“November 26, 2016-April 11, 2017, is the time of a miracle I’ll never forget. I don’t remember the beginning of it though…
The day before was Thanksgiving. My companion missionary and I were at a church member’s home with many other members of their family for dinner. It was a good meal and a great day. I remember the meal in the backwoods location in Pride, Louisiana. I remember the warm sun and the warm atmosphere of those loving, happy people… then I remember being in a hospital bed with doctors telling me I’m well enough to be moved from the ICU. By this point, my brain could begin keeping memories again.
I remember feeling peace about it, that it is part of God’s plan for me. Family and friends from home and members of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints everywhere. My family and many people were shaken and weren’t sure I was going to make it. It was very humbling for us.
After beginning physical, speech, and occupational therapies, my companion and my replacement visited me again with other missionaries. It had been two weeks since the day after Thanksgiving when I was hit off my bike from behind by a car going around 55 miles per hour. I heard from my sister I was upset by the accident when I first woke up from the induced coma. She said I was angry with whoever it did it.
One time, my family in southern Utah called and my uncle walked in, he is the spittin’ image of John Wayne. As soon as I saw him on the phone, my family says I called out, ‘There he is, John Wayne! Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.’ My uncle couldn’t stop laughing at this, and the rest of my family laughed too — they also kind of think he looks like John Wayne. When I was coming out of the coma, I didn’t have any short-term memory, so most of how I was acting was based on memories I already had. The different things that triggered those memories caused me to react accordingly, hence why my uncle reminded me of a quote by John Wayne.
From my mission president, I heard I was quite the clown. I was unable to fully comprehend I had a traumatic brain injury, and thus, I was immensely unable to serve God in the regular missionary routine. I was oblivious, assuming I shouldn’t be wasting time and needed to get out of the hospital. Dad and Mom, who visited me a few days after the accident all the way from Nevada, said I told the doctors and nurses I loved them for their help.
There was a time when a nurse came in to do some bloodwork. On my mission, I was learning to love people despite any hard things they put you through. She stuck my arm with a needle to draw blood. My dad says this is how I reacted: I said, ‘Thank you.’
The nurse replied, ‘You’re welcome.’
‘What’s your name?’
‘Judy? I love you.’
My parents got a kick out of that one.
I remember finally understanding things, then feeling overwhelmed with gratitude for the people who had been helping me. It brought a lot of optimism for my recovery. President Hansen, my mission president, gave me a priesthood blessing so I would make a miraculous recovery and return to my mission to complete it. So much promise had been put into this recovery, I felt hope.
My brother set up a GoFundMe account on Facebook; a lady in Louisiana, Brittany Malone, made a Facebook page about this; LDS Living asked for an article, and news about the accident spread rapidly. Money was donated, many people messaged my parents letting them know they were praying for me and they believed in me and God was helping me. One time, during recovery, I was very weak from exercise and rebuilding my strength. I had managed to make breakfast for my parents consistently and spend breakfast with them. On this day, I felt so tired I hardly got out of bed except to use the bathroom. Mom saw this, and she made the same breakfast I had been making for them and brought it in my room on a tray for me to eat. She told me, ‘You should take a break, you’re doing great! I love you.’ I was greatly touched by this.
A member of the church in my hometown was a physical therapist. He took me on and was very kind to me in my efforts to get stronger again. He encouraged me all the time, saying I was a rockstar and I was recovering fast. He not only helped me get stronger but helped me believe in myself. It was overwhelming to have so many people reach out to me from all parts of the world, some of them not even knowing how to speak English, but wishing me well. Australia, Germany, Brazil, Mexico, to name a few of their countries. On several occasions, it had me in tears as I expressed gratitude in prayer.
It feels like rain. It feels like a giant monster cloud is finally dropping drops, sheets, even buckets of water on you, then you smile because you know it’s the weather you get before rays of sunshine gloriously brighten the joy you feel from the stormy experience you’ve just had. It’s peaceful. This is where I find myself unlike many others.
I know the experience I gain in life is a part of God’s plan and sometimes, especially when I was going through this, I would imagine God talking with my guardian angels. ‘Hey fellas, this is gonna be a rough blow, don’t let him remember this…’ ‘Yeah, I don’t think I’d wanna remember that either…’ I don’t remember the accident at all.
One thing I do remember is being drastically sensitive from the recovery. People around the world had heard of my accident: they reached out over social media platforms to let me know they were praying for me, that my surgeries would go well, that they were happy to hear my therapists were helping as much as they were, and so on. Night after night, I would cry because people who didn’t even know how to speak English were wishing me well. No. There was too much support from everywhere, so I believed and knew it would be impossible for me to not make it. I knew I would, I just had to pace myself and work at it.
I have a vivid memory of being on my knees, tired from the physical therapy I had done that day. I was back in Elko, leaning on a comfortable bed. I was happy I would soon have the piece of skull the doctors removed from my head replaced. I remember opening my prayer to God, then pausing as the thought of people praying for me flooded my mind. The love of such people overwhelmed me, and tears streamed from my eyes.
Remember those guardian angels I told you about? The ones who God works with to help me? I don’t believe the only help you get when you face a life-changing experience comes from the people you see. I know and believe there are people you don’t see, who don’t live on earth, who are mindful and helping as well. Heaven is real. I haven’t seen it or anybody who lives there, but it is just as real to me as this accident I don’t remember.
Don’t go faster than you have strength!!! You will recover and you will be able to do things again. I know sometimes your injury or what you went through leaves scars or conditions that don’t fully heal, but that doesn’t mean you should give up your dreams! A blind man climbed Mount Everest; someone a long time ago was the first to break a four-minute mile after everyone told him it was impossible; average and broken people set goals EVERY DAY and accomplish not just great but MIRACULOUS things!
It doesn’t matter the odds; it doesn’t matter what science and being realistic says. If God gives you a dream, He has a reason why. He will help you see it come true. So, dream big! Let your hopes soar heavenward and believe! Believe in yourself, and if you can’t do that, believe in God! Your life is what you make it to be. Get the most you can.
My main goal is to become a father. I want to raise kids to believe and hope and run towards their dreams. I hope to be a manager of a hotel. I hope to be a performing pianist whenever I can manage. I’m engaged to one of the most amazing people I’ve ever known, Amanda Conrad. I’m in school for music. I’m working in a hotel as we speak. Life is what you make it!”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Landon Howe. You can follow him on Facebook. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
Read more stories about TBIs here:
‘Ginger ale slowly fermented and turned into a bomb. It detonated at the exact moment she walked passed it. The force of the blast knocked her unconscious to the ground.’: Woman suffers traumatic brain injury after freak accident
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