Return home and tell how much God has done for you
In the Bible, Jeremiah writes, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
“Let’s show this guy!” I called to my best friend, Monica, as she pressed the gas pedal to the floor and moved the Chrysler Lebaron into the passing lane.
The headlights staring down at us took us both by surprise. In a split second, we were headed for a collision.
Lord help me!
But I wasn’t sure if God would hear me. Truthfully I didn’t know if He could hear me. My call for help resembled more of a wish than a prayer.
I grew up in a religious home. I attended mass every Sunday. I attended a Separate School and participated in all the sacraments. I knew the Lord’s Prayer.
However, it was just a religion. Something reserved for Sundays and Religion classes in school.
I closed my eyes and threw my arms over my head. The car we attempted to pass slammed on the brakes and tires screeched. I was thrown against the passenger door as Monica steered the car back into our lane. The front wheel caught the gravel ditch and pulled the car over. The deep drop caused the car to flip upside down and land on the right side of the car before crashing on its roof. Upside down, the momentum pushed the crumpled car to the bottom of the hill before coming to a full stop.
I lost consciousness.
“It’s gonna blow!” Monica’s blood-curdling scream pulled me back to reality. She yanked on her door handle to get out.
Slowing coming to I felt disoriented.
My face pressed against something — the roof? The dashboard? I attempted to release my seatbelt but the blood and pain in my right hand made it impossible. I jimmied it free with my left hand.
A man yelled, “Are you okay? I’m going to open your door.” The passenger side door twisted on impact and required his full strength to pry open. He reached inside the car and grabbed me under my arms to yank me out.
Unsteady on my feet, he kept one arm across my back as I leaned into him. He ushered me to his car.
Monica perched on the back seat. Blood dripped down her mouth. She’d bit right through her lip. In deep shock, she continued to scream about the fact that her car was going to blow up.
The driver managed to calm her down enough to ask for directions to the hospital. Although Peterborough Civic Hospital stood a mere five kilometres away from the accident site, Monica directed the driver to the east end of the city where a smaller hospital, St. Joseph’s Health Centre, operated only doors away from her sister’s home.
My right hand felt cold as ice. I carefully placed it on my lap, aware that it saturated my favourite teal green corduroy skirt with blood. At the red stoplight on Rogers Street, Monica fled the vehicle and ran to find her sister.
Looking up, I could see the large steeple of Immaculate Conception Church. My family’s church. I participated in the sacraments of initiation at this church. I took communion and gave penance at this church. Why did God let me live?
The driver continued to the emergency department. He parked and assisted me through the entrance doors and up the few stairs to the main desk.
I will forever be grateful for the love shown by this stranger who we almost killed in a head-on collision.
Once in the hospital, I couldn’t see any nurses on duty so I screamed out, “Where is everyone?!” The night nurse came running down the hall, urging me to be quiet and to calm down. She took me into the adjoining room and laid me on a gurney.
Another nurse took scissors to my skirt, my blouse, and my jacket to cut me free of the clothes. She cut my birthstone ring last.
They draped me in warm blankets. I couldn’t stop shivering.
The doctor on-call approached and asked if I had looked at my hand. I had not. He told me to look at my hand. With great difficulty, I turned my head to the right.
What I saw is forever tattooed on my mind’s eye. The skin on my middle finger split open and I could see the white of the bone. The blood looked blue, mixed with gravel and dirt. My ring finger had the nail ripped off and missed a full inch off the top. My index finger appeared scraped raw. Both my middle and index fingers were contorted and bent out of shape.
After the doctor had a preliminary look at my hand he ordered X-rays. They stripped me of my warm blankets, plunked me on a stainless steel gurney, and wrenched my head this way and that way to get the X-rays they needed. I yelled out in pain from the whiplash.
The rest of the week went by in a blur. I came in and out of consciousness.
Once I awoke in a comfortable bed, with a window ledge full of flowers and stuffed animals. My mom explained that I had undergone two surgeries on my right hand already. I would probably have at least two more in the upcoming days. Dr. Mok, a renowned plastic surgeon in Peterborough, performed the surgeries.
I tried to sit up but the pain shot through my body with the slightest movement. My right hand was held upright and bandaged to the elbow. Only my index finger showed through the covering to allow staff to squeeze the tip to aid in blood circulation. My mom explained that I had limited blood circulation in that finger and there was a chance I could lose it altogether. Squeezing the tip gave it a fighting chance.
My parents prayed that I wouldn’t lose the finger.
My left arm had needles and tubes attached for the morphine and the nutrients that I couldn’t take by mouth. My right hip had a thin bandage the size of my palm, covering the area where they had taken the skin to graft on both my middle and index fingers.
Two pins were inserted in my middle finger to keep it together as it healed, and one long pin was put in my index finger. I had to protect the tops of these pins and be cautious not to hit them. The vibration through the bone nauseated me.
Friends littered my room with cards and gifts. My parish priest visited me daily. Family and high school students prayed for me. I felt special and loved.
Eventually taken off morphine and given pain pills every four hours, the hospital released me to go home and return only for my operations.
The outside air hit my face cold. After a week of stale indoor air, I felt refreshed to get out into the cold.
My brother, Andrew, made my homecoming extra special by painting a rainbow on the walls around my bedroom. My mom had my birthstone ring repaired so I could wear it once again–but now on my left hand. She also cleaned my favourite skirt of all the blood and sewed it where it’d been cut. What a service of love.
My dad showed me pictures of the smashed car. I stared long at those photos. The roof had collapsed so far into the passenger side seat that I couldn’t figure out how I had survived. How did I not break my neck? I wondered how I lived through the accident.
Why did I live?
Being right-handed, I had to learn to write with my left hand. At school, my friends supported me by giving me carbon copies of their notes. Again, I felt special and loved by my fellow students.
After my last operation, I started therapy to rehabilitate. Every day after school, I had my hand massaged and given exercises to strengthen the muscles. I liked the hot oil that they submerged my hand in and I liked peeling the wax off my fingers, but the exercises often left me near tears with residual pain for the rest of the day.
To keep each finger straight I had to wear a brace. I could wear the brace for limited times, but the scar tissue battled with these braces and the ache hurt more than I could bear at times.
Inside, I struggled with the question of why I had lived through the accident.
I had heard a horrific news story about a couple who had a similar accident the weekend after ours, yet the passenger tragically died.
I truly believed that the accident was severe enough that I should’ve died that night, but for some reason God allowed me to live.
My goal became to find out why He let me live. What purpose did He have for me?
As a young child, I wanted to be a teacher. Was this God’s plan? Throughout my high school years, I wanted to operate my own business. But what business? Was this His purpose?
I continued to seek and question what God’s specific purpose was for me. After high school, I attended university and completed my Bachelor of Business Administration Degree. Out of university, I accepted a job as an Employment Counselor. After six years, I made a career change to become a Personal Trainer. With each new job and each new diploma, I sought after my true calling.
In 2001 (15 years after my accident) I joined a women’s Bible study and slowly came to realize that God wanted a relationship with me. I attended a weekend retreat with these same women and realized how much I had limited God to Sundays only.
I began to see that God wanted my faith to be made up of more than just religious rituals and traditions.
That same year I felt God answered my lifelong question of why He allowed me to live.
I believe that I didn’t die as a young teenager in order to share my stories through writing.
Ironically, although my typing is impaired by my injured right hand, my call is to write to bring others closer to God.
God planted a seed in my heart as a teenager. He gave me the thought that I was allowed to live for a specific reason.
Just as God had told Abram he would be a father it wasn’t until 25 years later before that came to fruition.
God keeps His promises. God has a plan and purpose for each of us.
For years, I knew He had a purpose for me, but I didn’t know what it was. I’m grateful that I never stopped seeking His will and call on my life.
My experiences, my trials, my pains, my joys, my education, my jobs — all these things I write about to bring others closer to God.
I take scripture like, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you” (Luke 8:39) to heart and write my stories and my devotionals.
I finally understand God’s love for me and why He allowed me to live through that terrible accident.
If you like compelling, heart-wrenching, and nostalgic stories like this one then you’ll love this memoir of young life experiences that take you down memory lane. Buy Through Trials to Triumph: A Memoir of a Catholic Girl’s High School Years to learn how your faith and trust in God can root you through troubled times today!