It was a short post, not a lot of information...just a sincere plea for prayer on behalf of someone I knew from church.
Well, now, a year later, I'm here to tell you the rest of his story. (Before I get too far into this, I feel like it should be noted somewhere that I did not know Brent well before this accident. We were more like acquaintances rather than friends. I'm still not sure it's accurate to say that we know each other well. We FB chat occasionally now, and that's more interaction than I had with him before, when he was here in Little Rock. But that doesn't change the fact that he's my brother, and I've had the privilege of praying for him, lifting his name up to our Father, and that his circumstances have had an impact on me personally. That's why I feel the need to tell you the rest of his story.)
It was a year ago today, Saturday, December 8, 2007 that Brent had his motorcycle accident that landed him in the ICU at UAMS. His injuries were extensive. I guess we'll just go from head to toe: he had bleeding on his brain, a broken an eye socket, broken shoulder blades, a broken right shoulder, a completely shattered left shoulder (it had to be reconstructed), a broken sternum, 11 broken ribs, a lung that collapsed (more than once), a broken hand...you get the picture. The most difficult injury, though, was the fact that his back was broken.
For the first three days after Brent's accident, he was medically sedated. Doctors said that he needed to make it through those first critical 72 hours before surgery could be done to assess the damage to his spinal cord. Right about the time that Brent hit that 72-hour time frame, on Tuesday afternoon, an operating room opened up, and the surgeon and a team of nurses were available for the several hours necessary to perform the surgery.
Usually on Tuesday evenings, a small group of girls from my singles class meets for a time of Bible study and prayer. But that Tuesday evening we decided to go be with Brent's parents while he was still in surgery. There were several from my church gathered there that evening to pray for Brent. When there got to be about 20 or so of us, we decided to leave the waiting room and go downstairs to the chapel to pray for him. Two guys from our group volunteered to stay there in the waiting room in case the doctors came out of the surgery or anyone else came up to be with Brent's family, and the rest of us headed downstairs.
As we were standing out in the hallway, waiting on the elevators, the doctors came out of the surgery with the news. It wasn't good. Brent's parents stepped away to speak with the doctors. They stepped back over to us and his dad told us what the doctor said, that "For all practical purposes, Brent's spinal cord is severed. There are just a few small fibers at the front of it that are still attached. But for all intents and purposes, his spinal cord is severed and he will more than likely be paralyzed from the waist down." I think they said they'd asked the doctor if he'd ever seen anyone recover from an injury that extensive. He said never.
Then Brent's dad said one of the most amazing things. After delivering us that news, he continued with, "I think we need to go on down to the chapel. We need to pray to God, and we need to praise Him, and we need to thank Him that we still have Brent." And so we did, though it was not necessarily easy. We prayed, and we cried out to God, both in thanks that Brent was alive and yet in such hurt because of the news we'd received about his injuries.
When I got home that evening, I came across the blog of another member of my church, and the post he had written. In a blog entitled "What Isn't The Gospel?" brother Keith wrote,
"What isn't the gospel? What are the things that no one in his or her right mind and heart would be likely to put in the comments of the previous blog post as the gospel according to them; the good news of scripture; the core message of God's Word to man? Tonight, a young man from my church has found out that his spinal cord was severed in the dirt bike accident he had last weekend. That is not the gospel. Yet his church family continues to pray for and over this young man; will conduct a blood drive Sunday in his behalf; and some will fast and some will attend his bedside and some will plead with God on their knees, not knowing him well but loving him as if there were an empty place at their kitchen table that only he could fill. Why?"Upon reading this post, I was once again filled with tears for my brother Brent and I commented to that effect on Keith's blog...that I was saddened by this news for him, but also, that I'd been blessed by the prayers that were offered up on his behalf that evening. I wrote,
"I'm sorry, Keith. As I read this blog through blurred, tear-filled eyes, I just don't have it in me tonight to go in that direction...I've had enough bad news for the evening...It can be scary to love the God who is love...to do so requires TRUST. It requires of us the same type of reaction to the things that we don't understand as I witnessed tonight from the father of that young man. We were standing in front of the elevators, waiting to go down to the chapel to petition God on his behalf, when the doctor came out of surgery w/the news. His dad said, "I think we need to go and pray; we need to praise God and thank Him that we still have him with us." It requires of us a trust and a faith that says, "God can see better than us," and, "I know there is going to be something good to come out of all of this. I don't know that it is yet, but I KNOW it," and, "We are concerned with the physical and the things that we want physically, but God is concerned with the spiritual," and, Lord, even though it's hard to comprehend, we know that you love him more than we do," and finally, "Lord, we don't know why all of this has happened...but we know that we love You."Those were the prayers I heard and prayed that evening. There was also a prayer that I did not hear but only heard about. I was told that one of our Shepherds of our church, in a prayer he was leading at the hospital one night, said something to the effect of, "Lord, you knit him together in His mother's womb, and you can do it again."
That one's stayed with me a LONG time. There's no telling how many times I've prayed that for Brent and continue to do so, to this day. In fact, that's my favorite thing to pray for him, because it gives me so much hope by reminding of me of what my God can do and is doing for Brent.
That's right, I said what my God IS doing for Brent...because Brent IS recovering from this spinal cord injury. See...I'll tell you what Brent would tell you...the thing is, people recover from spinal cord injuries all the time.
But people recover from COMPLETE spinal cord injures...well, almost never...like, less than 1% of the time! Twice now, though, Brent's injury has been upgraded from being a complete injury (which is what he was first diagnosed as after that first surgery) to being an incomplete injury. Spinal cord injures are measured on a scale from A to E, A being completely injured and E being completely normal. Although originally diagnosed as an "A" injury, Brent very gradually began feeling some return in his hips and his legs, and he is now considered a "C"...so as he said, he's "halfway there!" He's gone to stay at his parents' home in Florida while he recovers, and has had the opportunity to spent some time in therapy at the Shepherds Institute in Atlanta, which specializes in spinal cord injuries. And despite the fact that doctors and therapists originally told him that he would never walk again, Brent is now walking in braces and with a walker, and he only continues to improve.
One of the things that makes Brent's story incredible is the impact that he's had on those around him and on those across the world. In a way, his accident brought a sense of revival to our singles group as a whole. It brought some of us together as friends who had not known each other previously. It gave us all a renewed dedication to the discipline of and the power of prayer. Also, after his accident, his parents started his blog, which Brent took over and began writing on as soon as he was able. People all over the nation and even from different parts of the world have read his blog and commented on it.
What makes his story the most incredible for me is just the fact that when I see him or talk to him, I get to see or talk to a living, breathing answer to prayers...an answer to my own prayers and the prayers of so many others. And I did get to see him this weekend, as Brent came to be in Little Rock and to speak to our Singles class on this, the anniversary weekend of his accident. As I see him, and as I pray for him, I can picture the Great Physician slowly working, slowly knitting and mending his spinal cord back together...for no other reason than because He loves us and because we've asked Him to. But He does it in His time. If He did it in my time, Brent would've walked out of UAMS months ago. But He is God and i am not. Nevertheless, Brent is slowly learning to walk again. It only broke my heart a little bit that I didn't get to see it this weekend--only because I want so desperately to see it. Soon!
So now, I once again ask you to join me in prayer for Brent. This time, though, I ask you to join me in continuous praise to our Almighty God and Great Physician, our Father and Friend, for the healing He has brought to and will bring to our brother Brent. Be sure, also, to thank Him for using Brent in such a powerful way to reach so many people.
I'll leave you with this passage of scripture--a passage that expresses the light of hope in the midst of suffering--which was posted to Brent's blog that Tuesday night after Brent's first surgery. The prophet Jeremiah wrote,
"For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though He brings grief, He will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love. For He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men." -Lamentations 3:31-33