Reflecting on a year of shock, survival, sacrifice, and surrender

The Saviers and Van Zandt families (minus one of our sons) about a year and a half after Tommy got home from the hospital.

I cannot help but reflect on how we would have never been able to envision that nine years after the worst day of our lives, Mark’s cathartic journaling of his experiences the first year after Tommy’s accident, would launch a book and a website centered around the worst year of our life.

We launched the site last week and Wednesday, the book Flipped went on sale. As Tommy’s wife, I will periodically be recounting my experiences through the stages of triumph over tragedy throughout the last nine years. This particular blog is about my experience of shock in the first stage of this tragedy.


The worst day of our lives

With perspective created by time, the worst day and the worst year was also the catalyst for the strengthening of our faith, and our overwhelming appreciation for the value of relationships within our family, friends, and community.

As shocking as it was to see Tommy lying motionless in the fetal position under the tree, I am grateful that I was able to spring into action the moment I saw him. Fortunately, he was able to talk and explain that he was paralyzed and that I needed to call 911. Also, fortunately, our youngest son, Jack, crouched down and positioned his dad so that Tommy’s diaphragm moved its last breaths as the ambulance arrived.

Once the ambulance came, I just went into a dreamlike state, where I was aware and functioning in a calm manner. This protected state enabled me to make the terrible phone call to Tommy’s mom and stay calm for our boys who were also in a state of shock. The professionals at the hospital took over Tommy’s physical care, while our family and friends took over our physical and spiritual care for the month we remained in Fayetteville

Shock, sacrifice, and faith

After Tommy’s spinal surgery and a month in Intensive Care, the family decided that the best option for Tommy was to be moved to Craig Rehabilitation Hospital in Denver. This move initiated a second round of shock and grieving. Tommy’s sister, Vicki, and brother-in-law, Mark, made the quick and sacrificial decision to step in and take care of our boys, ages 14 and 17, so I could go to Colorado with Tommy. What a terrifying time!

I felt so alone and scared. Tommy was in an extreme state of vulnerability, and I felt solely responsible for advocating for him without any medical knowledge or familiarity of place and people. I have never prayed harder or more frequently. My need for guidance and strength had never been so heightened and urgent. I knew I did not have the emotional strength to handle this alone.

Even though I never lost the feeling of God’s presence, after two months of heightened emotional distress, I ended up in the hospital for an afternoon, emotionally exhausted. I called Mark and once again, he and Vicki jumped into action. Mark came to Colorado and I went home to see my boys and renew my strength for the many days and stages to come.

As I close my thoughts on this first blog, I want to leave you with this:

Be Still My Soul

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.

Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.

Leave to your God to order and provide;

In every change, He faithful will remain.

Be still, my soul: your best, your heavenly Friend

Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: your God will undertake

To guide the future, as He has the past.

Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake;

All now mysterious shall be bright at last.

Be still, my soul: the waves and winds shall know

His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

-Katharina von Schlegel

in quietness and trust is your strength” Isaiah 30:15

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