"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

Saturday, April 30, 2011

God Will Get Your Attention! -- 25 Years Later

This edition of GRACERUNNER JOURNAL is an excerpt from my book, GRACERUNNER - FAITH ON THE RUN. As you read, you'll soon find out much about me that you don't know. You'll also notice that my "celebration" run this year is the 25th anniversary of the day that changed my life forever.  

Race day is upon us in Nashville at the Country Music Marathon & Half Marathon.  On this 25th anniversary of the event that you are about to read about, TEAM 413 celebrates because for the first time in our eight year history, we are an official charity of a race.  The city of Nashville has embraced us and welcomed us through the years.  But, this year is very special time -- thank you, Nashville!  

Read my story and you'll understand why I must continue on this path that God has laid out for me....There truly is a place called grace!

A Miracle of God’s Unimaginable Grace!
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

On April 30, 1986, I left my office to go out for a run. The day had been shortened for me as the athletic teams at Samford University had finished practices a bit early on that day. As the Head Athletic Trainer at the university, it was extremely rare for me to get a little free time at the end of a day. So, I was excited about going out for a long run and having some time alone for reflection.

Little did I know that, on this day, my life would be changed forever. My life as I knew it would never be the same again.

I ran an unusually fast pace that day. I ran a route that was somewhat new to me. I took a wrong turn and had to make my way down to a very busy highway just about the time of rush hour. I couldn’t get across the highway to run against the traffic so, I moved to a spot several yards off the shoulder of the road and ran alongside the traffic. I had a few hundred yards to go before I would reach the Samford University campus entrance and be able to walk back to my office for a cool down from a very good run.

Suddenly, I was involved in a very serious, unimaginable accident. While running along the very busy Lakeshore Drive in Birmingham,Alabama, I was suddenly struck from behind. I was propelled forward more than 30 feet. I thought that I had been hit by a car! I was face down on the shoulder of the road and I knew that I was hurt badly. I couldn't feel my legs and I had significant pain up and down my spine. I was alert and conscious during the entire event but still had no idea what had happened. It felt as if time stood still.

Several people stopped to help. I heard sirens in the distance and a flurry of activity ensued. One of the people who stopped to render aid was a nurse. I spoke to her and told her that I was a certified athletic trainer and understood what was going on medically. Therefore, I had many questions. “Do I look broken up? Am I bleeding? What hit me?Will you take my blood pressure to make sure that I don’t have any internal injuries?”

The answers were good and bad. She told me that I did not appear to be mangled and that I was not bleeding. She took my blood pressure and assured me that it was fine. Still, I couldn’t feel or move my legs. I could hear the sound of sirens getting closer and closer. The nurse stayed with me until the paramedics arrived. I never saw her face. I never spoke to her again. Nearly 24 years later, I still do not know the name of this wonderful person who stopped to comfort and help me after this devastating accident.

Police arrived on the scene and I finally found out that I had been struck by something that had flown off the back of a pick-up truck. I didn’t know what the object was, but I knew that it must have been something pretty significant!

As I lay face down on the ground, I overheard the policemen describing the object that had hit me in order to record it in their incident report. I heard them describe the object as a “5 feet wide by 9 feet long sheet of plywood.” For some reason I thought -- “They don’t make plywood in that size.” So, I asked the EMT to get the policeman over to me. I asked the officer about this 5’ X 9’ sheet of plywood and was told that it was painted green with white stripes.

I was puzzled by this until he told me the rest of the story. Bottom line -- IT WAS A PING PONG TABLE! This “table” was being hauled on the back of a pick-up while two men held it down from the cab of the truck.This very large piece of wood, that soon became a flying missile, was not tied down or restrained in any way whatsoever. I had been hit by a flying ping pong table! What are the odds of that?

God went to the extreme to get my attention during my afternoon run! He does that sometimes! Sometimes it's a soft whisper, sometimes it’s a loud roar, and sometimes it's a ping pong table!

After being immobilized on a spine board by a team of very capable emergency medical personnel, I was transported to a nearby hospital where I regained feeling in my legs a couple of hours later. I was kept in that hospital for pain and injury management for 17 days. A few days after my first hospital stay, I was back in the hospital for surgery and a stay that lasted until the end of June of that year.

My sacrum had been crushed. I had lost nerves. I had significant muscle and other soft tissue damage. I had tremendous swelling and eventually turned black and blue from the top of my shoulders to the bottom of my feet. This injury would affect me for the rest of my life. I was very fortunate to be alive.

Serious rehabilitation was ahead of me. I was told that I would be lucky to walk normally again and running was most likely out of the question forever. In my wildest dreams, I could not envision running again.

If I had been struck a foot lower, my legs would have been damaged significantly. If I had been struck six inches higher, I most likely would have been a paraplegic. If I had been hit in the neck region, I would have been a quadriplegic. If I had been hit on the head, I could have been killed. God spared me for a reason. I continue to uncover His reasons more than two decades later.

Each year on the anniversary of this event, I celebrate that I'm able to walk and run. I celebrate that God used a tragic moment in my life to get my attention. I celebrate that he did a miracle in my life and now I have been blessed to be a part of the running community through a ministry such as TEAM 413 that was planned and ordained by God Himself! I praise Him that I am able to be a part of something that is so much bigger than we could ever comprehend, envision, dream, or imagine.

On the day of celebration each year that marks the anniversary of this STRANGE event and injury, I go out for a run at the time that the injury occurred, about 5:30 PM. Each year, I ask others to join me on that day either in person or wherever they are at that moment. They run with me and they pray with me. It’s always a very special day to thank God for miracles of GRACE.

Each day of my life I pray that God will continue to get our attention and then use us in ways that we cannot comprehend. I also pray that He will be glorified through the ministry that we call TEAM 413. God has entrusted us with such an amazing outreach ministry. We consider this a miracle after the incomprehensible circumstances that occurred on that day in April 1986.

As we continue on our journey through life, we give thanks for God's grace… ~ And so I run ~ And so I care ~ And so I share ~ And so I praise His name for His goodness!


Under HIS Grace...


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