Have you ever been in a room with friends or relatives when you become acutely aware of another presence? You can’t see this presence, but it is so powerful that your body trembles and you cannot hold back your emotions. This is what happens to me when I know my conversation with God has become a two-way chat. I had one of these chats the other day.
I recently spent time with a family who I have known since I moved to
. They are friends who welcomed our family with open arms, who shared their children with ours, and who were there to help at a moment’s notice. They have miraculously (you will see versions of this word throughout my story) come through a most terrifying experience, only to shine as “perfect” examples of God’s handiwork. This “handiwork” has resulted from their prayers, and the prayers of their friends, neighbors, co-workers, and an entire Church who all came together to lift up a beautiful young lady, her family, and the family of a best friend. St. Charles
Best friends, Laney and Ted, had known each other since freshman year of high school. They attended different high schools, but the Youth Group at their church kept them close. Each July, the Youth Group, along with church members in various professions, would travel to a village in
. While the Youth Group would meet with the children and hold Bible classes, the older members would reach out to the adults by offering medical and dental services. The adults would also make structural repairs, and additions, and adapt existing structures to accommodate the special needs of the residents. This trip was a definite summer highlight for everyone involved. Belize
Both Ted and Laney attended college. They also worked together at the same restaurant. He was a manager and she, a server. One morning after a late night before, when neither was working, Laney called up Ted and said,
“Let’s go get tattoos!” Ted’s reply was affirmative. The day had just begun; it was only 10:00am. Once they arrived at the tattoo parlor, they were told that there were no appointments available until later that day. They decided, in the meantime, to visit a mutual friend who lived close to the tattoo parlor. They called her to let her know they were coming. The drive to their friend’s house took them through a rural area with stop signs (instead of lights) at the intersections. They approached a stop that was on an incline, with the intersection at the top. They stopped and began to proceed, as they saw no other traffic. Unknown to them, there was another car approaching from their left. As they made their way through the intersection, the oncoming vehicle was unable to stop and collided with them at a speed exceeding 55 miles per hour. Ted was driving. Ted’s body was pushed into Laney’s left side. It all happened so fast. Both Ted and Laney were rendered unconscious. The other driver was not visibly hurt, and immediately jumped out of his car. He ran to Laney’s side.
“Wake up! Are you guys okay in there? HELP! HELP!” he shouted. Laney could hear him, but her eyes were closed so she didn’t know the direction from where the voice was coming. Was it Ted talking to her? Or was it someone else? Laney opened her eyes, and realized the severity of the accident. She began to move her legs so that she could get out of the car. She pried open the door, but when she tried to stand, her left leg gave out and she collapsed to the ground in a nearby ditch. She managed to dial her mother’s number, told her what had happened and said that she was okay. Meanwhile, there had been an off-duty physician behind the second car who knew the driver, and called him by name.
“Brett, please come with me” the doctor said calmly. He did not want Brett to see Ted’s body as he lay in the car. The two of them walked out of sight of the accident and the doctor was able to calm Brett and kept him away from the scene. Other motorists who had been right behind the accident offered to help in any way. 911 Emergency was called. One of the motorists felt a pulse, however slow, in Ted’s body.
“This one needs to be airlifted to a hospital!” he said. The area was so dense with trees; it was thought to be impossible to land a helicopter. The ambulances arrived shortly, secured the victims and rushed them to the nearest hospital. Brett was also driven to the same hospital, but since he was under 18 years old, he was taken to the
of the hospital. Pediatric Trauma Center
With today’s communication technology, word of the accident spread quickly. The police department closest to Ted’s parents’ house was contacted and they personally drove to the house to inform his parents of what had happened and where Ted had been taken. Both victims were immediately seen at the ER Trauma Center. Blood tests, x-rays, CT scans and other immediate means of determining the extent of the injuries, as well as, IVs to help stabilize the body were performed on Laney. She kept asking over and over about Ted’s condition. Ted’s injuries were so severe, that his body gave out before much could be done to help him.
Laney’s parents arrived and watched in horror as the doctors and nurses worked on their daughter. Their prayers were strong and constant. They, too, were concerned about Ted and his injuries. The chaplain arrived and took Laney’s parents to a separate room where he explained the tests being performed on Laney, and then, the very sad news about Ted. Laney’s parents were devastated to hear of Ted’s passing, but decided not to tell Laney yet, as they thought it would upset her and might complicate the hard work that was being performed to help stabilize her. Ted’s parents soon arrived and asked about both of the kids. The Chaplain then took them aside to deliver the news that Ted had died.
Laney’s parents were finally approached by the ER doctor who talked to them about her injuries. Her left leg sustained mostly bruises from ankle to armpit, with no breaks. However, her pelvis was broken in four places. Both her spleen and left kidney suffered abrasions. She had nine broken ribs, a punctured lung and broken “T1” vertebrae at the tip of her spine. (It was later determined through accident reconstruction that after the impact, the distance between Ted’s door and Laney’s door was a mere twelve inches.) She spent eight days in the Trauma ICU.
Two days after the accident, a Wake was held for Ted, with the Funeral on the following day. Laney was still in a lot of pain, both physical and emotional, while mourning the death of her best friend. At this point, God had a little chat with a few of Laney’s good friends. Both of the services were skyped by the IPhone of one of these friends, which enabled Laney to experience the Wake and Funeral, as well as, the faces and comments of all of the attendees. Most importantly, she felt she was there with Ted. The wonders of skyping technology also gave Laney the ability to interact with the friends at the services.
While in the Trauma ICU, Laney celebrated her 20th birthday. Her family and 50 closest friends arrived on that day with their arms full of balloons, banners, flowers, cards and gifts! They turned her world of sterility and machines into a wildly colorful “Dream Birthday Extravaganza” with music, cake and ear-to-ear smiles for as far as her eyes could see! Even the hospital staff could not stop themselves from becoming part of the celebration!
According to the doctors, Laney was healing ahead of schedule and she seemed to be recovering very quickly…almost miraculously! Plans were made to transfer her to a rehabilitation facility not far from the hospital. While going through rehab, Laney enjoyed conversations with her therapist who would explain everything that she was doing. A dream of Laney’s is to become an Occupational Therapist herself, so she was excited to get some practical experience while she was healing. Within a week, Laney was well enough to go home in a wheelchair, notwithstanding the fact that she was tired of hospitals, missed her dog, Nugget, and wanted to sleep in her own house!
During this time, God had been chatting with the members of her church. A care calendar had been set up to provide meals, run errands, and help the family with whatever they needed. The Belize Trip members were quite active in this regard. This group of incredibly committed people built a wooden ramp which extended from the driveway to the front door and was in place the day she came home. They also donated a special wheelchair for Laney’s use which was not as wide as a typical wheelchair. This enabled Laney to maneuver with ease as she made her way through the rooms of her house. Laney was home, and what a grand homecoming it was!
God had also been chatting with others in Laney’s life. She was a college sophomore on spring break when the accident occurred. She figured that she would have to repeat the semester and fall behind her classmates. When she contacted the college, they were very understanding…to the point of “miraculous” understanding! They allowed her to finish out three of her five classes online, with no due dates. Her plans to graduate and attend graduate school will have hardly any interruption at all!
Laney had mastered the safe transfer of her body from one chair to another. The upper body strength she acquired during this time rivaled that of a dedicated athlete. Very soon, she could stand with her weight on the right side while switching chairs. At ten weeks post-accident, Laney was given the okay to put weight on her left leg. It couldn’t have come at a better time! She was now “legally” able to use stairs, which she had been “eyeballing” for some time and which meant she would be back in her bedroom and sleeping in her own bed!
Friends called to see her and would drive her wherever she wanted to go. She walked everywhere, resting for only a few minutes at a time. It felt good to be mobile. She would visit her co-workers at the restaurant. She found out that right after the accident, all of the restaurant’s employees were given several days off, and the company found replacements from others stores in the area to run the restaurant while everyone was in mourning. No one had to be asked; they all wanted to help. In the restaurant parking lot there is a memory tree where co-workers, friends and even customers have left notes and prayers for Laney, Ted and their families. To this day, and in memory of Ted, his parking space has remained empty.
Each day brought stronger movements for Laney, and with that came a stronger sense of accomplishment, confidence, and gratitude to God for how far she had come in such little time. She also knew that the prayers of family, friends and the entire congregation of her church were a big part of her incredible recovery, both physical and emotional.
One of the many honors that Laney has earned is that of cleric officiating at weddings. She recently was blessed to unite her good friends, Katrina and Tom, in matrimony. Ted had planned to perform the ceremony, but after his death, Katrina asked Laney if she would be willing to officiate. This event took place only three months after the accident. Laney is a shining example of God’s grace and blessings. Not only has she had a miraculous recovery, but she is fulfilling God’s plan by being an amazing young woman with extraordinary gifts, which she freely shares with everyone.
Laney is not finished…no, not by any means! She will be the most welcomed addition to the Belize Trip 2012 and a blessing to the people of the village as she delivers God’s message of hope and love! She will stand tall while she radiates the underestimated awesomeness of our Lord!
Since this post was originally written, Laney has traveled to
and realized her dream of walking into the village on her own and spreading love and the word of God to the families who welcomed her with open arms. Belize
In Memory of a Beloved Friend.....
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