It was a warm summer’s day and she woke early, packed her bags and caught a train where she was to be picked up to travel to summer camp.
Full of anticipation she waited on the steps outside the station looking out for her ride. She was looking forward to the next ten days, bound to be filled with fun and games, silly costumes, dramas and lots of laughter. This was the fourth year in a row of summers spent working with young people, coming alongside them, sharing life with them and teaching them about the joy of the gospel. It was always her favourite time of year.
Finally a car pulled into the car park and a young guy stepped out, lifted his sunglasses, grinned and waved. She crossed the car park and introduced herself to the two guys she would be travelling to the summer camp with. They loaded her bags into the car and were soon on their way, already laughing and sharing jokes.
She sank back into her seat and watched the summer holiday traffic go by as they left the city and journeyed out into the English countryside.
As the journey went on the sky clouded over, thick clouds threatening an imminent downpour. The temperature dropped and the sky darkened. Traffic began to build up and they soon found themselves in a long line of cars.
The driver grew impatient and glanced round the truck in front, trying to see if there was a gap in the traffic to pass. Finally he took his chance, pulling out into the other lane, foot pressed down on the gas, accelerating rapidly. The car sped up, now alongside the truck, ready to cut in front.
But it was too late, there wasn’t enough time. Too late.
A 32-ton truck was bearing down on them, in the oncoming lane, approaching at speed. Horns blared, brakes screeched, but it was too late.
An almighty sound of crunching metal and breaking glass.
Everything moved in slow motion.
The sound of the impact was like a thunderclap right in front of the car. The bonnet buckled, the windscreen cracked then shattered.
A bright white flash, an almighty jolt and then everything went black.
The emergency services were soon at the scene, answering the call to attend a road traffic accident with suspected fatalities. Sirens blared, breaking the eerie silence following the accident as the shockwaves radiated out, leaving witnesses open-mouthed and stunned.
There was a sudden rush of action, flashing lights and crowds of people surrounded the scene. Soon the sound of a helicopter could be heard. Orders were shouted and the emergency services launched into action.
Then screams could be heard, deep, piercing screams of pain.
They were suddenly drowned out by the squeal of cutting metal as the fire service began to take the crumpled roof off the destroyed vehicle. Two passengers were removed, and a third walked free from the wreckage. The emergency services had expected fatalities but found three survivors instead.
The girl was airlifted immediately to hospital. She was in a coma when she arrived and taken straight to intensive care. The doctors and surgeons were immediately concerned about the apparent level of internal bleeding and put her on the emergency surgery list. She was not expected to make it through the night. The list of injuries was extensive, including a shattered spine, cracked skull, broken ribs and both arms broken.
The pain was incredible. She gasped and tried to scream. There was blood on her hand. She blacked out.
Someone was putting a mask over her face. ‘You’re going to be ok’ someone was saying. She didn’t recognise him, who was this stranger? Then everything went black again.
She could hear noises around her. She blinked and woke up staring at white ceiling tiles, a cold antiseptic white. The bright fluorescent lights hurt her eyes. Her head hurt. She felt numb, heavy. She was lying still in a bed.
She closed and opened her eyes again slowly to see a stranger standing over her, dressed in a blue cotton shirt. “Where am I?” she asked weakly, already dreading the answer.
“You’re in hospital” came the response.
She closed her eyes. She felt as if she had just emerged from a terrible nightmare. She already knew the answer to the next question.
“You were in a car accident. A head-on collision with an articulated truck, you’re lucky to be alive”.
A breathless fear going into theatre for spinal surgery, the terrifying thought that she might not walk again. The incredible pain that left her in agony despite the strong painkillers. The long lonely nights in a hospital bed.
Pain and suffering are hard to comprehend, even to come to terms with. Yet they are part of life, they happen to our friends, our family, even ourselves.
This is a story of pain, of suffering, of a struggle to find God in the midst of it all. But it is also a story of God’s great faithfulness, healing, and his love for his children.
How do I know all this? It happened to me.
I am incredibly grateful to all of my family and friends who have supported and encouraged me over these last three years. You know who you are. Thank you.
The 5th August 2009 will forever be etched into my memory. Yet this anniversary is a celebration, of the things I have achieved, the obstacles overcome, and above all, God’s faithfulness to me throughout it all.