AUBURN — He stood on the stage at East Auburn Baptist’s Christmas show with a poster board.
It read: “Body shut down. Three weeks to live. Gave up. No hope.”
Peter Bragdon turned over his board to show God helped him. It read: “Liver transplant. Full of life, and hope.”
Others on stage also held boards telling how they overcame hurdles with the help of God. As they stood there, Linda Robinson sang: “You Say.”
Bragdon, 40, of New Gloucester, is quick to share the mistakes he’s made.
An unhealthy lifestyle. Alcohol and drug addiction. Jail time for stealing from a veterans organization.
Then, last February Bragdon got sick. Really sick, really fast. First with pneumonia. Then he couldn’t eat. In four weeks he went from functioning normally to walking with a cane.
“It was a near-death experience,” he said. “I was orange, fluid leaking from my legs. My body was full of toxins.”
He had no will to live, he said, and told his family he wanted “to go home,” die and go to heaven.
His fiance convinced him to go to the hospital.
Doctors told him his kidneys had failed and shut down. “They stabilized me and sent me to Massachusetts General.”
Gravely ill, he was placed on a liver transplant waiting list.
“A lot of people die waiting for a liver,” he said, adding he thought he’d be one of them.
One liver was found, but an infection prevented transplant.
He left the hospital against the wishes of doctors.
“I had to come home and meet with my pastor. Meeting with him gave me reassurance that if I did pass, I’d be going to my savior, it was God’s will. He has a plan for us.” He gave control to God, Bragdon said. Faith brings peace of mind.
Meanwhile hundreds of East Auburn Baptist Church members prayed for him, he said.
In late May a liver became available. It wasn’t a coincidence, Bragdon said.
But he was fearful about taking pain medicine. He’d been free of opiates for more than three years. He worried what would happen when he took them after surgery.
The transplant was successful. He took medicine as prescribed, then stopped, he said.
“Without prayer, and without help from my brothers at church, I couldn’t have done it.”
Gradually he recovered. His doctors were astonished, he said. “They said I was touch and go.”
In August he married. He works part-time.
After committing the theft and going to jail six years ago, some people don’t trust him, he said. He’s paid restitution and made amends to the victim, he said. “Many people won’t forgive me and still judge me. I take very seriously what I did. I needed to learn to forgive myself.”
Reading and studying the Bible taught him about God’s grace and forgiveness, he said. His life isn’t all rainbows and lollipops, Bragdon said, but faith in God has brought him peace and hope.
These days he says he’s more patient than he used to be. He takes better care of himself. He’s thankful to God. “I’m a stronger believer than I was before.”
Peter Bragdon, far left, holds a sign that reads “Liver transplant. Hope. Full of life,” during the Christmas Spectacular at the East Auburn Baptist Church in Auburn.
Peter Bragdon of New Gloucester.