Thursday, February 11, 2010

Can't Get Over It, Can't Get Around It., Must Live Through It.

I mentioned in a post last week about my deep, unshakable faith. It crossed my mind when I typed it that my declaration might sound arrogant, that is, unless you knew the source of that faith and the experience from which it grew. So, I've decided to tell you. What you are about to read actually happened, and is 100% true to the best of my knowledge and memory (and I remember it vividly!). I have not changed any names.

I was 13. A new Christian, though I grew up in church, I had just made a decision to give my life to Jesus Christ. It was Spring Break, early April, 1983. Our Jr. High youth group left on a one week singing tour to Idaho. We left after church service on Sunday night, to drive all night to Idaho. I don't remember how many people went, only the vehicles we took; a charter bus, a 15 passenger church van, and a Ford Bronco. I rode in the van with 13 other kids and our choir director, Sheri. The Bronco was driven by our youth pastor, KAB, with him 1 sponsor, Jim, and the 2 children of another sponsor, Kiki (6) and Jimmy (4). Kiki's and Jimmy's mom rode in the bus along with the rest of the kids and sponsors.

It was snowing.

During the night as the roads got more and more treacherous, the bus, having greater traction than the smaller vehicles, went on ahead at a faster pace. The van and the Bronco stuck together making our way much more slowly over the icy roads. Having experienced some carsickness, I was dozing on the floor between the front seats. At about 2 am Sheri shouted, "The Bronco just rolled!"

She pulled the van off the side of the road and backed slowly until we came back to the accident. A couple of semi drivers that had seen the accident also pulled over to offer help and radioed emergency services in Rock Springs, Wyonming about 20 miles away. The Bronco had hit a patch of black ice and lost control, rolling several times until it came to rest upside-down on the far side of the oncoming lanes. Truckers were helping KAB and Jim out of the Bronco. Neither were injured, both were shaken up. Little Jimmy was there, he had several cuts but was awake.

There was no sign of Kiki.

They had not been wearing seat belts (which wasn't uncommon those days) and she'd been ejected from the vehicle. For 20 minutes or longer (it really seemed like an eternity) they searched the highway, median and shoulders on both sides, up and down, using the headlights of trucks and flashlights available. It became increasingly clear that Kiki would most likely be found under the overturned Bronco. The band of truck drivers that had stopped to render aid gathered around that Bronco and somehow lifted it or rolled it enough to get under it. There they found her. Dead.

Someone had a board, they slid her onto it. They took her to a truck where KAB performed CPR and tried to warm her body. The ambulance arrived. Following the ambulance we picked our way carefully along the icy roads to a little hospital in Rock Springs. After a long wait KAB came out to tell us what was going on. It was beyond grim.

Kiki had major head trauma. Her injuries so severe that IF she were to survive she would live in a vegetative state at best. Her arm, several vertebrae, and some ribs were broken. The ribs had punctured her lungs, one of them had collapsed. I makes me nauseous to remember.

For awhile I sat across from KAB in the lobby as we waited for more news. He was in shock. His eyes were glazed over and he stared at nothing. There was blood still in his mustache from when he'd done CPR on Kiki. He kept shaking his head in disbelief that he could be living this nightmare. I'll never forget the look in his eyes. Occasionally he would slip behind the yellow curtain where she was, and emerge a few minutes later looking even worse.

Eventually, the hospital found an empty conference room for us kids to crash in. Most slept. I did not. I prayed. In my youth and naivete, not realizing that sometimes God answers prayer with a "No", I prayed for a miracle. I prayed that God would heal Kiki, completely. That she would live a normal, healthy, conscious life. All night, what was left of it, I prayed.

The next morning, around 8 am. there was still no change in Kiki. The decision was made to "Life Flight" her to Salt Lake City where she could receive better care. The Utah State Patrol had located the charter bus en route to Idaho to inform Kiki's mom of the accident and redirect them to the hospital in Salt Lake. During the night the church had also been notified of the accident and more vehicles were sent to transport the sound and lighting equipment that had been in the back of the Bronco. Little Jimmy had some stitches and was kept overnight for observation. A few of us got to go up to his room to visit him. Later that afternoon, when the extra vehicles arrived we loaded up and headed toward Salt Lake City. KAB was anxious to talk to Kiki's mom. I'm sure he was feeling the weight of what happened.

We went onto Idaho, leaving Kiki and her mom in Salt Lake, to rejoin the rest of our group. The next day, after having rested, KAB called a meeting with everyone. He wanted to share with us what had happened to Kiki on the flight to Salt Lake City. We were all very anxious for news.

to be continued...