Jorge Hernandez is joyful and walking! That may not sound amazing or extraordinary, but when you have lost all hope, all dreams, both legs, use of your hands, and all your dignity, it is a miracle! Yet the real miracle of Jorge is not that he has been given his life back from near-certain death, both spiritual and physical. Rather, it is in the wisdom that he has been graced with from his unimaginable experience… and in his determination to spread the inspiring message he has been given – to show and tell others that you always have a better way forward. No matter your circumstances or mistakes, you can rise above the flames.
Born in Mexico, and growing up in Las Vegas, Nevada, Jorge was a natural athlete, great at basketball in school, and always the most popular guy around. At home, his father was an alcoholic and used cocaine. His parents divorced when he was 12, and Jorge had to be there for his mom and younger brother. It made him stronger. A young man who spoke to everybody and whom everyone admired, by the beginning of his senior year in high school he was voted “Best All Around.” But things were about to change.
Life took a turn. By the end of that year, he was his school's "Most Changed." He had started drinking and smoking weed – it was the very thing that in his freshman year he had said to himself he would never do. Gradually, dreams of becoming a successful collegiate athlete dissolved, as he lost the opportunity to pursue basketball in college. Desperate for a new identity to pursue, he got involved in the mortgage industry. It was the high times of the housing bubble in 2004, and the older, successful mortgage brokers were mentoring him through the business. By the age of 20, he started making pretty good money. He stopped going to college. By age 21, he bought his own house. He was on his way, and his drive was to become a real estate investor by age 25. Then the market crashed, banks were closing, and he didn't close one loan.
His identity as a student athlete destroyed, he had next wanted to be that guy who was making six figures-plus as a loan officer. Now both identities had been ripped from him. There is a Jewish Proverb that Jorge knows well now: “Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the LORD'S decree will prevail.” So Jorge didn't renew his mortgage license, and now he was working nights at a steakhouse. Although he had stopped smoking weed in his late teens, now at the age of 25 he was doing it again. Jorge was lost, clouded, broken inside and with no purpose. He stopped paying the mortgage on his house, and his 4-year relationship with his girlfriend, who had moved in, was now shattering as well.
After the breakup, Jorge turned to living the Las Vegas night life. It was totally out of character for the man who once disdained night clubs and such. For the next two-and-a-half weeks, he was clubbing, sleeping around, drinking, trying to fill a void never filled. Then on June 28, 2009, his life completely changed. It was the last day of his vacation. The night before, he had gone to his best friend who worked at a Las Vegas club, and Jorge told him he needed a good friend around. They decided to go to a strip club, which he hated. He ordered a Corona, took a sip, and looked around and said what am I doing with my life, let's get out of here.
Jorge and his friend had an agonizing heart-to-heart crying talk. Both thought of the single moms who had raised them and who would be so disappointed in them today. "We need to do better." Then he remembers saying to Brandon, his friend, "I feel God is calling me, he wants me to get right with him." He heard that still small voice of the Spirit of God. The next day, he intended to go to church, but instead he again headed out to fill that void. He went to a pool party, had minimal sleep, no food, and for the next seven hours, he's buzzing, drunk, and it's the hottest day of the year, 118 degrees. He's having a good time at the poolside on the last day of his vacation. He walks to the car, puts his seat belt on the passenger side, reclines back in the chair. Then...
Everything is a blank for a long while after that. Later, after months in a coma, what happened was pieced together. His co-worker had driven him back home from the pool that day, parked the car in front of his house, and left Jorge in the car, where he was asleep. The co-worker stayed in the car, listening to the radio, but he had narcolepsy and suddenly fell asleep – with his foot remaining on the gas pedal. A loud revving sound reverberated for about 45 minutes before the car exploded. A good Samaritan rushed to the car, and seeing Jorge screaming, engulfed in flames, he grabbed him, pulling him to safety just before a second explosion erupts.
By the Grace of God, Jorge has no memory of the explosion that burned 80% of his body. Thereafter, in the hospital, in a coma for the next three months, doctors gave him a -5% chance of survival. Each day they said, he's going to die "today" – for weeks and weeks. After weeks in the hospital, doctors needed to draw blood to test whether his body would accept dialysis – his kidneys were only working at 6%, and if he didn't produce dialysis, he wouldn't survive another two days. But they needed his mom's permission. His mom, always a woman of Faith, turned first to God: "Show me that you are with us and heal my son," she cried to God. Then she returned, signed off, and they drew blood. Twelve hours later, the kidneys were at 100%! Miracles do happen and his life is testimony to keep faith alive.
Recovery after the coma would be slow and painful. When he awoke, he was resentful and in despair. Hopeless, all his limbs were removed. Ultimately he would have only the ability to pinch together his thumb and forefinger. Yet the process of a Miracle had already begun, and through love, faith and hope he would rise above the flames. He saw the love of God through people, his family, friends and hospital staff, telling him that he has a purpose. Strangers would come in the room, praying for him. "Don't give up. Don't give up. God has a purpose with your life.”
Today, Jorge is on a mission — to tell his story of redemption and survival, that if he cannot only survive but thrive, so can you, so can teenagers in broken homes, so can people who have lost a job, or lost a goal, lost a purpose. God is not done, for to all who are living have hope. God has not only saved him from literal hellfire but given him the perseverance to overcome pain and operations, learn to walk with prosthetics, and even regain athletic ability. Most of all, he has regained hope and faith, even in the face of having gone from being a 6’3 athlete to a 4-foot-high, double-above-the-knee amputee.
He has also started working at FCA Fellowship Christians Athletes, and he plays wheelchair Rugby as a hobby with other quadriplegics. He is also the Youth Director of a church he helped plant in Las Vegas, fittingly named WALK Church! Jorge had faith when he was in his hospital bed, hope in the living God, a power bigger than him.
Seven months later he began public speaking, giving back to the hospitals,, rehab centers, burn survivor, amputees giving others encouragement who are going through similar challenges. Now he shares his testimony and message throughout Las Vegas and also across the country. Working especially with youth in the Las Vegas school system. Jorge Hernandez is indeed joyful and walking again, bringing his hard-earned, inspirational message to all — that with love, faith and hope, he rose above the flames...and so can you!
Jorge speaking at WALK Church