, she came into my class. I just wrapped her in a hug and said, 'Your dad saved my husband's life.'"

During his recovery, Cliff found comfort in ministering to hospital staff, his Christian faith shining through. Meanwhile, the GAC community rallied around Cliff and Kristy, offering prayers and support. Their faith and the outpouring of love from GAC alumni and parents provided comfort and strength.

Photo credit: Northside Hospital

In a heartwarming twist, after Dr. Willekes saved Cliff's life, he visited his daughter's 5th-grade class at GAC and assisted with a pig heart dissection lab, providing students with a unique opportunity to gain real-world experience and insight from a true expert in the field.

In reflecting on his journey, Cliff Shelton shared the insights gained during his health episode, emphasizing God's goodness and providence throughout. He remarked, "God taught me some profound lessons last fall during my heart episode, not the least of which is His goodness! There were so many times that I could've died last summer, but God is obviously not done with me yet. His providence was so evident in the way He used the GAC community to help save my life. Things fell into place that I'm sure some people would call coincidence, but God's hand in it all was obvious. One of the things I tell other people now is to not ignore what your body is telling you. I knew deep down that something was wrong, and if I had it to do all over again, I would've gone to the doctor much sooner than I did.'"

Cliff and Kristy's journey is a testament to the power of faith, community, and divine intervention. Their story reminds us of God's provision in times of need and the remarkable bonds forged within the GAC family.

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