Brent McCartney's Road to Recovery

On July 7th, Brent McCartney suffered a severe cardiac arrest while driving his daughter Elizabeth to a birthday party.  Typically a person who goes over five minutes without heartbeat, blood flow or oxygen is in serious danger of permanent brain damage.  Less than 10 percent of those who suffer an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survive, because it usually takes much longer than five minutes to get such people from their home to the help they need. Brent was down for 10 minutes without oxygen, resulting in an anoxic brain injury.

 Brent was rushed to Baylor Hospital in Grapevine where the doctors cooled his core temperature to below 90 degrees Fahrenheit—a process called “induced hypothermia” to reduce the damage to his brain and organs. After 24 hours the doctors began to raise his temperature to see if Brent would wake up on his own.  On July 9th Brent, by the grace of God, opened his eyes, was squeezing his wife Laura Lee’s hands, and following commands.

After stabilizing Brent the first week in the ICU, it was a waiting game to see if he would improve his oxygen numbers and cognitive recovery each day. His ventilator was finally removed, and Brent was able to breathe on his own. By July 18th, Brent was able to sit up on the side of bed, stand up, take some steps, and then let go of the walker while balancing.  One of the greatest milestones was the day he first stood up (to music the therapist asked him to select to motivate him).  Brent chose to listen to the UIL 2018 recording of his beloved Azle High School choir!  The music brought him back to us!  Later that afternoon, the doctors performed an operation to install a permanent defibrillator to protect him from having another cardiac arrest.

As of last week—the cardiologists report Brent’s heart has improved and is stronger with normal functioning—and in fact—his doctor said we could plan on Brent enjoying a “normal life expectancy” now. His cardiologist said there is no doubt God was watching out for Brent and that his recovery is nothing short of a medical miracle!

Brent was transferred from Baylor Grapevine hospital to in-patient rehab for speech, physical, and occupational therapy on July 20th. It is a huge blessing Brent has no physical deficits as a result of his accident. The only struggle has been his short-term memory loss, but that has been improving weekly through his intensive cognitive work at the PATE brain rehab center. Brent is doing a beautiful job remembering his family, friends, colleagues and former students. Perhaps most exciting is how quickly Brent remembered how to sight read choral music, play the piano, and direct the music that feeds his spirit and makes him our “Mr. Mac!”  Several music friends have spent time recently with Brent singing and playing the piano—and they are happy to report that Brent’s music skills are just fine—which is “music” to everyone’s ears!

Brent will be able to move home with Laura Lee, Luke and Elizabeth in the next 3-4 weeks and he will continue doing outpatient therapy from 8:30- 3:30 every day at the PATE location close to his home. Brent will be officially discharged from rehab on December 14, 2018.  At his family conference this week, his team of doctors and therapists reported Brent will be cleared to return to work on January 1, 2019. This is just incredible news!  Brent is so anxious to return to work and to his Azle students. He and his accompanist, Karen Blackstone have already started working on selecting music for his UIL concerts in the spring!  Laura Lee reached out to Brent’s principal, Randy Cobb, who (along with so many AISD administrators and colleagues) have been incredible working with Brent to plan for his return to his classroom and his students in January.  Mr. Cobb has invited Brent to come to the campus several times this fall to work with his choirs and ease back into his daily routines and concert preparations. This will be the best possible medicine for Brent’s recovery! I wouldn’t be surprised if Brent conducts a song or two on the Choir Christmas Concert!

The McCartney family would like to thank everyone for the overwhelming support that they have received throughout this long ordeal.  Unfortunately as mentioned before, the road to recovery is both a physical and a monetary uphill battle.  Brent has wonderful insurance from Azle ISD, but the family will still owe over $16,000 for the out of pocket insurance expenses incurred before September 1st and another $16,000 for out of pocket insurance expenses after September 1st when the calendar resets for the school year. Since Brent will not be able to officially teach again until January 1, 2019, Azle ISD is graciously working with Brent’s family through the Family Medical Leave Act and the AISD teacher sick day bank to help him through this journey.  In the meantime, we must plan for the worst and hope for the best because the McCartney family could be without Brent’s monthly salary, health insurance, and benefits from October to January. The actual cost to Brent’s family is conservatively going to be $52,000.

I am asking all of you to help the McCartney Family be able to focus on Brent’s continued road to recovery and not have to stress over the finances during this process.  Any donation can make a huge difference for them. If you are not able to donate, you can still support the McCartneys by sharing this with as many friends and family as you can on Social Media.

In 2017, Brent Azle directed his beloved Chorale in singing a song by composer Dan Forrest entitled, “Music of Living”—and the words of this song (below) remind us of the music of Brent’s life and how he has touched our lives in and through beautiful songs that have forever changed us:

"Giver of life; creator of all that is lovely. Teach me to sing the words to your song. I want to feel the music of living. I want to feel the music of living, and not fear the sad songs, but from them make new songs, composed of both laughter and tears. Giver of life; creator of all that is lovely, teach me to dance to the songs of your world. I want to move in rhythm with your plan.  Help me to follow your lead. To risk even falling, to rise and keep trying.  For you are leading the dance, for you are leading the dance, for you are leading the dance. Giver of life; creator of all that is lovely. Teach me to sing the words to your song!"

Thank you again for your help supporting Brent’s GoFundMe project. Together we can help the McCartney Family make it through this difficult time.  We all look forward to hearing Brent directing his Azle High School choirs, singing in the Chancel Choir at First Presbyterian Church Fort Worth, and playing the organ again in the music of living!

  • Allyson Smith 
    • $10 
    • 48 mos
  • Todd Marchand 
    • $200 
    • 49 mos
  • Barbara Kearley 
    • $100 
    • 49 mos
  • Shirley Latham 
    • $25 
    • 50 mos
  • John & Stacy Utz 
    • $2,000 
    • 50 mos
See all

Organizer and beneficiary

Steven Latham 
Dallas, TX
Laura Lee McCartney 

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