On a cold, sunny Wednesday in March 2019, Kim, Morgan, Didrik, and Caleb left home shortly after 7:00am for what they believed would be a typical school day. By 7:08, less than a mile from home, three of the four were fighting for their lives after a large SUV ran a stop sign. Their small car was T-boned on the right side at full highway speed, rolled at least twice, and came to rest in a ditch nearly a hundred feet from the roadway.
Suffering minor injuries, 14-year-old Morgan was knocked unconscious by the impact and did not regain consciousness until several hours later.
A Norwegian foreign exchange student living with the family, 17-year-old Didrik, has made a full recovery after suffering critical abdominal injuries requiring two surgeries to repair.
Kim, the mother, sustained the most extensive skeletal injuries. Suffering fractures to sixteen different bones from her neck to her ankle, surgeons could not initially operate because of her extreme blood loss. After numerous transfusions and tenuous hours, her body was stabilized enough for the first of the five operations needed to address her life-threatening situation and begin the reconstruction process.
13-year-old Caleb suffered the worst injuries. After extrication from the mangled wreckage, Caleb began the seventeen-minute ambulance ride to the hospital under “code blue.” Due to his extensive facial injuries, paramedics could not establish an airway to get him breathing. Caleb’s near-lifeless body remained deprived of oxygen until the miraculous intervention of an off-duty ER doctor who met the ambulance en route to the hospital. Upon hearing of Caleb’s condition and proximity to his own location over the EMS radio, he knew that he could help by performing the life-saving airway procedure aboard the ambulance, but it was not before irreparable brain damage had occurred from oxygen starvation. Had the doctor not intervened, Caleb would have never made it to the hospital. His pelvis and all of the bones in his face were smashed, and the impact to his head caused near-fatal skull fractures and brain swelling.
The pressure in Caleb’s brain continued to rise in the hours after his emergency trauma surgery. Despite every intervention the all-star medical team could provide, nothing was working. While Kim continued fighting for her life at another hospital across town, at 2:00 in the morning, nearly three days after the wreck, the doctors and nurses looked at Caleb’s dad, Aaron, with a starkly-clear expression and tone that suddenly shifted from “let’s try one more thing” to “we’ve done all we can for him…his brain pressure is spiraling out of control to a certain-fatal end.” In this moment, Aaron felt the overwhelming clarity of the Holy Spirit to release control of the moment to Him; that God was in control and that (contrary to the doctor-advised “quiet room, brain resting” rules), they needed to simply pray and sing over Caleb. Aaron then called their church worship leader to come bring music to Caleb’s bedside. Without hesitation, he and their pastor arrived as fast as they could make the drive to the hospital, at 2:40am. After nearly an hour of song and prayer, the monitors began to indicate signs of a reversal in Caleb’s condition…it was a miracle! However, he was not out of the woods yet. Thereafter, without being asked, their church family made sure Aaron and Caleb were never alone, sending brothers-in-Christ to be by their side overnight, every night, for several weeks.
Three days later, due to the trauma and large amounts of medication that had been administered to save his life in the first few hours and days, Caleb’s kidneys completely shut down. With his blood turning toxic and at extreme risk for triggering cardiac arrest, he required dialysis. As the treatment began, Caleb’s already perilously high brain pressure inexplicably shot up again to potentially fatal levels, unresponsive to medication. Watching him slip away once again, Caleb’s dad again prayerfully sought wisdom in this conflicted moment, ultimately finding clarity and the courage to insist they stop dialysis, against the recommendations of over a dozen doctors. Within minutes of stopping the dialysis, Caleb’s brain pressure dropped to stable levels, and never elevated again. Unexpectedly, his kidneys also slowly began functioning enough to keep the blood toxins from reaching critical levels, only requiring dialysis a week later, by which time his brain swelling had reduced enough to not be affected.
After Caleb had been on life support for over four weeks, the first ten days of which without any notable brain wave activity, the neurosurgeon advised Caleb’s parents that because of the skull fractures and extreme high pressures in his brain, his MRI and CT scans showed “the worst damage I have seen in twenty-two years of practice.” He went on to say, “I don’t see a prognosis for any useful recovery, I don’t think he will ever wake up or do anything. That’s not to say miracles don’t happen, but I’m not in charge of those.”
The medical team concluded he would not survive, and if he did, he would never recover from the vegetative-coma state he was in, and advised that he should be taken off of life support. But the prayers of loving family, friends, and even complete strangers were heard by God, and He had other plans. Slowly but surely, Caleb began to show signs of life, from the first blips of the EEG showing brain wave activity, to tiny movements of one finger, to moving arms and legs, and more than two months after the accident, he was off of the ventilator and uttered his first words! A stunned medical team celebrated with the family. Three weeks later, Caleb was sounding out the words from memory to his years-long favorite song “Mended” while waiting for another doctor to see him: “When you see broken beyond repair, I see healing beyond belief, when you see too far gone, I see one step away from home.”
Encouraged by the miracles that had happened, the prayers continued. After his brain and body stabilized, Caleb underwent procedures to address his fractures and failing body systems. Due to the impact to his head, he required a procedure to cut his forehead out and seal his brain back into his skull where it had been exposed into his frontal sinus. He later underwent an extensive surgical procedure to re-break, reposition, and rebuild all the bones in his face and mandible requiring his jaw to be wired shut for six weeks. To date, he has endured thirteen different surgical procedures, with at least two more expected in the years to come.
Caleb spent over five months in three different hospitals, and another three months of full-day intensive outpatient rehab hospital care. Eight months after the life-changing accident, Caleb returned to school on his 14th birthday. He is now attending high school, participating in marching band, and running track. There are still prayers to be answered, though. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) such as his causes a multitude of challenges to work through in everyday life, many of which are invisible to the casual observer. In addition to recovering from an extreme TBI, he has profound hearing loss in his left ear, which has been aided by a cochlear implant, and no vision in either eye, so Braille and walking with a cane have been added to his list of school subjects.
By all accounts, this family simply shouldn’t be here. But God is in the business of using miracles in everyday life to point others to Him: His power, His healing, His provision, and His love. Matthew West’s song “Walking Miracles” so beautifully encapsulates this family’s experience since that fateful day in March 2019. Unlike Caleb’s neurosurgeon, we DO know who is in charge of miracles, He is The One who “turns impossible into living, breathing, walking miracles!”
To read more about this family’s journey: CLICK HERE