Until our nineteen-year-old son broke his neck in a fall in the summer of 1997, we knew little about spinal cord injuries. His break was very high, and the chance of his survival was bleak. Since he was injured during a trip to Canada and we live in the United States, it was a difficult journey to join him at the hospital. When we were able to get to his bedside, we found him totally paralyzed from the neck down and attached to life support.
Grim-faced doctors told us the many challenges Kevin faced:
- He would never breathe or move again below his neck or possibly his shoulders.
- He would need round-the-clock care.
- He would certainly suffer from a host of complications such as pneumonia, blood clots, and urinary tract infections.
- He could never live at home again. He couldn’t even return to the United States because no airline would accept him in his condition, no doctor would sign to receive him, no medical team would accompany him on the flight, and the cost to fly him home would be prohibitive.
- He could not stay in Canada.
For our son, and for us, the situation seemed hopeless. One doctor was angry when we resisted a push for euthanasia.
What most of the doctors didn’t tell us was that their predictions weren’t written in stone. Yes, Kevin did suffer from pneumonia in the beginning weeks. Urinary tract infections have been a continuing challenge for Kevin. And yes, he needs round-the-clock care.
But none of the rest of it happened.
People, churches, and organizations in Canada soon learned of his injuries and rallied to his cause. Within a week, Kevin was flown back to the United States in a chartered Lear jet, accompanied by a volunteer medical team – the entire cost paid by donations.
He was received into a hospital close to home and later released to a rehabilitation hospital.
As his body came out of spinal shock, he began to regain function and feeling, stunning the doctors and therapists. This healing would continue for several years.
What no one told us was that one day Kevin would breathe again on his own, walk with help, and return home to rebuild his life. Although he remains mostly disabled, he has movement and feeling in most of his body. He only uses the ventilator at night to sleep.
In the years since his injury, he has built a computer 3-D graphics studio with his brother and founded a popular Christian music website. He lives each day with faith and trust and without complaint.
No one told us that caring for him would bring us such joy. No one explained how much his life would enrich us, or how much we would learn about courage in the process. Certainly these years have been hard. But when I see Kevin laughing and chasing his nieces around in his wheelchair, or taking his dog for a walk, or working with press agents and music companies and complicated animation software, I am reminded of all the beauty they never told me to expect.
They never told us to have hope.