Husband and wife finally hear the great news: They aren’t dead

From: Houston Chronicle
Date: Monday, Feb. 19, 1996
Title: Husband and wife finally hear the great news: They aren’t dead

In a series of bizarre circumstances and incredible coincidences, a south-east Harris County woman was told her husband was dead only to have him walk into the hospital waiting room minutes later. In yet another twist, he had rushed to the hospital because he thought she was dead. By the end of the ordeal, the wife had identified another man’s body as her husband’s and even signed a death certificate. The episode began on the evening of Feb. 11 when James Avery, 48, left his home to drive to the neighbourhood jogging trail. His wife of almost 30 years, Liz, 48, stayed home to watch the National Basketball Association All-Star Game.

James Avery, a recently diagnosed diabetic with high blood pressure, under doctor’s orders to lose a few pounds, parked his red 1989 Chevrolet Silverado pick-up at the trail. He went for a 45-minutes jog, got back in his truck and drove to a grocery store. He said he noticed his glasses were moved over a little on the seat but thought nothing of it.

“It looked exactly like I left it,” he said. “It didn’t look like anybody had been in it.”

What he did not know was that paramedics had transported a heart attack victim, about his age and build, from the track just before he had arrived. The victim carried no identification, only a set of General Motors car keys. While Avery was getting his exercise, a constable’s deputy decided to see if they fit any GM cars at the scene. Against incredible odds (26,000 to 1), they fit a certain red 1989 Chevrolet Silverado pick-up with glasses on the seat. The deputy ran the license plate, found further identification in the truck and headed to the Avery home.

Liz Avery answered a knock to find a sombre-faced deputy who asked her if the family owned a red Chevrolet pick-up truck. When she said yes, he told her that her husband had suffered a heart attack, and she followed him to the hospital. When she arrived, a doctor held her hand and broke the bad news.

Her husband had died 10 minutes ago.

“We just went bonkers,” Liz Avery said.

Hospital officials led the grief-stricken woman to “James Avery’s” body, but its condition and the many tubes still attached to it obscured it, she said.

“I couldn’t tell,” she said. “He had my husband’s hands and feet. He was wearing shorts and a T-shirt. I couldn’t remember what shirt my husband was wearing. We take each other for granted. We’ve been married so long. I said, ‘Those are his hands, and those are his feet,’ and I signed his death certificate. It was horrible.”

Friends started arriving at the hospital to console Liz Avery and her daughter.

Meanwhile, the real James Avery returned from the grocery store, wondering why no one was home. The phone rang. It was his wife’s boss.

“She said, ‘James, you’re not dead! Don’t tell me it was Liz who had a heart attack and died,'” James Avery recalled.

James Avery rushed to the local hospital, the same one to which his wife had followed the deputy, fearing, like she did, that his spouse of 30 years was gone. He saw her van in the parking lot, went in and was directed to the grieving Avery family and friends. The shock of his resurrection almost gave his wife a real heart attack.

“She just kind of fell back and said, ‘You’re alive! It’s a miracle,'” James Avery said, “I was kind of flabbergasted. I said, ‘I’m OK. I don’t have a problem. I was concerned about you.'”

“That’s when everybody started laughing,” Liz Avery said. The death certificate was torn up, and wife and daughter have yet to let James Avery return to the jogging trail.

“Now we don’t take each other for granted any more,” Liz Avery said. “We ask each other where we’re going to go and what we’re going to wear.” The deputy returned to the trail and found the unidentified dead man’s wife looking for her husband.

“What a terrible day…. They could have giving us both heart attacks,” Liz Avery said. “I told him, ‘The next time you die I’m going to kill you myself so I’ll be sure.’ I never want to go through that again.”

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