Ding. “You have 1 unheard voice message. Playing voice message.” Ding: “Cheryl, there has been an accident. Ambulance is on the way.”
“John! Come quickly! Someone is on the phone, it’s about your daughter!”
The morning of the fire the world kept spinning. The fire fighters were able to put the fire out and we returned safely back to our home in enough time to bathe for work and school. I was upset that day, clinging to the stuffed animal offered to me as comfort by one of the firemen. My mom was hesitant to say yes when I asked to spend the night with my friend Halie. I loved going to Halie’s, she had way cooler stuff than I did. In fact, her family had just moved across town into this huge 3 story house. Okay so it was two stories and a basement. Nonetheless, her room was in the basement. We could be as loud as we wanted! Plus, it was so far away from everyone else in the house her parents would never hear us cussing while we played, “Set it off”. What is “Set It Off”? Remember that 90’s movie about a gang of women bank robbers and they get back together for one last heist. Its high drama, high action, lots of super cool stunts, also very vulgar.
All kinds of what I recall as weird things were happening that night at Halie’s. First thing was this chair. Her parents had gotten this fancy roller chair. Sure, everybody has them now, but back then, you didn’t. So crazy thing about this chair is it was magic or possessed or something. Every time I sat in it and pulled the lever, the chair would lower. We would raise the chair back up, Halie would sit on the chair, pull the lever and nothing! Befuddled I would sit back on the chair and repeat the process, I would make the chair lower, Halie never did! I know now that the truth is I was able to lower the chair and she was not because… I was “bigger” than her. *Whatever* Moving along….
The other thing that really creeped me out that night was while we were playing “Set it off”. So back in the days of CD’s they would sometimes have what was known as “hidden tracks”. Hidden tracks are additional songs at the end of an album that are not on the set list. Often you wont even know they are there unless you just let the CD play out. Again, this is a fact known to older me, not 9-year-old me. So, we would be playing, and to stay true to the movie, we were of course performing all kinds of cool stunts. These stunts included but were not limited to: jumping off the desk, spinning around on the chair, high flying karate kicks, somersaults and of course, some epic wipeouts. Here is the crazy part, it was when we hit the ground hard, the hidden tracks would start playing. We assumed the boom box was possessed as it didn’t even appear to be “on” and went about our night.
Morning came early, so early. I was dragging as we were forced to help load up all the gear. Halie’s family was going snowmobiling and had invited me to join them. I had never been snowmobiling before and to be honest I wasn’t into going back home to be reminded of the fire drama a few nights before. Up the mountain we went. We arrived at a small warming cabin in the middle of a wide-open clearing. There was a wooden fire in there and more hot chocolate than I could stomach. Adult conversation became a drag to Halie and me, so we went outside to find an adventure. The snow was piled high and so powdery. We jumped from pile to pile, sinking right trough some. The icicles that hung from the cabin were the biggest I had ever seen, at least 12 inches. The snow was piled so high it was no problem to climb right up and snag one. It was a great day, I didn’t think about the fire at all. I was feeling good and confident.
I asked Halie if she wanted to ride the machines. She said she would ask her mom if we could, and she did. Her mom came outside and showed us the controls. “Here’s the throttle, here’s the break.” She told me. I didn’t think it would be so hard, plus there wasn’t anything to run into out here really, so how hard could it be? She told me to ride around in a circle. Show her I understood what she had told me about the controls. I made a circle like a champ. “Perfect!” She said as she walked back into the cabin, leaving us to ride alone. We made circles till we were dizzy, but now I had a real feel for it. I was sure I could handle it, so I took off in a different direction. With intentions on just making a bigger circle around the cabin I saw two split trees. I thought, “I can make it through that no problem.” I sped toward the opening between the trees but didn’t make it.
I remember looking at those trees, I remember my last thought, but the rest is blank from my perspective.
“Oh my god! Oh my god! What happened?” Halie’s mom exclaimed as we walked into the cabin. I had sneezed causing me to turn the machine and squeeze the throttle fully. My friend bailed off the back of the machine as I ran face first into one of those trees. My Dallas Cowboys jacket was covered in blood, they took it off me. I went to the bathroom, I drank hot chocolate, then the paramedics arrived. Once they got there bleeding had subsided and swelling began to set in. It didn’t look good, but we wouldn’t know how bad it was quite yet. An ambulance isn’t equipped to safely drive up and down snow-covered mountains with emergency speed. So, I was loaded into a cart pulled by a snowmobile down the mountain to the ambulance.
My mother received the first phone call. Frantically she tried to return the call over and over with no answer. She sped to the hospital looking for answers. She got there and received none. She would just have to wait until I was brought in and they could assess the damage. The doctors assured her the paramedics believed it was a broken nose. It was severely broken but nothing to get worked up over. She waited. I try to imagine how she must have felt. If I was her, and my daughter was me, I would be wrecked. I would be going insane with fear and worry. Chaos would overtake my mind and panic would seize my heart. I always expect the worst.
My dad ran to the front office of the state park. He was attending a Christian men’s retreat there with some of his closest friends at the time. He had recently began attending church and had given his heart over to the Lord. This was a big step for him and he was really into it. He takes the phone call and hears the news and reacts how any caring father would. “I’ve got to go!” He insisted. He had ridden up there with a friend, he urged him to “come on! Let’s go! I got to go!” The Pastor, Pat, refused to let them go without praying first. My father was not willing to take to the time to say a prayer when those were precious seconds his baby girl’s life was hanging by a thread. However, Pat persisted in the request to pray, just quick. My father finally gave in and joined the other men in a prayer of healing and protection over my little life. The prayer ended almost as quickly as it began, and my dad and his buddy were in the truck flying down the mountain to get to the hospital.
By the time he arrived I was already there. The doctors had already seen me, it wasn’t good. Doctors warned my parents, they could see me, but to prepare themselves. The doctors told them I would be unrecognizable due to the swelling and the bruising.
They told my mom to keep herself together as she broke at the news. They needed her to be strong for me. They were going to need to life flight me to Boise, and she could not come with them. It was vital they had another doctor aboard. They broke down again. Both packed a bag and headed separately to Boise where I was being life flighted too.
The best way I can explain this is to say a normal skull curves like this (, it sticks out. Mine was like this), concaved. The doctors were worried about the pressure that my skull was putting on my brain. The fear was that I could begin to leak brain fluid into my spine due to the pressure and basically If I didn’t die I would be paralyzed. They were preparing for major surgery, and I mean major. The plan was to shave my head ear to ear across the top. They would then make an incision in the hair line, ear to ear, and peel back my face. Holy cow! I know right. They would then reconstruct the bone to its normal state and alleviate all the pressure on my brain. It would take a long time, and it would be very risky. Even with this surgery there would be no guarantees on the affects of the brain damage and trauma. They just wouldn’t know until I was recovered. I was in ICU for 5-7 days waiting for the swelling to go down enough for the procedure. They doctors were comfortable with moving forward with the procedure and scheduled the operating room for the next morning. That afternoon I had preliminary scans done to show the current state of what was going on underneath what was still swollen.
By this time the whole family had gathered for the surgery. Everyone was there, cousins, aunts’ uncles, grandparents. Even my grandpa that lived in Alaska made the trip. I was playing the game rooms not concerned about this upcoming surgery in the least bit. The doctors gathered my family in my hospital room and told them the news. “We don’t know how this happened. It is nothing short of a miracle. The bone structure seams to have corrected itself. We will not need to follow through with the procedure at this time.”
As you can imagine, celebration broke out. Everyone was happy and laughing and clapping. It was great news and a cause for celebration! My grandpa took everyone out for dinner that night. I’m not sure what it is called but that was the first time I ever had that ice cream that they bring to you set on fire! It was so cool, but honestly, I thought they would burn the place down with the fire and all.
As I write all this I can’t help but be totally distracted by this thought of “miracle”. A miracle is often described as something that happens that wouldn’t have happened without outside interference. I.e. God. Right? So, it was no question that my recovery and the crazy straightening of my skull was nothing short of a miracle. The big moment. The moment when there wasn’t going to be a surgery. The moment where my 9-year-old body kept breathing. Everybody can agree on those miracle moments. Here’s the reality of my miracle. I did not have to have surgery, but I did have to make weekly trips over the mountain for MRI’s and CAT scans. I didn’t have to have surgery, but it would be several weeks before I could return to school. I wasn’t having surgery, but I also wasn’t living. Still a miracle? I would say yes, but that’s the point.
How often do we miss out on our miracles because there is still some leg work? How often do we close our eyes to divine providence because it doesn’t look miracle-y enough for me? How many miracles do we miss because we simply can’t see though our circumstances? How many miracles do we miss because we can’t see past the right now? Considering this how much more should we trust God? Infinitely and abundantly more!
A few years ago, I had the pleasure of hearing a message live from Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke. He told a story of him as a young boy and some of the trails and difficulties he and his family faced coming oversees from Germany during the war. After he told the epic tale of cannons and capsizing he made an ah-ha inspired moment for me. He said he was not overcome, in extraordinary circumstances, because his “needle had been threaded”. What he meant by that was that God had already him in mind for a specific purpose. What the enemy meant for evil, God used for good. He spared Bonnke in extraordinary circumstances that should have claimed his life and everyone else aboard the ship he was traveling on, but God.
I too believe that my “needle is threaded”. This story is just the first of extraordinary circumstances that should have claimed me but didn’t. My case was called a miracle. I made a full recovery without one single procedure. It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. I still had to be very careful. There was uncertainty at what might happen if I was to become sick. I couldn’t go to school for quite some time following my release from the hospital. Wasn’t allowed to be baptized in the river for fear of bacteria possibly getting in my nose. God performed a miracle in sparing my life that day. He performed another one when he fixed my skull. He continued to shine his glory all through this accident. They said I would never smell, I can, very well I might add. They said I would never taste, I can do that as well, very well. They said there would be learning disabilities and personality defects, I was an A and B student, the personality, well that depends who you ask. Ha-ha. But in all seriousness, I have zero effects or defects from that accident. It was not yet my time, for my needle has been threaded and I have a job to do.