A year ago today, I was changed forever. It would be impossible, utterly impossible, to write down the whole episode exactly how I want it recorded, just as it would be impossible to explain all that I have personally learned since that cold, fall night.
But I will attempt to at least recount some of that awful, yet glorious day of my life. Or, as it was, the first day of the rest of my life.
Yes, it was a cold, yet lovely fall evening. Josh, Coley, Makayla, and I were all a part of Social Circle's community play, it was our fourth year being a part of it. We always enjoyed our time at the theatre, and this time around was no different. It was the sixteenth of October, and that very night was going to be the opening night of the play! We were all very excited! Us four young'uns had to get there early for roll call, so we loaded up in my Durango and headed towards the town of Social Circle. I was driving us there, and Mama was planning on meeting us there at show time. I remember that we were all very giddy, because there was a mixture of excitement and nervousness, a result of all plays and opening nights I suppose. We found a good Country song on the radio, and sang along as we drove on to the theatre.
I don't remember much of this evening, but I do remember some. I know that the show went really well, and we all had a wonderful time. I do remember one thing very distinctly, however. After the show, right after I had changed and we were about to leave, a woman came up to me. This was a lady I did not know and had never even seen before. She had been talking to Mama and then came straight for me. She boldly blessed me, and encouraged me in some things I was going through at the time. I was stunned. Here was a lady who didn't even know me, and she, after talking to mama for only a few minutes, was speaking God's blessings over me. And I was blessed. I was so touched by her words and I was so encouraged. It truly was a blessing.
Well, after this remarkable moment, I headed outside with my family. The plan was for me to take Joshua to Victory Baptist Church in Loganville. They were having a function, and some of our friends had invited him. Mama would go ahead and head home, and take Coley and Makayla with her, since it was so late already.
We got out to our vehicles and exchanged all our hugs and kisses and 'I love you's".
Makayla asked if she could ride with me and Josh out to Loganville. We said that she really needed to get home and get to bed instead. I am so glad she didn't ride with us. So glad. Just another piece of the providential plan...
Well, Josh and I loaded up and drove away, en route to Loganville....and to so much more that we would have never been able to imagine.
Soon enough Mama got home with Makayla and Coley, and pulled into the garage. Before getting out, even before they opened any doors, Mama said she felt like she needed to pray for mine and Josh's protection. And so they did. They prayed for God to keep His hedge of pretection around us while we were on the road and to keep His angels encamped around us. They prayed. And God heard them.
Meanwhile, and later we learned it was at the exact time they were praying, my little Dodge Durango slammed into the front of a Winder/Barrow school bus.
I don't remember much. Not much at all, I do remember a little, but it was as though I knew I was asleep, and I was dreaming I was in a car accident. It was just a bad dream, and I knew I would wake up. It was hazy, I remember there being lots of lights, an EMT worker, and a tremendous amount of pressure on my left leg. But that's about it. And it's all very blurry.
But, there were lots of stories I heard while I was in the hospital, so here's a little information according to other eyewitnesses.
The first people that showed up on the scene were horrified. The vehicle looked awful. They called the police and checked on us. Josh was okay, but delirious and deinitely injured in some way. They came over to me, but walked away to call Georgia State Patrol. After all, the driver was dead. She was bent underneath the steering wheel, and they couldn't get to her... but there was no respiration...and yep, no heartbeat.
Soon more people came to the scene, one of them "happening" to be a nurse. She "happened' to be riding home that night at exactly that time. She got out and came over to me and Josh. She checked me. No breathing...and yep, no heartbeat. I was gone. There was nohing she could so. She walked away. Then, something inside of her said to go back, and just try. So she obeyed. She came over to me but couldn't really get to me. The seat was now so close to the steering wheel and dash. She got another by-stander to go through the back window and pull on my seat. He pulled, and managed to get that seat back just enough to where she could grab my hair and pull me upright. She began one-hand chest compressions, and then, after some time, I let out a scream. She told me later that the scream sent a thrill through her. It meant that I was alive and that now there was some oxygen in those lungs!
Well, the medical personnel got to work. Between pumping morphine and trying to keep me calm, they worked diligently. I was so entrapped in the vehicle, that they had to obtain the extraction equipment from three different counties. It took them a full two hours to finally get me out. My left leg was so terribly swollen and the emergency brake pedal was lodged into the lower leg, it was indeed a challenge. Actually, I was just minutes away from being an amputee. I am so grateful for their determination. Forever grateful.
Once they got me out, they wheeled me over to the helicopter and life-flighted me to Atlanta Medical Center. Meanwhile, Joshua was taken to Gwinett Medical Center.
Before I was even extracted, Mama, Coley, and Makayla were at home getting ready for bed. The phone rang, and Coley saw on the caller ID that it was my cell phone. He said "Mama, it's Jess." Mama told him to go ahead and answer it, that I was probably lost. He did, and heard a voice that was not mine. He froze, and quickly handed the phone to Mama. She took it and could barely answer, because she knew something was terribly wrong. Coley ran to wake Daddy up, and very quickly they loaded up and started towards that terrible Bay Creek Church Road. Soon they arrived on the scene, and I am so sorry that they had to witness all of that, because I was still in a very bad state. But the Lord upheld them and they prayed and prayed.
They decided to drive to Atlanta Medical, to be with me, and my grandparents went to Gwinett to be with Joshua.
Well, of course I remember nothing of that, and nothing about ICU. My injuries included a concussion, broken femur, broken fibula, three broken metatarsals, a few torn extensor tendons, and a really nasty gash in my lower leg from where the brake pedal was lodged. They immediately rushed me into surgery. They rodded my femur, repaired the tendons, and cleanded all the glass and metal out of the gash.
Josh had sustained a concussion, and a gash in his head and his arm, but praise the Lord, no broken bones!
What is amazing to me is the fact that we had no internal injuries. We were indeed blessed.
Well, after a long week in ICU, they moved me to rehab. And after a long week there, I was finally able to come home. There are a million stories I could tell about the time in the hospital, all good and some funny, but there simply isn't the time or the space. One of the things that meant and still means so much to me, was all the visitors I had. Oh my goodness, I cannot begin to describe the joy that brought me. And to all of you who did visit me and got to witness me and my "out of it" state, I am so sorry. Pain and drugs can make a person so weird! ha! But in all seriousness, I cannot begin to thank each and every one of you who came.
And then there are the phone calls, the cards, the letters, the meals, the flowers, the prayer journals, the Bible verses, and the PRAYERS. God is so good. And He heard every single prayer. He blessed me beyond measure. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Each and every person who thought of me during that time, thank you. I could start listing names, but I am not even going to attempt that. All I know is I could never adequately share my appreciation and my joy.
So here it is, a year later. I am whole. Josh is whole. Our family is whole. And God is good. And He still would have been good had he taken me or Josh. Yes, even then. But I am thankful that we are still here. Still alive, still breathing, and still we have the opportunity to live out our lives for His glory. He ain't finished with us yet. What a remarkable miracle, And what a lesson. We are only one heartbeat away from eternity. Be ready.
And in all things, Praise the LORD!
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