As I go through life and grow and sometimes wrestle with my faith, I can’t help but give God the nod in a great many circumstances where divine providence has injected at clutch points in my life. My two memoirs Raising Dad and my Desert Storm story (need a working title) give God the glory because the things that have happened to my husband, children and me are just too numerous to be attributed to freak chance.
Sean and I are sharing another very recent experience of how God provided for us, especially in a time of a life and death crisis. Many of you know that about fourteen weeks ago, Sean and I were in a horrific motorcycle accident. I basically walked away with a badly sprained knee (still a little purple), but Sean was severely injured.
You be the judge. Was it divine providence or just a coincidence?
It was an otherwise perfect Sunday June 10th as we made our first trip as a couple on our second, new-to-us motorcycle. Biking was a rather new hobby of ours. Sean had wanted a motorcycle for years but I’ve always countered, “Isn’t being a cop dangerous enough?” Now that kids were older and we were working on doing things as a couple, not to mention he had completed the motorcycle riders’ course, I took a deep breath, said many a prayer, and learned how to be his biker babe. It was a good exercise in letting go and trusting. I prayed every time we ventured out, though.
To be honest, I enjoyed the open air, the smells of cut grass, backyard barbecues, and fragrant flowers as we wound our way through bucolic byways of our state. I’d squeeze Sean, give thanks for our time together, and think this is wild! This is so cool!
After a successful year and a half of riding on our small but dependable Honda Sabre–always wearing helmets, bike jackets and boots, never drinking, never driving stupidly–we talked about taking it up a notch and finding a bigger bike with saddle bags so we could ride off on romantic weekend trips.
Lo and behold, we spotted a 1200 cc Kawasaki Voyager motorcycle (resembling a Honda Goldwing) for sale on the lawn of a really nice guy in Essex. After doing the research and test driving, we decided to buy it. It was Day Four of ownership when I got on the back of the big bike for our first day trip together, June 10th. What a great, smooth ride and comfortable, taller passenger seat than on our former Honda! I could see over Sean and had more room for my legs. This bike seemed so much more secure because of its size, I thought.
Earlier that day we had visited friends in Killingworth, and then caught the Chester ferry east of the river to say hello to friends on the Colchester green. Our friend Melissa Schlag who was collecting signatures for her state senate campaign at the town’s fair-like gathering. Sean and I had Philly cheese steak sandwiches there, decided we’d ride off for ice cream in East Haddam.
As we approached an intersection we debated whether to go the river route or the country route to Hillside Sweet Shop. I didn’t care. Sean at the last second decided we should go the country route and took a quick left turn. Because the bike was a few hundred pounds heavier and lower to the ground than our old Honda, Sean wasn’t used to its less responsive handling. One of the pegs scraped the tar. I was unfazed as this had happened to us once before on the old bike and Sean straightened it out without issue.
Sean knew we were in trouble, but I didn’t see it coming. The bike was cruising out of his control. Trying to avoid a metal road sign on the median between Routes 149 and 151, Sean drove into the curb. I have no recollection of this, but we were both bucked off up and over the handle bars. I flew to the left and Sean to the right. The bike went down the middle.
Catapulted 15 feet through the air with arms with my arms stretched forward as if I was sliding into second base, I felt a thump. Yellow, bristly, dried-up grass flew into my helmet shield as I skidded to a stop. My left knee caught on a rock in the median that I found out later was the size of a small potato.
Stunned, I sat up with my legs stretched out in front of me. The left leg of my jeans was torn at the knee and I noticed a little blood. I surveyed the rest of my body. I was shaking, but otherwise seemed intact. I turned to my left and saw Sean lying still on his back about 20 feet away.
In all of the 28 years I’ve known my tough guy, of all the years he’s been a police officer, I’ve never seen Sean flat out unable to move, hurt or in big trouble. A bolt of terror ripped through me and I began to pray.
Oh, God, please let him be alright. Let me stay calm. Let me stay calm.
“Seanie are you OK?” I called out shakily. “Sean?”
I heard him moan. “My shoulder, my shoulder. F*&k! I dislocated my shoulder!”
“We’re going to be OK, Seanie. We’re OK.” God, please let us be OK.
I turned slightly to my right and behind me and saw the motorcycle on its side with wires spewing out. A man with a long red pony tail was standing next to it, his cellphone in hand, “I just called 911,” he said.
For a moment I had a crazy thought. Why? We’re going to be OK. We just dumped the bike. We’ll be getting up in a minute and be on our way.
Maybe Sean felt that too because when I glanced over to him, he was suddenly up on his feet and had taking his helmet off! He swore, and then walked toward the bike, in his usual take charge demeanor. “I’ve got to pick it up,” he said to this dark haired man who suddenly appeared.
The man held up his hand to Sean. “I’m a former EMT. You need to lie down.” He was calm but firm. He had witnessed the accident and the awful cloud of dust our bodies made when we landed. “I will hold your head and move with you anyway you need to move.”
For some reason, Sean obeyed the man. He knelt and held Sean’s head in his hands as Sean started thrashing and screaming as I had never seen him do in all of our time together. “My shoulder, my ribs, I know I broke my ribs!” Thankfully, he stayed down.
“You’re going to be OK, Seanie.” I said. Oh, God please let us be OK. Please keep me calm.
Sean looked up and he realized he knew the man who was holding his head in place. It was Patrick Murray, an administrator at the security department at Middlesex Hospital. Sean actually meets with him and his staff once a month as a police department liaison. What are the chances that this man would be two cars behind our motorcycle and come to the scene to help?
I don’t know how long it took for the ambulances to arrive—we were out in the middle of Moodus—, but I just kept praying. The late afternoon sun was a bright yellow-gold around us. I know I was in shock, but I also felt a steady calm. My knee barely hurt me.
Sean and I were initially taken to Middlesex Hospital. As soon as Sean had a CT scan he was whisked Hartford Hospital because he broken his neck in five places! Four in his C-1cervical vertebrae and one in his C-2. More than one medical professional has told Sean how lucky he is. Breaking the C-1 is one of the most life threatening breaks you can get. One wrong move and your spinal cord could be severed resulting in instant death or paralysis. Sean had broken his in four places! He got up on his feet! He took off his helmet! He was walking over to the downed bike ready to lift it up when Patrick Murray came on the scene and told him stop!
Sean spent two days in intensive care and six more days after a precarious surgery to repair his “smashed” scapula (his surgeon’s words). Those five breaks were patched together by three stainless steel plates and nine screws. He also had four broken ribs.
I escaped with a badly bruised/sprained knee and two little scrapes on my left knuckle.
Where are we now? We are alive and grateful! Sean still has to wear his neck brace because one of the breaks in his C-1 is slow to fill in with new bone. My knee is still bruised and not quite right, but we are both back to work. We believe God sent help. We wonder what He has in mind for us after sparing us from paralysis or even death?
For more intriguing thought on this subject, I encourage you to read To Heaven and Back: A Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again Mary C. Neal .