by Brittney Chan
“...for I am the Lord that healeth thee.”
I am so grateful for the opportunity to share a part of my personal story with the Pursuing Virtue community. My hope is that reading of God’s faithfulness in my life will encourage you to trust Him for the needs in your own. The following was first written and included in “What Real Faith Looks Like”, a collection of testimonies compiled by our very own Sis. Anita Miles! You can order your copy here.
Click here to listen to Brittney's testimony.
That was probably the worst sweet tea that I had ever tasted. I sat the hospital cup back on the tray in front of me. Somehow, everything around me had turned into the worst that it had ever been.
In the summer of 2008, I was your typical happy-go-lucky, seventeen year old girl working on a farm with one of my best friends. My biggest concern was getting people around me to laugh and what I should do to be cool. In those days, I was carefree and content. I lived for the “here and now” and I didn’t care to think too much about the future.
It’s ironic how life can change all in one day’s time. But when the possibility of having a future is almost taken from you, Reality sort of slaps you in the face...and your priorities quickly begin to change.
Are you wondering what happened?
They told me that Kristan and I were leaving our summer job for lunch hour. As I steered my black '95 Toyota 4Runner onto the main road, I handed Kristan my wallet and asked her to count how much I still had from the previous week's paycheck. I must not have believed her when she told me the total; I took my eyes off of the road in front of me and shot a glance her way.
And there, on the 30th of July in 2008, was my mistake.
The front passenger side of my SUV brushed up against a small concrete barrier that was blocking a ditch on the right side of the road. The impact must have caused my airbag to deploy, which knocked me unconscious. The vehicle was out of my control and as the road curved to the left, the 4Runner stayed straight, met the embankment of a 14-foot canal and flipped over backwards. I was suspended in the air hanging by the seat-belt and Kristan was thrown half way out of the window.
After EMS workers arrived, we were airlifted to Palmetto Health Richland in South Carolina's capital city. Kristan had multiple physical injuries, including fractures in both legs, a dislocated hip and a dislocated jaw. She spent a few weeks in the hospital and several months in therapy. However, by the next season of softball, Kristan was back on the field and was still one of the top players on her All-Star team. (She has recently gone on to pursue a doctorate of Physical Therapy and I am so proud of her for it!)
The fact that I was responsible for injuring another person caused me to feel a lot of guilt, shame and regret. I would have rather taken all of her pain and afflictions, even the ones that still affect her today, upon myself. In my eyes, her wounds were much more significant than mine. They were external; everyone could see them. My problems weren’t as visible.
The impact from the wreck caused the strongest bone in my body to break: my right femur. Doctors were also concerned with testing that showed abdominal swelling, which was most likely caused by the seat belt and could have been a sign of internal bleeding. One of the first miracles of my recovery took place as I underwent exploratory surgery to determine the reason for swelling. I’m so thankful for the friends and family who started to gather in the waiting room. They joined together in prayer and trusted God to intervene. The scans had revealed problems that warranted immediate attention; however when the physicians began to look inside, there were no longer signs of bruising or fluid retention present. Jehovah Rapha had already shown up!
Perhaps the greatest injury was a blow to the right frontal lobe of my brain, which led to sustaining a diffuse, multi-axonal Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). To make it a little easier to understand: if I was a computer, it was as if my hard drive had been damaged on the outside in one spot, but the internal corruption was widespread.
The results of a TBI differ depending on the intensity and location of the injury; but more than likely, patients experience issues in areas such as cognition, temperament, physical ability, self-control, and speech. I had to learn how to walk again, how to form coherent sentences, and how to express feelings of frustration and confusion in acceptable ways. My brain had to form new pathways and connections. It was like the road my thoughts traveled down was under construction and they had to find another way to get to where they were going. I spent a few weeks at Palmetto Health and was then transferred across the parking lot to HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital. This is where my memory of the entire ordeal begins.
Being completely dependent on other people has a way of humbling a person. As a young teenager, I was just starting to venture out from under my parents’ wings and gain responsibility for myself. But in that hospital room, I was helpless. Someone had to help me use the bathroom, shower, get dressed, fix my hair...and I couldn’t seem to understand how I got there. I spent most of the day either sleeping or in some form of therapy. The moments in between held questions of what had really happened. I tried my best to make sense of what people were telling me: I had been in a car accident and suddenly woke up in a rehab facility where a doctor came in every morning at 4:30 to give medicine that was supposed to be helping me...
Whether it was a side effect of the medications I was taking or of the brain injury itself, I didn’t trust anyone. It’s safe to say that I was slightly paranoid. I remember thinking that everyone I talked to - doctors, nurses, custodians, therapists, counselors, friends, even my family - they were all working together in this great conspiracy against me.
Can I just say that my mom is truly a saint? She stayed with me day and night and attended to my every need...but I still didn’t even trust her completely. On multiple occasions throughout the day I would beg her to “tell me something that only my mom would know.” Yet, every answer she had didn’t satisfy me. I felt alone. I was convinced that no one understood what I was dealing with.
I remember laying in the hospital bed one day contemplating everything and everyone. I kept thinking, “Well, I can’t trust him” and “I can’t trust her”. My irrational thoughts were starting to overwhelm me when I asked myself, “What about God?”
And in that moment, it felt as if the tumultuous waves I had been drowning in suddenly died down. The response to this question had the potential to shape the rest of my life.
What about God?
Doubt had clouded my mind when I questioned everyone else. What would make God any different? Yet, somehow as I laid there, I knew that I couldn’t go wrong if I chose to put my faith in Him. He was the only absolute I had.
A sense of peace surrounded me from that moment on. No, life wasn’t back to normal, but a spiritual landmark was erected that day when I determined to trust that God’s unseen hand was holding me. In the crucial instance when I could have slipped into eternity forever, He was merciful. And I honestly wish I could say that life has been a walk in the park ever since I made up my mind that day. I wish I could tell you that I never had another problem because of the brain injury, that my emotions have never betrayed me again or that I have never found myself low in another valley. I can’t, but I can say that my Lord has been with me all the way. My life isn’t perfect, but whose is?
I continue to find that God is not only a Healer of our physical bodies, but also of our soul and spirit. He desires to know us on an intimate and personal level. And He cares about every trial; even the ones we try to cover up because we think no one else could understand. But He does.
The prophet Jeremiah prayed “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved” (Jeremiah 17:14). You can hear his faith in that verse. His soul was troubled for an entire nation that turned their backs on God, but Jeremiah’s prayer wasn’t one that questioned Him. He was confident of what God - and only God - could do.
Too often, we walk through life trying to fix ourselves. We’ll superglue our hearts back together with relationships or by fulfilling our own desires, but then we wonder why we never feel whole. It’s because we are attempting to do something that we weren’t created to do. Only God can mend the broken pieces of our lives and make them new. He cares about every concern we have and His healing can reach past your physical person and touch the depths of your soul.
So what hurt do you have that has shaped your worldview? What is it that plagues your mind every morning and hinders your worship? What burden do you struggle to carry by yourself?
Bring it to God. He’s been waiting for you.