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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

My Journey: Twenty Years Later

By Diane Walker Gifford
Nov. 27, 2011

June 13, 1991, was a day that changed my life forever.

Following the Wednesday night service at church, my husband, Don, and I had invited our pastoral staff, board members and wives to our home for birthday cake. The next day would mark my 36th birthday and we were excited to take the youth to King’s Island, an amusement park near Cincinnati. We left early that Thursday, our van carrying our family and three youth. Two other vans followed.

We stopped to eat and change drivers, which put me behind the wheel. Traveling on I-74 near the Indiana-Ohio line, our van hit the back of a maintenance truck carrying 55-gallon drums. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the accident happened around 11:30 a.m. as road crews were in the passing lane painting highway lines. No one remembers a warning truck — or that the construction area was even marked.

Everyone in the van was left unconscious. I don’t remember the impact, being cut from the van using the Jaws of Life, or being transported by helicopter. I have no recollection of the accident at all. I do briefly remember waking up in the emergency room and seeing our youth pastor’s wife, Shari. She has a voice like an angel, and I asked her to sing.

The whole day remains a blur, but amid the circumstances the Lord was there. I woke up unable to breathe because of a collapsed lung, after having undergone three surgeries. I laid in traction with glass imbedded in my back. My injuries included a broken shoulder blade, several broken ribs, and a crushed left hip and pelvis. My left knee and right ankle were also crushed.

People who came to my hospital room didn’t recognize me. My husband had been told that our 5-year-old daughter, Megan, might not live, but this information wasn’t shared with me. I was unaware of my family’s injuries. Then 10 doctors circled around my hospital bed and told me I would probably never walk again. At that moment I wanted to die.

A week later I was transported by ambulance to the Indianapolis Methodist Hospital trauma center. After a month I was sent home by ambulance. A hospital bed had been installed in our family room.

Nurses took care of me during the day, while my husband and the kids took the night shift. Family came in from out of state as well. Our Kokomo (Ind.) New Life Church family was incredible, bringing meals for nine weeks and helping with whatever we needed.

Fast forward to today. Twelve surgeries have put me back together. I feel like the “Indiana District Bionic Woman,” complete with hardware. Our daughter Megan did not die, but was healed of all internal injuries.

My husband and our other children all sustained injuries and recovered. The two other students in our van had minimal injuries. I laid in a reclining wheelchair for a number of weeks before I could even sit up in a wheelchair. The Saturday night when I stood and took my first steps was a moment our family will never forget!

After months of therapy and graduating to a walker, I discovered firsthand what many senior adults experience. It gave me a new perspective. Subsequent surgeries would require me to use crutches and a cane at times, as well. I had numerous contraptions, including steel rods, in my legs, and casts of many colors.

I couldn’t bathe or dress myself, bend over to pick up an object, or serve as a mother or pastor’s wife. Even the simplest activities of life were affected — I couldn’t just get in the car and go whenever or wherever I wanted. I was totally dependent on others.

Life is fragile. Long-term illness or injury is hard. A good, healthy body should never be taken for granted. I thank God for sparing our lives and protecting us. I thank God for a husband who loves me with scars. I thank God for children who remained strong in their faith. I thank God for His healing, and for gifted doctors. I thank God for everyone who called, visited, and sent cards and gifts to remind me I was the focus of their prayers.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, seeing me walk to a platform on Sunday morning to sing, or walking in the Indianapolis 5K to raise money for Speed-the-Light is what it’s all about. God doesn’t waste anything, good or bad, that comes our way. What have I learned in 20 years? Above all I have learned that no matter what, I can trust God with my life. He is Jehovah Rapha, the Healer!

DIANE WALKER GIFFORD is the administrative assistant to the superintendent of the Indiana District of the Assemblies of God. Her husband, Don, is the district superintendent.

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