Well… I’m not really sure where to begin…
6 months and some change ago, on April 10th 2014, I was on my way to school at about 6:40, as a high school senior, only a few months away from graduating; and I fell asleep behind the wheel.
That in itself isn’t something anyone expects or anticipates doing. Yet, here I was, doing just that.
So, now you know I have managed to fall asleep, but there is obviously more to it.
It was a school bus. Yup, that’s what I hit. Well, two of them actually. I side swept the first one and hit the next just about head on. I managed to hit the second one hard enough and in just the right spot that I messed up its axel and ended up totaling it.
The good news: There were no students on the bus, the driver of the second (the one I totaled) was taken to the hospital, but ended up being in great shape, and virtually in perfect condition. There are definitely positives to hitting a school bus instead of just another car. If I were to have hit another car… I don’t even want to think about what could have happened.
God moment 1: I hit a school bus, not a car.
God moment 2: There were no kids on it and the driver was fine.
I obviously had no idea that this is what I did. (Or didn’t do; get it, because I wasn’t awake to really DO it.) Anyways, the next thing I remember, my car was on the side of the road, it was bright outside, but definitely still morning time. I don’t remember details about how things looked, I don’t remember seeing blood, but I did remember seeing what I thought to be the dashboard, caved in on my legs. I also remember not being able to move my legs, and I said/yelled, “I can’t move my legs, please help.” I then heard a response of, “don’t worry honey, you’re gonna be okay, we’re getting you out.”
God moment 3: The EMT crew and firemen were amazing.
Next thing I remember I was on a stretcher going into the ambulance. I wanted so badly to panic every time I woke up. I didn’t know what was going on. I couldn’t comprehend what might have happened. At the time, I didn’t even remember getting up that morning. This all seemed just like one of those bad dreams you have every now and then. The sad fact was, that this was reality, and I had to face it. All of it. And it was a lot more than I ever could have imagined.
But on the stretcher, that’s when it happened. That’s when I heard God.
I don’t know how often you hear God speak to you, and I mean verbally speak, but I had never experienced that before. Until that day, on that stretcher.
“Sarah, you are going to be okay. Have faith in me.”
(Paraphrasing here obviously. It’s been a while and I couldn’t really write down God’s exact words at the time. But you get it.
So excuse me while I tear up, because that part makes me emotional every time.)
Here I had wanted to completely freak out knowing I couldn’t move, knowing my body felt paralyzed. But once I heard God speak, I was completely at ease. I KNEW I was going to be fine. I knew whatever had happened to me wasn’t going to be easy to get through, but I knew I was going to get through it.
God moment 4 (wowzas): God spoke to me. He reassured me that everything was going to be okay.
My eyes were either closed or my mind shut them off. I don’t remember seeing anything or anyone. But I continued talking to the paramedics as often as I was coherent because I knew that as long as my brain was working enough for me to have a somewhat logical conversation, that was all I needed. I don’t remember what all we talked about though, not until I arrived at the hospital. Once there I went to the ER, and the next thing I remembered I was talking about the Astros with a guy who worked in there. (I later found out this was by request of my principle, he knew that if there was one thing I’d be ready to talk about at any moment, that would it.) Apparently I went into great detail about the entire system, but that, I don’t remember as clearly.
Not long after that, I see my sister. The first person I remember actually seeing. She was by my bedside crying, and talking to me.
“Hey there sweet girl.” I remember hearing something of a sort from her. What I really remember was her crying. A lot of crying. I told her I was going to be okay, she said, “no you’re not…” (Such faith in me, I know. Haha. But I understand why she’d think that, and in some ways she was right.)
God moment 5: I could see my loved ones for (hopefully) years to come.
My dad was there too, but I don’t remember seeing him. I did a lot of sleeping. At some point the surgeon woke me up, (possibly before or after I saw my sister, I think you can understand why my timeline might be a little screwed up,) told me he needed to put staples in my head, and that I was going to feel a little pressure. (Isn’t that what they all say.) So I was awake for that. But I don’t remember any pain. Just pressure, so I guess he was right. Then at some point, he told me it was time for me to go into surgery. I said I was afraid that I might wake up in the middle of it, but, with a chuckle, he assured me that I was going to be out for the entire thing.
6 hours long. When I woke up, that’s what I heard. My surgery is what my family members were referring to.
My poor mother was at a conference in San Antonio when she got the call about my accident. Thankfully she had my grandmother with her, or I don’t think she would have made it to me in one piece. They got there 30 minutes after I went into surgery. My 6 hour surgery.
God moment 7: My grandma told me just recently that she was unsure of going and almost told my mom she didn’t want to, but then she got this feeling that she really needed to be with her for some reason.
God moment 8: I came out of surgery alive.
so here’s when I learn of the extent of my injuries. Keep in mind my condition, and what I knew of it was changing frequently. But this is the accurate rundown that I eventually had of everything. (Head to toe.)
-I had a fairly substantial gash in my scalp, almost the size, circumference wise, of a baseball. That was stapled up and later received 2 stitches the day I was discharged.
-I fractured my C3 and C4 vertebrae, later learning that the C1 and C2 are known as the “hangman’s vertebrae.” I also learned at a later date from the same specialist, that my C3 came extremely close to hitting my spinal cord. I was almost paralyzed.
-With the fracture came a dissected vertebral artery. Good news is, everyone has two, and only one needs to be open and working. A dissected artery just means that one of the artery’s walls came off and closed off said artery. The issue with that is that there’s a possibility you may get a brain aneurism if the blood clots. So I was immediately put on blood thinners, at one point in my hospital stay I had to have 3 shots in my stomach to balance out the blood thinness, that wasn’t fun.
-Slightly broken nose (not a big deal, nor did they bother to fix it.)
-Collapsed left lung-ended up requiring two different test tubes because the first one, and largest one, didn’t do anything. (And hurt when it was taken out.) And then a tiny one that they put in, filled it up. Crazy thing was, my lung was only about 95% full when they took out the little chest tube, and when they looked at that lung later after having taken it out, my lung was 100% full of air. My surgeon said that that was extremely unusual and that he had never seen that happen.
-Fractured left ulna-in 4 places. Titanium plate now holds it all together.
-Busted open right knee. A piece of my femur was completely destroyed, but that was okay, the main thing was that when the orthopedic surgeon cleaned it out, he had to remove a lot of damaged cartilage and informed me that I wouldn’t be doing any running unless I wanted to encounter arthritis at a very early age. So there go my dreams of ever running a marathon. But recently, a month or so ago, I bent my knee for him and he said he honestly never thought I would ever have that much mobility. He also thought that I was going to need to have another surgery once my knee recovered from the trauma.
God moment 9: That very slim chance of not needing another surgery-happened.
Over time all of this was discovered. But that time period was over about 4 months.
After hearing about my injuries it still hadn’t hit me yet. I still couldn’t understand why I was there and what was happening. But soon it started to settle in. I couldn’t change my situation; I could only make the best of it. Right after waking up I heard of all the love and support from my hometown, and from friends and family members. It was incredible. People that I had never heard of wanted to check in on me, wanted to comfort my immediate family; that was so special.
In the ICU unit, they usually don’t allow flowers, but they made an exception because I was just receiving too many to turn away. I couldn’t believe it. People came to see me over my stay in the hospital, obviously after the first few days the number started dwindling, but I still had someone who would come to see me every day.
I don’t view myself as an exceptionally special or wonderful person by any means. Honestly I was questioning what I did to receive so much love and kindness from even random strangers.
God moment 10: Love. Such an honest and pure love. Seeing the good in the world had been a challenge prior to my accident, now I saw so much of it, and so quickly.
That love was amazing.
It made me want to hug and kiss everyone that came to see me and even those who didn’t; that’s not what it was about. I felt the want to love everyone, because I knew now what this love looked like. I saw God through so many.
Now I didn’t just see the good in those who came to me, for my sake. I saw the good in those who were simply doing their jobs.
My nurses were, and are still, some of the best, most kind-hearted individuals that I have ever encountered. One of my nurses did more for me than I could have ever imagined a nurse having to do.
They have a tough job. I know I could never do what they do, but I gained a newfound respect for them all.
God moment 11: These nurses and technicians were wonderful. Of course some were better and probably just more experienced than others, but I relied on them so much. More than I had ever relied on anyone, and God blessed me with the opportunity to encounter some of the best.
Now for the struggles:
I threw up the first two nights, I didn’t eat much, if anything for 4-5 days, I had night terrors almost every night, which I had never had to deal with before, and I just couldn’t cry. God was healing me in so many ways though, and so quickly, but of course, it was hard to see at the time. The days drug on. 11 days in the hospital total, 6 in the ICU alone. I didn’t get out of bed until the 5th day. That’s when I finally walked a few steps with the help of a physical therapist/nurse. (In an immobilizer for my right knee of course.) I didn’t last long walking, but it was a start, and I started going a little further everyday.
God moment 12: I prayed to get to sleep every night, and that was the only way I could fall asleep. I was so reliant on the one who I knew would always be strong for me.
God moment 13: Progress had started.
Getting tubes taken out and cords taken off… That is one of the best feelings I will probably ever experience. Freedom. Well a little.
Once moved out of ICU and into intermediate care, I stared to do little things for myself. I could eventually brush my own teeth and pick up food or a cup of water. I was somewhat self-reliant. But it didn’t take long to see how little I could actually do. I had to get a sponge bath every other day. (Where two ladies would help me clean my back with a rag.) I said thank you. I thanked everyone, constantly. I knew everything they did was their job, but I was so thankful they even chose to be working and were able to help me.
God moment 14: Progress continued-tube and cords were removed and I was healing. Moving forward and not backwards.
A few days into being in intermediate care, I started crying. When I found I could cry without choking, I did it. The first time was scary. I hadn’t cried my entire hospital stay, and here I just needed to.
I hated to cry. I hated to make anyone else feel sad. I wanted to be strong because the people I loved were weak, just like me. But I found strength in knowing that I would heal. Thanks to God, I always found strength in that.
God moment 15: He would remind me that I would get better.
Leaving the hospital I felt excited. SO excited. But also, so fragile when I thought I had become so strong. My last nurse helped me into my dad’s truck and told me, “You know, it’s only going to get harder from here.”
She was right. Even when I didn’t think she was.
God moment 16: I got to go home. I was in the hospital through Easter, one of my favorite holidays, a day to praise God for sending His Son to save us, and I found it kind of ironic. But I was finally going home. It was kind of like my Easter.
The days following were hard. I couldn’t walk too much or do much for myself. My mom helped me to shower and my dad helped me to get to sleep in the recliner in the living room. I had never felt so helpless. I thought being home was going to feel good, but for the first few days it didn’t. It just felt like another hospital room. Throughout the summer the healing continued, but not quickly enough for my mind to feel okay about it. I’d try to focus on the positives, but I’d keep coming back to the negatives. I was becoming depressed. I cried everyday for about 2 weeks straight. Somehow, though, God kept reminding me that it was all temporary. I had been feeling the power of prayer from day one. This is when I felt it the most.
God moment 17: The surrounding community didn’t ever forget about me. They kept praying for me, and I kept experiencing it.
Fast-forward ahead 6 months, and here I am. I’m attending college, something my primary care physician didn’t think I would be able to do this semester, I’m walking, if not attempting to run when late to class sometimes, and I’m joyful. I’ll never be 100% but I’m a strong 98%.
I love to share this story, (in a much more condensed version, that is,) because I love to make God known though it. It was never about me. I came to know so much beauty in God’s creations, and came to know how fragile life was, and I experienced this all first hand, which not many can say they have in as good of condition as I am. I love my scars because I love my story. I love my weaknesses, because they reveal my strengths. I would never wish my experiences upon anyone, but I am so grateful to have had them.
Knowledge and wisdom are two things I’ve always cherished, and I’ve gained so much of each of those from my accident. It may be hard for some to say that this situation, this incident, was for a good reason, but it truly was. I felt the goodness in it.
I couldn’t have survived the initial impact if it weren’t for God. I couldn’t have touched other’s lives if it weren’t for God, I couldn’t have taken so much good out of so much bad if it weren’t for God.
God moment 18: I’ve lived to tell such a crazy tale, for such a great reason. And I’m doing wonderfully, all things considered. Our God is such an amazing God.
-Thank you Abbey for having my write this. I never really took the time to evaluate every God moment in this situation until now, and it’s made me all the more thankful for my experiences, and it is a wonderful reminder for just how blessed I am and how great others are.
(abbey now) i met sarah this past summer at one of the weddings i was shooting. she had her elbows on the table and i was shocked to see she had an identical scar on her arm like me. i pointed to it and said we were scar twins! and then she told me the story. i have been waiting to a special time to host sarah on the blog because i think her story is so amazing. and pretty much one of the sweetest people i've ever met. i cried reading this again and i hope that if you read it, it reminded you of what a great God we have. i also think its pretty neat that Sarah's middle name is Grace because that's exactly what this story tells. thanks again Sarah! this was fantastic!