Then and Now: Man dies for nearly an hour, and writes about his new life

Posted at 10:52 PM, Nov 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-17 22:53:08-05

BIG RAPIDS, Mich. — On July 2, 2014, Joey Hirl suffered a heart event and died, but not for very long. The man who had no pulse, no signs of life at all for 57 minutes, suddenly regained both, shocking doctors who weren’t far from giving up.

Now, five years after his death and miraculous return to life, Hirl looks at the world with new eyes.

“It was really earth-shattering,” he said. “When you die and they bring you back to life, everything changes. There’s nothing that remains the same.”

It wasn’t as joyous an occasion as you might think, Hirl says. He still spent several fragile days on life support and suffered from post-traumatic stress from literally surviving his own death.

After a therapist encouraged Hirl to write down his experiences, he began to document his life and eventually, morphed the story into a novel. The book, titled “God Does Not Exist,” chronicles Hirl’s unconventional upbringing in a Boston home full of parental abuse, and his newfound faith after his brush with mortality.

It’s a harrowing story, but for him it was also therapy.

“I had to address a lot of issues in my life,” he said. “People see me, I’m 6’5’’, I’m a big guy, and they could never understand what I’ve been through. I’ve been through death, I’ve been through child abuse, I been through everything.”

The self-published work reached others too. Hirl says he’s gotten calls and messages from readers, even some from overseas, responding to his story.

“I wanted it finally to get out there. And when I decided it was that time to publish, I was hell bent to get it published. And I hope the book does what it was meant to do.” The book is available on Amazon or on Hirl’s website.