Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Paralysis in His Presence

[This post is part of a group synchroblog. This month the bloggers will share stories of epiphany. I will add links to the other synchrobloggers below as they come in.  Check out the way cool blogger's links below!]

It was March 11, 2006 and I began the day skiing with a few friends at Breckenridge(Colorado).  Just a normal day of hitting the back bowls early and trying to catch "fresh powder"!  It was our second run down the Imperial Bowl and to this day, well, I don't know what happened.  NO trees around me, no other skiers/snowboarders.  I either "caught an edge" or hit ice and began an end over end crash that whip lashed my neck extensively.  I remember lying in the aftermath, and everything becoming a "slow motion", just like you experience/hear about when someone describes being in an auto accident.

I was lying face up and STILL can picture in my mind the sky and the clouds as if they were floating by slowly.  My friend Carter came to me first and I said, "Carter, you HAVE to start praying, I can't move!"  He did...AND, I did!  You have to know, I am a VERY private person with prayer and ESPECIALLY with my prayer language.  In fact, NO ONE, except my Savior has heard my prayer language.  However, that day, I'm pretty sure most everyone in Breckenridge heard it!

It was about 5 minutes into the recovery process that I started moving my legs a little.  I started sliding my heels up and down and was so excited, tears started rolling and the ski patrol even had to tell me to STOP moving them!  They were trying to be very cautious of my neck and not move it/me.  I have to say, the Breckenridge ski patrol did a phenomenal job!  One patrol did nothing but hold on to my helmet to keep my head and neck from moving as one dug out snow from underneath me to place a neck collar on. Then, as most of you may have guessed I began the "fun" ride down the hill in the patrol's toboggan!

At the base, I was immediately taken to Breckenridge Medical Center, x-rays were taken(no fractures), but then, the doctor came in and talked to me about my spinal cord...you see, even though I had movement in my legs, my arms were still not moving AND, they were in extreme burning pain!  The doctor looked at me and said, "I don't think we have to fly you, we are going to get you to Swedish Medical Center(Denver, CO) by ambulance.  But, I'm worried about your spinal cord.  I'd like to start Sol-u-Medrol before we transport you."  To that I honestly said, "PLEASE!" (yes, the doctor seemed surprised by my response)  However, I'm a physical therapist, and THAT day I remember that one of our neuro professors made a comment in class about wanting to get a tattoo on her body that said, "If I have a spinal cord injury, please inject steroid immediately!"  Crazy, the things that you remember in those times!  You see, research has proven that if you get steroid started with a spinal cord injury in a 3 hour window, the better the recovery!  AND, the REALLY amazing thing to think about is the time frame from the VERY top of Breckenridge, to the base and the quick decision by the doctor to do so, was an absolute miracle!

At this point, I had hope.  However, the remaining question was why my arms weren't moving.  I remember the ambulance guys talking to me.  One was giving me a "hard time" trying to make me laugh and the other one responded, "You better be careful, she's going to be able to slap you in a few weeks!"  hmmm...hope?  What were they talking about?  Yea, one of those times/injuries where maybe it's BEST not to know too much about the nervous system.  But, they had hope so, at the time, it helped!

I eventually had CAT scans and MRI's done at the hospital in Denver where they found spinal cord damage from a complete herniated C5/C6(lower neck levels) disc and a C4/C5 disc bulge.  The MRI's that day showed a squiggly line across the spinal cord which the doctor's pointed out to me as damage.  AND, with TWO of my follow ups with Neurosurgeons, I had a "panel" looking at MRI's, scratching their heads, and making me get up and walk down the hall!  Still not moving arms, but they were surprised by the damage that I was even walking!

The decision was then that I had NO choice but to have a fusion surgery on my neck.  They waited 8 weeks in order to allow some of the swelling to decrease.  THEN, another set of MRIs!  The amazing thing...this time...NO squiggly line, just some damage left on the front part of the cord!!!  Yea, it IS kind of fun to watch God leave doctor's scratching their heads!  AND, well, as you might have guessed I had some of my arm movement back!  Don't get me wrong, this part took A LOT of hard work with therapy and exercises, but the movement came!  AND, the cool thing some of the fine motor skills returned with practice on a keyboard/piano, journaling, knitting AND, water coloring! 

As I continued my healing, my total time of intense stuff lasted about 5 months!  No driving, lifting, working...VERY hard for a very independent person!  So, even MORE miracles seemed to "surface" during this time!  Visits and rides from friends...to church, to get groceries, a get well card with a grocery gift card in it, my Alma Mater providing computer work for me to do from home, AND, MANY, MANY, MANY times of powerful contemplation and intimacy with my Savior!

Some might say it was "shock" and well, the human body does do that with trauma, but that was probably only a small part when I was being cared for on the mountain.  After that, I believe it was MY epiphany/manifestation of His healing, provision, rest and ROMANCE!  You can't explain the "3 hour window" miracle, Neurosurgeons unable to explain damage vs. function, decreased damage across the spinal cord 8 weeks later(the nervous system is SLOW in healing), walking, return of arm/hand movement(my livelihood), provision and AMAZING calmness of heart and peace in my soul!  I remember times when I could spend HOURS in contemplation, praise or even doing my artwork without a single care or distraction!

His presence in my paralysis seemingly CARRIED me through one of the worst things that I've had to go through!  If this manifestation was a "wilderness by default" well, I don't care, He was THERE!  And the beautiful thing NOW!  I REALLY KNOW what my patients are going through!  I can relate to severe neurological hypersensitivity and PAIN!  I now carry that understanding and compassion into every patient room I walk into.  And my prayer is that they would SEE that compassion as Christ in me!  For I am and THEY are His Beloved!

Here is a list of participants with links to their contributions:

Ellen Haroutunian - Stories of Epiphany

Kathy Escobar - Orphans

Mike Victorino - What To Do?

Beth Patterson - A Robust Universe Includes The Botched and Bungled

Jeff Goins - The Manifestation of God

Jeremy Myers - Pagan Prophecies of Christ

Mark Smith - Manifestation of God

Minnow - When God Shows Up

Alan Knox - A Day I Saw Jesus

Liz Dyer - God Breaking Through Moments

Josh Morgan - The Manifestation of God

Steve Hayes - Theophany: the manifestation of God

Sarah Bassey - In which Annie opens the door of her heart

Katherine Gunn - Who is God

Christine Sine - Eve of Epiphany-We Have Come, We Have Seen, Now We Must Follow

Peter Walker - Epiphany Outside Theophany (Outside Christianity)

Annie Bullock - God With Us


  1. thanks for sharing this, tammy, and for being part of the synchroblog. this is a powerful story of God showing up in the now, in tangible and mystical and beautiful ways.

  2. Thanks, Kathy! It was a lot of fun for me and very freeing! Hope I can "synch" with you guys again!

  3. Thank you, Tammy, for sharing. I am blessed by seeing how God ministered to you during this difficult time. I think that sometimes God takes us into the wilderness so that we can see Him at work. When we are stripped of everything, we learn how to rely on Him completely. Thanks for visiting my site! His grace and peace to you!

  4. Thanks, Karla! I hope you will join the synchroblog sometime...your writings are amazing!