On August 18, 2013, I suddenly felt dizzy. It had been a nice Sunday afternoon. I remember that the sun was shining through the dining room windows and my cats were curled up on the couch. It had been a good day, because I had spent the day in prayer.
I spent the day in prayer for many reasons. I felt disconnected from God and disconnected from people. I prayed earnestly for God to do whatever he needed to do to help me to reconnect with Him. About 20+ years earlier I had been a devoted follower of Christ. I had picked up my life in North Carolina and moved it to Washington DC to be part of a church expansion.
Back in those days I remember my faith soaring, and I was an eager witness about Christ. But somewhere along my journey I was disillusioned by the death of my mother and failed relationships. I became a legalistic Christian and lived a life of drudgery. I eventually turned myself back over to the world and all its enticing lies about where happiness comes from.
But on this beautiful August day in 2013, after such an earnest day of prayer, I felt an incredible resolve. I felt free. I felt lighter. And that’s when I decided to have a bite to eat. I simply went to the refrigerator and a sense of dizziness hit me. The next time I opened my eyes my view of the world, my attitude towards God and people, and the things I treasured most in my life, were forever altered.
For anyone who’s ever fainted, you know something is off because your world begins to shake. I’ve never experienced an earthquake, but I imagine the quaking I felt in my body would be likened to a tremor. Sometime later I opened my eyes and my whole body was tingling. Nothing below my shoulders moved. All I could see were ceiling tiles and I felt completely disoriented. Somewhere between the refrigerator and the floor I had fallen backwards and snapped the C3 vertebrae in my neck.
My whole body was tingling and I knew I was paralyzed. I thought to myself, okay – this is how it is. I was in and out of consciousness for the next day and a half. When I was awake, I spent time praying and reciting bible passages that I had memorized for challenging life moments – although I never expected a life moment like this one. And please don’t think I’m a spiritual giant. I was terrified, and this was all I knew to do. My coworker came the morning of the second day with the police. The door was broken down and I was found lying on the kitchen floor, close to death.
Prior to the fall I had just returned from a vacation in Cancun a few months earlier and had kept up my tan via the tanning bed. My hair was streaked with blonde from the Mexican sunshine and $200 highlights at the salon. I worked out. I took walks. I had been athletic most of my life and so I was fit and muscular. I had a closet full of clothes, a bunch of new furniture, a new car, friends, and a close-knit family.
I seemed to have it all together on the outside, but inside I had been groaning. I felt a yearning that could not be satisfied. Unbeknownst to the world, I was at the bottom of a dark pit and didn’t know how to climb out. And I wouldn’t ask for help. Little did I know I was getting ready to take a journey with God that would teach me how to claw out of that pit and live victoriously. When I woke up in the ICU a few days later, I suddenly had a desperate need for friends and family and a relationship with God.
After a long hospitalization, I lived in a nursing facility. My family members didn’t feel they could provide adequate care so this was the only alternative. After having such a carefree, independent, active lifestyle, I was suddenly completely dependent on the nursing staff to live.
Prior to the accident, I was on only one medication. In my new normal I swallowed 20 pills throughout the day. The staff was responsible for everything. They took care of my personal hygiene. They dressed me. They exercised me. To move me from the bed to the wheelchair they had to use something like a human forklift. Even today, it makes me feel humiliated to be lifted in that thing.
I was distraught and angry for the first couple of years. Thanks to the support of friends and women who I consider to be spiritual mentors, I came to believe that God had a greater purpose in this than what I could see; yet maneuvering through each individual day and through an odyssey of emotions of was a trial. Sometimes I found myself asking God, can we skip all these days of suffering and just get to the end of my journey?
Losing the things I thought made up my identity—my home, my job, my physical appearance, all of my material possessions, was an adjustment I was not prepared to face. Learning to live life in a facility with 24-hour dependence on others was also frustrating and degrading. Over time, I have learned to accept these things and to be grateful I’m in good hands.
In the first year I allowed myself to believe that maybe God had deserted me. In fact, I had some devastating things happen during that time and found myself asking God, what good is all of this? I was bitter and filled with rage. I was angry at God and angry at people. I lashed out at the nursing facility staff, and I lashed out at my family.
Thanks to modern technology and computer software, in the second year I started using voice-recognition software that allowed me to search for answers in the bible, write a blog about my life, and connect with people through social media. At that time I also opened up my heart to God and began to pray differently. My prayers were raw and real and searching for answers. As a result, I finally gained some positive perspective on my quadriplegia.
There are still days when I just want to give up and wish I could disappear from this earth. But there are more days when I’m filled with gratitude knowing that this injury has allowed me to have a relationship with God on a much deeper level. I believe my life has a purpose, if I can just live victoriously one day at a time.
I talked with a dear friend and spiritual mentor of almost 30 years about healing. She taught me that healing comes to us in different ways. When I was able-bodied I tried to heal my emptiness and lack of self-worth with things of this world, and I never felt at peace. Now that I have no worldly crutches and I am completely reliant on God, I have a sense of peace and completeness that I didn’t know was possible. All of this healing has come because of my injury.