Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Anniversary of My Second Chance at Life

Speeding along some back country roads, my mind replayed the events of that morning. The previous day I had been given a proposal. Confused about what I should do, I sought advice from the Lord during my morning Bible reading and prayer time. As my devotions progressed I felt a pressing need to get as close to the Lord as possible. I prayed and prayed and prayed. I desperately wanted to walk through those pearly gates, run down those streets of gold described in Revelation 21, and see Jesus face to face. I didn’t want to be on the outside looking in! I knew I had unconfessed sin in my life and a real struggle ensued. I felt as though there were a deep, black chasm separating me from my Lord and it frightened me. Finally, I prayed, “Lord, whatever it takes to get me into your kingdom, let it be done. To be with You is the only thing I really want.” After several hours the struggle was over and I had peace.

My mind changed gears a little as I thought of all the work I needed to do at the school where I was employed. It was Winter Break. The kids were on vacation and I needed to go prepare for their return.

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The road gently wove its way between pastures of grazing cows as I sped towards the school. I loved driving this road. The scenery always had a calming effect on me. Today it seemed especially beautiful as the afternoon sunlight spilled across the rain-drenched fields. With peace in my heart, I happily hummed a little tune as I slowed to cross the railroad tracks. I reached down to adjust the temperature, glancing up just in time to see my car heading towards the edge of the road. Panicked, I yanked the steering wheel in the opposite direction. My car careened towards the other side of the road as I slammed on the brakes and made a desperate, but futile, attempt to gain control of my car.

Helplessly, my car skidded along the muddy shoulder until it crashed broadside into an embankment. The sudden impact catapulted my car into a roll and, since my car was equipped with only a shoulder harness, I was tossed about inside like a rag doll on a roller-coaster. Sounds of screaming metal and breaking glass filled my ears as I was flung repeatedly between steering wheel and roof, door and seat. The shoulder harness, designed to be my protection, now became a noose--hanging me and snapping my neck.

Icy fear flooded through me as I twisted and tumbled out of control. The peace I had experienced only moments before vanished with my screams. I was going to die and all the demons of hell seemed to be mocking my fate. “Oh, God!” I cried, “Help me!”

Through the chaos came peace and the reassurance of my Heavenly Father’s care. I heard no audible sound, no rolling thunder in the skies, just that still, small voice, I had learned to recognize, delivering assurance to His battered child. "I will take care of you! In just a moment, you are going to come out of this car. The car will roll away without you. Be still. Everything is going to be okay."

I relaxed and in a few moments a mouthful of dirt and rock confirmed the silent message. Somehow, while my car somersaulted across the gravel, I was neatly deposited onto the ground. I can only imagine how the angels must have orchestrated such a tidy departure from such an erratic vehicle without loss of life or limb on my part.

Free from the car, I continued to roll along the gravel, finally coming to a stop on my left side. Suddenly, everything was completely still. The cacophony of the crash was replaced by the chirruping of birds and the gentle sighing of the wind. I slowly opened my eyes and gazed at the battered automobile, now motionless, just a few yards away. On its wheels again, it had a shattered windshield and dented roof. From my position on the ground, I could see nothing else.

Lying on the cold ground, my body trembled slightly and it seemed I could not move. For a split second, I felt trapped inside myself. “But, Lord,” I prayed, “I don’t think paralysis is in your plan for me.” I had always felt called to work with children. I couldn’t understand how paralysis would fit in. Then I remembered my prayer from that morning. Lord, whatever it takes to get me into your kingdom, let it be done. To be with You is the only thing I really want.“ Alright, Lord, if this is Your will for me…”

I wanted to get up off the cold, damp gravel! It was December and I was not wearing a jacket! But I could not move.

I decided to check what parts of me I could. I moved both eyes, wiggled my nose, ran my tongue over my teeth to see if they were all there, and continued to spit out gravel. I tried to move my fingers. First one finger and then another. Finally, all ten fingers were waving in the air. Everything seemed fine, but what about the lower parts of me? Was I bleeding anywhere? Did I have any broken bones? Why did my left hip hurt so badly? I just had to look. “On the count of three,” I thought, “I’ll survey the damage.” Using every ounce of strength I could muster, I lifted my head and shoulders and glanced downward towards where the rest of my body lay. Did that tangle of legs and torn clothing really belong to me? The sharp pain in my neck quickly forced me back to the prone position.

I tried to move my toes. Although a little numb, they did move. I breathed a sigh of relief. It wasn’t God’s plan for me to be paralyzed after all. But why couldn’t I get up? I needed to get up!! I was cold and I was hurting and I needed help. The lonely road held no promise of any passing cars in the near-distant future nor did I know if anyone passing would even see me and stop. “Lord?” I prayed, “You’re going to have to help me now, because I can’t help myself!”

Minutes ticked silently by. Above me, grey clouds gathered. Below me, the ground gave off a steady chill. I shivered and strained my ears for sounds of anything other than bird songs. I waited and I prayed, comforted by the knowledge that my God was only a whisper away.

Then I heard it! The distant, blessed roar of a car engine! I held my breath as the rumble drew closer. Oh, joy! Someone was coming to help me! Through the corner of my eye, I watched the road in anticipation. A burgundy SUV whizzed into view and passed without slowing. My heart just sank. “God?!” I cried. “They didn’t see me!” But my prayer was interrupted by the sounds of squealing brakes, slamming doors, and footsteps running towards me.

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“She’s alive!” a lady knelt beside me and breathlessly asked if there was anything she could do to help while a man dialed 9-1-1 on his cell phone. By now, the burning in my hip was unbearable and I asked that she roll me over onto my back to help ease the pain. “Honey,” she responded sweetly, “I know you hurt, but I’m not going to touch you right now.” She retrieved a blanket from the car and tenderly covered me with it. A second car pulled over and a volunteer fire-fighter bent over me. Soon, sirens were blaring, lights were flashing and I was surrounded by first-aid personnel.

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At the hospital, x-rays revealed a broken odontoid process (second vertebra) in my neck and a dislocated left hip. It was too much for the little, country hospital to handle. I would be sent to a trauma center an hour-and-a-half’s drive away. A helicopter was called while they secured my head to the backboard I was lying on. As I was being wheeled out to the helipad a nurse began dialing my parents’ number. “Please, God, be with Mom and Dad. Let them know I’m going to be alright. Don’t let them worry.”

We rose gently into the night sky. The rocking of the chopper made me feel as though I were being rocked in the arms of my Heavenly Father Himself. I was at peace. Looking out into the starry splendor I identified a few familiar constellations. Then I closed my eyes as Bible verses flooded my mind. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me…” (Psalm 23:4). “For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, saith the Lord, thought of peace, and not of evil…” (Jeremiah 29:11). “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are the called according to his purpose,” (Romans 8:28). "I know, Lord," I prayed, "and I trust You."

Bright lights glared down at me in the trauma center’s emergency room. A nurse took a blood sample. Someone else began taking my blood pressure. My eyes darted back and forth trying to follow all the activity.
“Hello, I’m your neurosurgeon and what we have here is…”
“Hi! I’m your orthopedic surgeon and I’m going to be…”
“Margaret, are you allergic to…”
“Hi there, my name is Doctor…”
“You’ll only feel a slight prick and…”

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Through all the commotion I noticed a clock on the wall across the room. It was 7:45 pm. Prayer Meeting had just started at my church back home. I knew that at that very moment people were praying for me. I was going to be just fine! A smile stretched across my face from ear to ear. “Hey,” one of the doctors looked at me, “what are you so happy about?” I laughed. “I’m just thankful!”

The next few hours are a blur in my memory bank, thanks to the drugs I was given. Two or three people held my upper body as still as possible while the orthopedic surgeon yanked, pulled, and finally popped my dislocated hip back into place – without further damaging my cervical fracture. Not an easy task. During the process, some pieces of my pelvic bone broke off and lodged in my hip joint requiring surgical removal.

At last the drama was over, and I was wheeled into the recovery room. I knew I was not alone. God was there. He had held my hand throughout the ordeal, constantly reassuring me of His presence. The angels had worked silently, behind the scenes, making sure everything went as it was supposed to. I was surrounded by unseen beings and I was at peace. Quietly, though, I began to realize that I was becoming surrounded by very visible beings as well.

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“Margie?” Mom and Dad reached out to me. Friends and family slowly filled the room, coming to my bedside to tell me they loved me and squeeze my shoulder or pat my head. They had driven long distances to be there for me when I needed them most. God had carried me through and now He gave me the icing on the cake – the human touch! At last, I wept. What an awesome Heavenly Father I have!

Today is my sixteenth anniversary of my second chance at LIFE! Thank You, Father, for this amazing gift.