By, Heather Warner
It’s a question many people agonize over at some point in their lives. What’s in store for all of us after death? Even those with the strongest of faith can’t spell out the details, but there’s a teenager in York County who knows a thing or two about it, because she’s been to heaven and back.
It was September 17, 2003, and Emily Korkie and her twin sister were playing in the backyard of their grandmother’s home, when something unimaginable happened. Somehow, the 3 and a half year old ended up tangled in a rope swing, hanging by her neck.
“As I walked up to the front of the swing… I saw that the rope was wrapped around her neck.. and she was unconscious so I just screamed and took the rope around her neck and she didn’t respond at all,” says Emily’s grandma, Kay Eisenhour.
Eisenhour immediately called 911, and paramedics rushed to her York City home.
“We got a call that a 3 and a half year old was being brought in unconscious after an accidental hanging in the back yard,” says Dr. Keith Clancy, who was the Trauma Director at York Hospital at the time. “On the way to York Hospital she began to posture, which is a bad neurological sign that suggests your neurological status and the status of your brain is deteriorating. So they put a breathing tube into her trachea so they could start to get better oxygen to her brain,” he adds.
Dr. Clancy quickly chose to fly Emily to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and Hershey Medical Center. Before paramedics loaded Emily onto the helicopter, Eisenhour asked what Dr. Clancy what Emily’s chances were for survival. “He said it didn’t look good. The prognosis was not good.. and um, they let me say goodbye to her on the gurney before they took her to the helicopter, because I didn’t think I’d see her again.”
All the while, Emily’s parents had no idea what was going on. It was 2003, long before everyone had cell phones. They first got news on their home answering machine.
“It was the school secretary that said York City police were looking for us.. one of.. our daughters was in.. the message was one of our daughters were hurt in an accident and we needed to go to the hospital right away,” recalls Carrie and Jeff Korkie. “I walked into the emergency room and I said I got a call that our daughter was here.. and I said her name.. and everyone just fell silent… nobody said anything.. they all just turned and looked at me,” adds Carrie.
There, in a family room off the ER, doctor Clancy delivered the crushing news. Emily’s father, who knew a surgeon at Hershey Med, got to a phone as quickly as he could. His friend told him just how bad things were for his little girl. “He was able to tell us that she had a heart rate… and that she had a pulse.. and that they were going to keep her alive till we could get there… the eeriest thing he said was that we`re not going to lose her again,” says Jeff.
Emily’s parents wouldn’t fully understand what happened on that flight until weeks later, after Emily made a miraculous recovery. “At one point she told us that she remembered being in the helicopter and I asked her about that and she said, well I remember seeing myself in the hospital and seeing two men with blue suits with lions on them,” recalls Jeff.
They had no idea what Emily was talking about. That is, until, among their paperwork, they saw a pamphlet featuring Life Lion, and its crew members who wore those blue suits with the lion emblem on them. “And she was not conscious at the time. We had been told she had died in the flight and was brought back.. so for her to say she was looking down on them really shows us that she was not in her body,” says Emily’s mom.
There’s another thing about that day. Months after that accident, while sitting in church, Emily pointed to her pastor. Her mom remembers it like it was yesterday. “He was up at the podium talking and she said that`s the man that carried… who took me off the swing and carried me to the hospital.” Emily’s parents believe Pastor David Roe was there that day with Emily, and says till this day, they share a special bond.
“I`ve never really doubted that there is a life after death,” says Emily, who’s now 14, and has little recollection about that day.
She doesn’t remember heaven, but she knows she was there. Her grandmother recalls a conversation she had with Emily shortly after the accident. It was a conversation regarding some relatives who had already passed away. “She said, well she can come back.. and I said, ‘no, when you`re dead, you don`t come back…and she said, well I did.”
Emily says, “I’m lucky, I just wish I could help those other people… give them some of my luck to them.” Emily can’t give her luck to others, but she can say thanks to those who helped save her life, and that’s exactly what she and her family did, ten years ago.
Dr. Clancy remembers the day the Korkie family visited he and his staff. “So, when Emily and her mom and sister came back to the hospital, it was great for all of the team… in fact they took a picture. I still have it in my office today,” he says.
It was a moment that forever chanced a lot of lives. Emily’s family for one, lives each day like it’s the last, knowing just how close it was to losing one of its smallest members. “It`s just an amazing story, she`s a miracle and she survived and we`re very lucky.”