They Didn’t Know if I Would Make It.

Steph Wagner

November 25, 2013

Today, November 25th, marks one year since our horrific car accident.

If you have been on my blog before, you likely have heard about the car accident my husband and I survived last year (we were engaged at the time). If you need to get caught up, read the blog about my injuries or even go far back to last year when my sister-in-law first posted about the accident, or when I blogged about the day my back brace came off. The stories, even today, continue to unfold. I want to caution you, this is an incredibly emotion post. If you are comfortable reading, I don’t recommend doing so in a public place. I imagine it won’t be as emotional for you to read as it is for me to write, but even if it’s a fraction as emotional for you…you’ll need some space. Why am I sharing such raw emotions? Simple. I feel called to share what the Lord has done. 

I haven’t publicly spoken yet specially about my brain injury. It’s been difficult for me to process and especially to put into words. The fact that I’m able to put it into words tells you in advance my brain is free of damage!!!!

To share more details, I’m going to use parts a journal entry my sister shared with me. I also talked with my mom about her memories to share her side of the story. You see, I have little to no memory of the early days after the accident so I’ve come to rely on the words of others to help me understand. I’m so thankful to my family for filling in the blanks for me.

November 25th, 2012 (the Sunday after Thanksgiving) at 6:50pm our Honda Accord, stopped for traffic, was struck by a Chevy truck traveling an estimated 75 mph. Mr. W was in the driver’s seat and suffered several lacerations to the face and a broken nose. I was in the passenger seat and was “pinned in her vehicle for 55 minutes until she was extricated by the Oklahoma City Fire Department by use of a hurst tool. She was then taken by Med Flight to OU Trauma Center in critical condition.”  (Source: Traffic Collision Report)

Mr. W was taken to Mercy hospital and was able to call his mom (though doesn’t remember). His parents call my parents. My Dad calls OU Trauma Center and gets the list of injuries: skull fractures, vertebrae fracture, open elbow fracture, broken ribs, collapsed lung…

My Dad calls my sisters. Notes from one of my sisters:

“She is in critical condition……… I didn’t understand what that meant.  My phone started buzzing.  It was Sarah.  She was asking me what I knew.  I didn’t know anything.  She said mom had called Jenny.  I told her I would call Jenny and see if she knew any details.  I called Jenny.  She repeated the same thing.  Steph.  Car accident.  Critical.  Induced Coma.   I didn’t know what she was saying.  I called my mom.  Dad answered.  Said something like ‘Amy.  We are going to get through this.  I spoke with someone at the ER.  She has a skull fracture…’ I went hysterical.”  

“My phone rang at 1230. {It was Mom.}  I heard sobbing on the other end of the line.  She said Steph was awake.  Brett {my brother-in-law} was there with her, holding her hand.  He had called my mom and put her on speaker.  My little sister nodded in response to her voice!  My mom said she is going to be okay.  I called Sarah.  With the relief of that news, I slept.”

“My parents had arrived in OKC at 330 am.  In their words, “it did not look good”.  Steph was still in the ER, in an induced coma.  Blood pooled in her ear from the skull fracture. I thought she was okay?  Mom said ” CT scan shows bleeding and swelling in her brain”

My mom tells of when she arrived to the hospital: “The doctor informed me you had a traumatic brain injury and the CT scan had just come back showing you had bleeding and swelling. ‘If this continues,’ the doctor tells her, ‘it will lead to permanent brain injury and brain death…only time will tell.’

(Mom): Along the way, multiple people said your recovery would be a marathon and not a sprint. In my mind this was a very, very long recovery with a brain injury. We just didn’t know what that meant. It was a totally wait and see. I had a peace in my spirit it was all going to be okay….even though it wasn’t lining up with what the doctor said.”

My sisters and their husbands awoke early that morning to a text from my mom: ‘Don’t come. There is a machine breathing for her.  This is scary stuff.’ They arrange their plans and start their caravan drive to Oklahoma, praying fervently in different cars (with my baby nephew sleeping in one). My sisters told me later when they were told not to come they couldn’t listen, because if it were the other way around, I would be there for them. I still weep at those words. They are absolutely right.

(From my sister)” We had stopped at a gas station and Sarah jumped in my car with me while I fed Oscar.  I was on the phone with Jenny, and Scott handed Sarah her phone through the car window.  It was a text from Mom saying that you were awake.  Until that moment, we did not know if you were ever going to wake up.  We all sobbed and a weight lifted.”

We finish the drive.  Meanwhile, the world of social media starts playing an incredible role.  Posts starting being made.  Calls for prayer for Stephanie and Kevin.  Hundreds and hundreds and probably thousands of prayers going up.  I found out later that, while a prayer vigil was being held at Christ Church at 10 am, Steph’s pastor from Bridgeway Church, Sam Storms, was praying over her.”

(From my mom) “Sam Storms arrives (my pastor in OKC), just myself and you in the room. He looked so nervous and he hesitantly entered and I updated him on what to pray for. I told him what the ER doctor had said about the bleeding and swelling on your brain. He put both of his hands on your head and prayed that the Lord would heal anything that was going on. At the exact same time, the staff from our home church in Kansas City is gathered in prayer. Sam was finishing his prayer as the neurosurgeon was walking in, the one we had been waiting pins and needles on to see. He walks in and Sam walked out…just passing each other in the room.

The brain surgeon says “Well, I’m firing myself because you have no need for a brain surgeon. The bleeding is on the brain and not in the brain…it will dry up on it’s own and we’ll get her off this ventilator today” 

My sisters hear the news “We all rejoice that our prayers are being heard. Arriving at the hospital, we rush to the trauma ICU.  I see my mom, and she rushes us back.  She says excitedly ” She looks a lot worse that she is.  She is doing great”.  I pass through a curtain where I see my baby sister, but I would not have recognized her at first glance.  Sarah is in front of me.  Steph tries to move towards us  in the bed and all the medical staff stop her.  We hold her hands and sob.  She has a ventilator tube in her mouth, a feeding tube in her nose and a large brace around her neck.  Her face is very swollen.  Her eyes are clear and expressive.  She wipes my tears.  That moment I knew she was still herself.  It is just like her to try to make everyone else okay.  We spend a few minutes by her bedside before her medical staff tell us that they are going to change her into a more permanent brace.  It will be painful, and we can come back when they are done.”

 “When we step outside of her room, we are introduced to her ICU nurse, a young guy named Sam.  He smiles at us and says, “Your sister is a very lucky girl”.  I would think about that moment many times over the coming days.  I decide that she is more than lucky.  She was saved from that wreckage because of who she is… the God she loves… and who she will tell.”

And my sister knows me well. I will tell the world what he has done for us. Our story doesn’t end here…the road to healing was not simple. Although much faster than anyone would have imagined, another miracle itself! We tell this story to provide hope to those going through a season of waiting. Our family is in yet another one, as my baby nephew Brody (3 weeks old) is in the hospital with infection in his blood. He will be in the hospital for at least another few weeks and we await news of his tests to remind us of the faithful God we serve. I will be traveling to Canada a week from today to be with them and we are overwhelmed with so many emotions. One year later I am healed and will be sitting with my big sister as she sits with her baby the way she sat with me. We’ve never been promised this life would be without pain, but we are promised he is with us always.

 

Before and behind. All my love. -Steph

 

(Below is a sort of “picture gallery” of photos from last year. I have many more and still have some coming in from family and friends. I’ll only show a select few. I do have one photo that I will not share of when my brother-in-law first got to me. I’m thankful for the photo so I can see just how close to death I came, but it’s too graphic to share with you here.)

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In the ICU after being extubated (ventilator removed). I don’t remember the days of the ICU, but have lots of great stories from others!

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My Mom reading me letters that were sent and showing me a basket full of goodies sent by Christ Church in Kansas City. The out pouring of love was completely unbelievable.

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I have many photos of my favorite nurses and doctors at OU Med. This nurse stayed by my side to monitor me as he brought my sodium levels up slowly after dropping to critical low. A dangerous process. Notice my brace and the bell’s palsy on the right side of my face. I remember trying so hard to smile for this photo!

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My nieces and my aunt (who drove in with my Uncle from Kentucky and stayed for 2 weeks) playing in the waiting room with another little girl. Always making friends these two ;-)

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This picture doesn’t need words.

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The trunk of my car…now known as the Honda Accordian.

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As you can see, the angle of the hit was on the right side. I was in the right front passenger side.

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We were hit with so much force even with a 90 foot space between us and the car in front, we still hit the car ahead of us (no injuries, thank the Lord!) If we had been any closer to the cars ahead we wouldn’t have stood a chance.

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You can slightly see where they needed to use the “jaws of life” to cut me out of the car.

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All this picture makes me think of is Before and Behind. The wreckage stops right when it gets to the places we were seated.

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In 24 years of towing cars, he had never seen a car like this with survivors.

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Did I mention my Brother-in-Law was able to save several of the wedding items I had purchased on Black Friday? The ties the men wore in our wedding, the purple lace dress I wore in our engagement pictures and the rehearsal dinner, the shoes I wore in my wedding. All these items mean way more than I even knew possible.

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8 thoughts on “They Didn’t Know if I Would Make It.”

  1. How great is our God (another song I love)! I too love the Chris Tomlin song you mentioned as well – it seems to pop up on the radio right when I need to hear it. Thank you for sharing – I know it has not been an easy thing to do. You probably have no idea how many people have been blessed by your story. Be blessed! – Karen from Georgia. :)

  2. Well dang……I should have listened to you when you said “if you read this try not to be in a public place because it is very emotional.” Well I didn’t take your advice and read it at work. LOL crying of course, moved by the beauty of the story and the truth that God is always with us.

    Now everyone at work is asking “Are you ok?” JEEZ….next time I will take your advice and read it behind closed doors!

    God Bless you and your family! I hope you and your hubby enjoy your very first married Thanksgiving and Christmas together!!!

    Much love – Erin

  3. The photo “Before and Behind” is quite impressive. I am asking the following not to question your faith but for information in case I ever purchase another vehicle. How much of this phenomenal pattern of wreckage was God and how much was Honda? You know, if you sent Honda company this picture, they might put you in a commercial, too. A commercial for Honda safety. They might pay you a lot of money–couldn’t hurt? And I also feel blessed to know you; you are the angel over my temple.

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