01/22/2013: Lori Fowler
2 Corinthians 1:3 – 5
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows
Isaiah 43:1 – 3a
But now, this is what the Lord says –
He who created you, O Jacob,
He who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
And when you pass through the rivers
They will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
You will not be burned;
The flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord, your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
Romans 8:26 – 28
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches out hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
On January 22, 1999, my family and I began a journey in which I became keenly aware of the Lord’s message in these verses.
When I awakened at 4:30 AM that morning, I was a mother of a 13 month old and a 1st grader. My husband, Chet, had a good job and I was the director of our church preschool. We were leaving our kids to go on our church’s adult ski retreat and have a little time away. Life was good. I had no idea what was about to unfold in approximately one hour…..
We packed and left early that Friday morning and planned to meet our fellow skiers directly at the slopes in North Carolina. About a mile from our house, however, we were involved in a horrible car accident. At the time of the impact, my husband thought that I was dead. While on the phone with 911, I began to stir and he realized that I was alive. I was, however, critically injured. The same fog and horrible weather conditions that caused the wreck made it difficult for the rescue personnel to get there as well. The life-flight helicopters were grounded. I was transported to the local hospital where they would stabilize me and transfer me to a larger facility. At the scene, it was obvious that I had something wrong with my back and I had massive head trauma. My face was mangled with deep and numerous cuts and scrapes. My left eye was already swollen shut and I had lost a lot of blood. While the paramedics were working on me and preparing me for transport, Chet lay on the ground and called out for God. He vividly remembers having a moment where he had to make a decision. He had to decide if he really believed in God and trusted Him, or if everything about God was all a lie. At that moment, he decided that no matter what, he was going to trust in the Lord…even if that meant loosing me and raising two small boys by himself. He had no idea that God Himself was already working and performing miracle after miracle.
In the accident, my seat belt failed to operate properly. The lap belt held, but the shoulder harness failed to restrain my upper body. As a result, my face hit the dash, was crushed on the left side and had severe lacerations. There were cuts everywhere, but one piece of broken plastic caused a large cut that started at my chin, went up my face, sliced through both my lower and upper eye lids, and then punctured my eye. When traveling in the ambulance to the first hospital, Chet noticed that the paramedic was spending more time stabilizing my head and working up there despite the fact that I was continuing to scream about my back. The paramedic told my husband that he was more worried about my eye because ocular fluid was seeping out and he “couldn’t find my eyeball!” My back, while probably broken, was stabilized because I was strapped and restrained to a back board.
We arrived at the hospital during the early morning shift change. We were later told that the ER doctor leaving his shift walked past me as I was being wheeled in and immediately turned around and returned to work. He was the best doctor there and knew that they would need his help due to the severity of my injuries. He was, in fact, the first person to “find” that my eye actually was still in my head, but it was damaged and out of place due to the “full orbital blow-out” to my cheek and eye socket. Although the facial injuries were extremely severe and my back was broken, the most pressing problem was that my brain was swelling and they needed to get me to a major trauma center for surgery to relieve the swelling on the brain before major brain damage occurred. The calls were made and I was to be transported to GA Baptist Medical Center in Atlanta. The helicopters were still grounded, so I would have to be stabilized and transported by ambulance. There, I would undergo brain surgery to relieve the swelling on the brain, they would have to do surgery to repair the crushed cheek and eye socket, see what could be done with my eye, and decide how to proceed with treatment for my back. It was clear that it was broken, but there was still some question about exactly what was injured and how severe it was.
By this point, there were people arriving at the hospital and word was quickly spreading. A friend who worked at the hospital actually stayed with me during all of the x-rays and scans. People, literally around the world, were praying. From missionary friends in Africa, relatives in Alaska, our church family in Ridgecrest North Carolina, and others all over Georgia, people were lifting my family up in prayer. Also at this time, my husband, who had refused any medical attention up to this point, realized that he really didn’t feel that well. He was placed in a triage room down the hall from me while the doctors attended to his injuries. It was at this point that a petite, black doctor came into the room to check on him. She spoke with him gently, let him know what was going on with me down the hallway, and asked him a few questions. During the exchange, she looked at him eye to eye and said “I know you are a man of God. You were on your way to a church retreat. Remember that God is still in control….” She quoted Jeremiah 29:11 and encouraged him to be strong.
Chet had to stay at the first hospital while they transferred me to GA Baptist. After an hour or so, however, he unplugged his IV’s and decided he had to go. He stopped by to check on our oldest son, who was at school by this time, and then went straight to GA Baptist. Upon arrival, a nurse met him and told him that “Sherry” was waiting for him. In all the confusion, this didn’t make sense to him until he was ushered into a small room where one of our best friends…..who “just happened” to be a nurse at GA Baptist…..was waiting for him. Chet was so relieved to see her and asked where I was. She told him I was in the ICU and they were sewing up my face. He was confused and asked why I wasn’t in surgery. Sherry stated that the brain swelling had stopped and they weren’t going to do surgery unless it started again. Chet was still confused and said “But her face is totally crushed…aren’t they going to do surgery on it?” Now it was Sherry who was confused. She looked at him and said “Chet, we have done a full battery of x-rays and scans. Lori doesn’t have a broken bone in her face.” “Yeah…She does.” He replied. “She has a full orbital blow-out. The entire left side cheek and eye socket are crushed. Her eye is damaged and it has dropped back in her head due to the fractures. They saw it at Walton Medical.” This was the first obvious miracle. X-rays and scans don’t lie….my face was crushed in the pictures from Walton Medical, but at GA Baptist there were no fractures. God is the only explanation for that change.
After an entire day of surgery, the doctors were able to repair my back by placing four screws and rods to stabilize the break. Again, the doctors were shocked at the severity of the damage and amazed that I could walk and function. My eye was repaired, to the shock of my plastic surgeon, and my face sewn up. I did suffer a traumatic brain injury, and did not immediately wake up after the surgery with clarity of mind. After several days, the doctors basically told my husband that I would probably be a vegetable. People were still praying, however, and God was still working. On January 30th, I “woke up” and things began to improve. I remained in the hospital and then in a rehabilitation facility for a month. On Valentine’s I came home. For the next 5 months, I attended out-patient therapy, where I learned to walk and function again. My eye returned to 20-20 vision…..which made no sense to many of the doctors considering the damage. My face began to heal and only one additional plastic surgery was needed to repair my eye. …again to the shock and awe of my plastic surgeon. It was obvious that God had performed many miracles through this trial, but there was one more.
As time went on and we slowly tried to get back into a routine, Chet began to have panic attacks and difficulties. He was eventually diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from all that he had experienced in our wreck. We were walking another path where healing was needed. But the Lord was again working. Through this process, He revealed to Chet that His plan for him was to be a Christian Counselor. Within the year, Chet had enrolled in a master’s program at Liberty University. Because his undergraduate degree was in Psychology, this process and the amount of work he was required to do was minimized. …again….a “God Thing.” Not only was he accepted to their external degree program, he excelled! Not only did he graduate with honors, God provided all of the funding! He graduated with honors. During this process, God was working in our church and the pastor decided we needed a counseling program. After 20 years in business, my husband changed careers and started the Loganville Community Ministry Village, a non-profit counseling center supported by our church.
During this process and over the years, I was very conflicted and broken trying to understand why the Lord went to such lengths to keep me on this earth. Was it for my children and husband? Did I have some greater purpose? Was there something He needed me to do? Those were questions that would not be partially revealed until years later.
Flash forward…..fifteen years later….I can truly see MANY of the miracles the Lord worked through this major life experience. They range from small miracles to unexplainable acts of God. Below are just a few:
*the cell phone worked at the accident scene, although it was totally dead when we left the house
*the best doctor on staff at the first hospital “just happened” to walk past me when he was leaving and turned around and stayed
*the “little black doctor” that talked to my husband…..we never found her…..the hospital had no idea who she was!
*the ambulance driver that transported me was a parent of one of my students
*our friend, Sherry, “just happened” to be a nurse and meet me at the hospital to make sure I saw all the best physicians
*Both my orthopedic doctor and ocular surgeon were Christians. They knew and frequently referenced who the “real healer” was through this process. The plastic surgeon, who was not a Christian, was witnessed to on multiple occasions, tried to find answers to my miraculous healing by attending conferences and talking to other physicians. 5 months later he admitted to us that God must have healed me!
*my x-rays show a crushed face at the first hospital, but no fractures at the second
*my eye was completely decimated, yet it was repaired (healed) and I have 20-20 vision….I was only 20-40 before the wreck and wore contacts!
*my face should be severely scarred and disfigured, yet it isn’t and I did not have to have multiple major surgeries. The doctors cannot explain my healing other than “God and mother nature!”
*The major cut up my face avoided the main nerve that controls that side
*I should be paralyzed, but I have fully recovered mobility and can walk
*through this experience, our oldest son was saved
*my husband received his calling and learned his purpose in life
*the Loganville Community Ministry Village has into existence
* The counseling center has become a major influence in our community growing from 1 counselor to over 13 counselors serving all facets of the community and partnering church with local government
If that wreck hadn’t happened, there were would we be? Would we truly know God? Would our family and friends? That wreck allowed 2 Corinthians 1:3 – 5 to be displayed to us by others during our accident and has allowed us to share with many others when they are in a crisis. I learned Isaiah 43:1 – 3 and know that God is always with us as we walked through this long journey, even when we feel He isn’t in control. Finally, Romans 8:26 – 28 was literally “lived out” through this accident. Fifteen years later, I am writing a devotional on it and the experience still comes up from time to time in the strangest places with people I never thought I would talk with about such an experience. No matter where you are in your walk with the Lord…..no matter what you may THINK you know and believe…..God is real…..He is in control….and He will work all things for His purposes…..He still performs miracles, we just don’t always recognize what is truly happening….you just need to be willing to trust him and be willing to go along for the ride….let’s be honest…..ultimately it’s better to be with Him in the midst of a storm than without Him lost on a pretty path!