Daniel J Vance

Except for the pseudonyms used, the story I’m about to tell is true. I know it’s true because my wife personally knows the people. For several reasons, they just didn’t want to reveal their real names.

In December, 2009, 20-year-old John (not his real name) was driving rain-slicked roads to work in a Kentucky group home helping people with traumatic brain injury. His car hydroplaned off the road and into a tree.


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“He was knocked out at the scene,” said John’s mother, 59-year-old Gretchen (a pseudonym), in a telephone interview. “A chaplain met us at the hospital and I saw (John) briefly before a helicopter flew him to a hospital in another state. They didn’t think he’d live.”

While driving to the other state to see their son, Gretchen and her husband began calling everyone they knew to begin praying.

“The neurologist said (John) looked very bad and had a brain stem injury,” said Gretchen. “He was on a ventilator. They said the next day his condition would worsen because his brain would swell from the trauma.”

Only weeks before, John had said if he were ever in such a condition, he would want his organs donated. Now the neurologist was saying John’s brain “was like a bowl of jello in a glass bowl that had been dropped on a concrete floor,” said Gretchen, “and there were bits of glass in his brain. They suggested we donate his organs. They said he’d just lay in a coma 20-40 years.”

But Gretchen resisted. She sensed God telling her everything would be all right. She was a registered nurse and respiratory therapist, and when John was placed in a nursing home without any physical therapy because he could not be rehabilitated, doctors said, she took it upon herself to rehabilitate him.

Said Gretchen, “Ninety-four percent of people in his condition don’t live because of the brain stem being so affected. He had clots all over his brain and had brain shear. They said he’d never be all right. He couldn’t control his temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure.”

Perhaps Gretchen and her husband also thought long and hard about what had happened to Terri Schiavo.

If anyone could help him, it was Gretchen. She had the professional background, love for her son, and had people praying, including my wife. Next week, read what became of John.

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