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Ironman survives 22 minutes in cardiac arrest, now a living testament to power of God

Wayne and Lori Mote stand with Pastor Anthony George during an Easter service. (First Baptist Atlanta/Jeffrey B. Rogers)

ATLANTA, GA – Wayne Mote trained for two years and six months to become an Ironman, a title achieved by completing a grueling 116-mile bike ride, a full 26.2-mile marathon, and a 2.4-mile swim.

Six months after attaining the title achieved by only the most elite athletes, he collapsed while running in a less grueling triathlon in Peachtree City. He had completed the swimming and cycling events and was running toward the finish line when he collapsed.

He survived 22 minutes in cardiac arrest.

Yet, on Easter Sunday, Mote, with the help of his wife and son, walked into Atlanta’s First Baptist Church, a living, breathing testament to the power of Christ. His story was featured in a deeply moving video and an interview with Pastor Anthony George.

A love story

Wayne and his wife, Lori, met in church.

“One Sunday morning in 1984 the college pastor said, ‘Turn around and meet someone.’ I turned toward Wayne and said, ‘I’m Lori.’ He said, ‘I’m Wayne’. That is how we met each other. We were both students at Georgia Tech at that time. The next morning, we noticed we were in the same calculus class. We started studying together and eventually fell in love.  Ironically, we were married on April Fool’s Day in 1989.”

Today, the Motes have four adult children, John David and his twin sister, Joy, Clay, and Kirk. They grew up in First Baptist and were involved in the Passion Play, dinner theaters, student choirs and many other activities and ministries. During those years Wayne and Lori were engaged in their children’s church activities. Their own personal interests and pursuits were put on hold during those years as they joyfully fulfilled their role as parents.

When the children were grown and Wayne and Lori had a bit more time, Wayne explained one day that he would like to be an Ironman, the conqueror of a long-distance triathlon.

“Why would you want to do that?” Lori asked.

“I just don’t want the hardest thing I have ever done to be in my past,” he said. “I also want our children to keep looking forward, to continue to accomplish great things, and focus on new goals regardless of their stage in life.”

Life support

Lori was on the north side of the city giving a wedding shower on that fateful day when she received the call informing her that Wayne experienced a major incident at the race and needed to go to the hospital. Upon arriving at the hospital, the doctor informed her that Wayne was not brain dead, that his brain stem was intact, but that his brain had been severely damaged. 

One physician said, “We need to pull him off life support.”

Lori asked, “Are there any other options?”

A second physician replied, “I am willing to do a rescan on him in three months.”

“That became my focus,” Lori said. “I knew we had three months to see what God could do?”

In the past year, Wayne has been in Piedmont Hospital for 10 weeks, the Shepherd Center for nine weeks, then an outpatient at Shepherd Center for 20 weeks and this summer will return to Shepherd for additional therapy.

“While at Piedmont I tried to stimulate Wayne’s brain with any kind of sensory object I could find,” Lori said. “One day the palliative care doctor at Piedmont permitted us to bring a dog into the ICU. We put Wayne’s hand onto the dog’s head, and he rubbed it. I thought, ‘He is responding. He’s in there.’”

Lori continued, “At the Shepherd Center the whole family got trained to do occupational, physical, and speech therapy. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the EMS staff, the nurses, and the doctors at the Shepherd Clinic, because that is where miracles happen every day.

Thankful to their church

“I am also thankful for the tangible help from our church – the meals, the money, and the support. There were those who met needs we didn’t even know we had.”

Wayne, who still has difficulty with his speech was able to say, “The church has been a blessing to our whole family. We are very excited about the next chapter. Dr. George has been a blessing to us.”

In the Sunday interview with Wayne and Lori on the platform of the church, the pastor shared more of the Motes’ story.

“This is not the first challenge the Motes have experienced in life,” he said. “Several years ago, Lori had a large brain tumor that required a 14-hour surgery with a lengthy recovery process involving therapy to help her learn to walk and talk again. Lori’s parents, the Lanfords, who were faithful members here at First Baptist both died at a relatively young age. Her dad died of spontaneous Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, a rare illness that impacts one in a million; and her mother had ovarian cancer and died four years later.

“Wayne’s recuperation has been challenging to say the least. During his rehabilitation, he would take two steps forward in his recovery process and then take four steps back due to issues like pneumonia, COVID-19, kidney stones or infections.”

George concluded, “Wayne is here today because his wife never gave up. She has been relentless in her quest to help him regain his physical and cognitive well-being. She practically beat down the door to get him in the Shepherd Center. Lori, we owe you a debt of gratitude because you have been on duty 24-7-365. This is not what we wanted, and it is not the storybook ending you or Wayne wanted, but both of you have shown faith in God. You have shown determination. You have shown grit and fight. You have inspired me and made my faith stronger as your pastor. I am supposed to make your faith stronger, but you have made my faith stronger, and I want to thank you for your example.”

    About the Author

  • Gerald Harris