Happy Miracle Day!

April 15th is known as “Miracle Day” at our house.

Why?

Well, because on that day my entire family was granted a miracle.

Let me backtrack a little bit.

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This is my brother, Freddie. He is a globe-trotting, life-experiencing kinda guy.

You know the kind.

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He works for a little bit, saves his money and then travels the world until he runs out of money again.

At the tender age of only 32, he has been to over 36 countries.

Pretty amazing, huh?

In 2011, he had settled down in China, working as a teacher and living with his then-girlfriend, Tania.
We had never met his girlfriend and she spoke little English, so we had not really spoken to her on the phone much.
(She spoke French and knew just enough Chinese and English to get her by.)

On Tuesday, April 19th, my parents phone rang, at about 3 am.
You know the feeling when you’re phone rings in the middle of the night?

Imagine the horror when you have a child living in another country and you get that late night call.

My mom was terrified to learn that Freddie had fallen, about 35 feet from his apartment building on Friday and had not woken up yet.

Tania tried her best to tell my mom everything she could to reassure her that he would be okay but understandably, my mom freaked out.

By noon the next day, we were in contact with government officials to get my parents an emergency passport. (FYI, if you have any reason whatsoever that you may need to travel out of the country, have a passport. This is VERY important!)

After a whirlwind of emotions and panicked planning, my parents were on a 24 hour flight to China.
They picked up their passports in Chicago. My mom called that night to say that she couldn’t believe how many people there were in Chicago. Yet she was traveling to Shanghai, the largest (and busiest) city in the world. There were a few more people than she’s used to in our little town of 1,500 people.

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The streets of Shanghai

They arrived in China after a crazy flight, exhausted, sick from worry. Tania met them at the airport and took them to the hospital right away to see Freddie.

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When they got there,  Freddie wasn’t awake. He didn’t respond.  He just lied in the hospital bed, with no movement but an occasional groan.

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Freddie, holding the card that Natali had made him while he was in China

After hours of sitting with him, my parents finally went to his apartment to get some sleep. They were back the next morning to get his “prescription” for the day.

(In China, the doctors and nurses tell you what they will need for the day. It is your job to go and get it and bring it to them. This includes everything, from syringes to medicine. Thank God Tania had been there or he would’ve went without food or medicine.)

After a few days, Freddie did begin to respond, then eventually opened his eyes. But he was in constant pain. The only medicine he was on was Tylenol 10 or Bayer Aspirin, not really enough for the amount of pain he was in.

One morning they found him in the floor of his room, so my dad started staying the night with him, to make sure no one messed with him and he stayed where he belonged. (He still was in and out of the coma, but no one knows how he got into the floor.) My dad slept in a hard wooden chair for several weeks, keeping a watchful eye on my brother.

After a couple of weeks, the hospital decided there was nothing more they could do for him, so they sent him home although he had not even sat up yet.  They told my parents that he just needed time to heal and he could do that at home.

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After the ambulance ride home, my dad and some of Freddie’s friends carried him up the stairs to his apartment on a gurney.

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They spent the next couple of months tending to Freddie in his one room apartment.

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The window he fell from

When Freddie was awake, any noise or light hurt his head so bad that all he would do was complain and moan. He was so sensitive that my parents couldn’t type on the computer without him getting mad.

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There are a lot of stories that I could tell you about this time in his life but I will spare you the gory details.  Let’s just say that he was in so much pain, he always thought he was dying, so he would beg for anything to make him feel better.

(Once he was giving birth, another time, my mom had to pick the “strawberries” out of his head.)

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During this time, my parents coped as best they could. In a foreign land, with no one to talk to, and no idea what to do with Freddie, they leaned on each other and on their faith to get them through it.

Some days, Freddie’s students would come and sit with him while my parents went out exploring. This was a good time for them, although they hated to leave him.  They needed to get away for a little while and regain composure. {Although I really think my mom just used this time away to snap photos of anything she saw that was “odd.”   She was in complete CULTURE SHOCK!}

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Fried bird, anyone? Beak and all!

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Soon, Freddie’s visa was set to expire. He was in no condition to travel but we didn’t have many options. The doctors we consulted in the US said that traveling by air could possibly cause his brain to erupt from the change in air pressure. A boat ride would be weeks on the ocean, with no medical help available. A private jet would’ve been our best bet but it would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. So we waited as long as we possibly could and under the Chinese doctor’s advice, stuck him on a plane and started praying.

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My parents pushed Freddie’s wheelchair through the terminal in Kansas City, looking exhausted and years beyond their age

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They were safely on US soil  with the best medical help in the world at their fingertips.

But the journey was just beginning.

A thorough checkup determined that Freddie had 7 broken bones in his head and was leaking spinal fluid from his nose.

American doctors wanted to do brain surgery immediately.

Our entire family loaded up and drove 4 hours to Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.

Freddie was finally getting the care he so badly needed.

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After a few days in the hospital, the doctors performed an 8 hour surgery, repairing some cracks in his skull, going up through his nostrils.

Those were some of the scariest hours of my life, knowing that any minor slip-up could kill my big brother.

Our entire family sat in the waiting room. Natali was only 7 and Emersyn was 3 years old, so we did have some distractions while waiting. It helped to pass the time, laying in the waiting room floor, coloring quietly with the girls.

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The surgery was a success but the road ahead of us was a long one.

My dad returned to work later that week, after months off from being in China, while me and my mom stayed with Freddie in the hospital. We took turns staying the night with him, because he didn’t want to be alone and we didn’t want him any more uncomfortable than necessary.
Noise and light still hurt him severly, so we were always the bearer of bad news to his roommate, who listened to his TV as quietly as possible and was expected to remain silent.

  If I saw that man today, I would apologize but he was very understanding and cooperative.

One morning, after a long night, a new doctor showed up. I’d never seen her before but she informed me that she was a friend of Freddie’s from college, who had heard about his situation and had come to check on him.

She was doing her clinicals at Barnes Jewish Hospital, where we were.

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You might say that God was at work in all aspects of Freddie’s life, even in the darkest hours.

Four years later, that doctor is now his beloved wife.

After our stay at Barnes Jewish, Freddie was moved to Missouri Rehab, which was much closer to home, only an hour away. He still couldn’t walk or say many words, and the doctors had said that this probably wouldn’t change.

Freddie stayed at Missouri Rehab for almost 2 months. Between the entire family (mostly me and my mom, since we didn’t have jobs) someone was there everyday, because we couldn’t bear the fact that he was there alone, in such a depressing place.

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We sat through countless therapy sessions, with physical therapy and occupational therapy daily. We learned more than we cared to know about brain injuries and we learned just how incrediby blessed we were by the outcome of his fall. People in rehab had far worse injuries from much smaller accidents and they would never be able to live a full life again.

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Freddie with his 2 favorite therapists at Missouri Rehab, a few months after he went home

They still had little hope of Freddie being able to walk or talk but he defied the odds.

Both the occupational therapists and the physical therapists were amazed at how quickly he recovered, making a near complete recovery.

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There are some things that were so different about him, that at first, it was like I had lost Freddie and gained a new brother. He had never been mean or angry yet now he was both. He had always been the “cool uncle” to my girls, but now he had no patience for kids. He yelled at my mom, spoke disrespectfully to my dad and became depressed. Yet through it all, my family remained dedicated to him, caring for him and making sure that he knew we loved him more than anything in the world.

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Natali snapped this photo of Emersyn add Freddie walking the halls of the rehab.  We spent a lot of time doing this.

Thankfully, that stage passed quickly. Every day, he was getting more and more like the Freddie that we all knew.

Funny, charming, full of life.

If you met him now, you would never suspect he even has a brain injury. You would never relate him to the unkind person he was for a while.

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Nowadays, you can find Freddie studying, in his new house that he purchased with his amazing wife, Anita. He worked his butt off to get accepted into the PhD program at the University of Missouri. He was one of only 5 people accepted into the Communications PhD program, although over 100 people applied.

The fall has left him with very damaged eyesight.  He has no peripheral vision, suffers from double vision and tunnel vision and his eyes are still deteriorating.

Yet we know he is so lucky to even be alive today.

My brother is a walking, talking miracle. He is living everyday to the fullest, enjoying married life and serving an amazing God, who has worked so many miracles in his life.

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Without his girlfriend’s care while in China, my parents’ undying dedication to their son, the doctor’s knowledge and skill, and the amazing support of our friends, family and the entire community, he wouldn’t be here today to enjoy the life he has cretated with the love of his life.

And by God’s grace alone, we all survived “Miracle Day!”

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2 thoughts on “Happy Miracle Day!

  1. I am so thankful for Miracle Day!! Your family is my family!! I prayed so hard for Freddie and the rest of you during this time and God brought you through!!! So proud of all that Freddie has done and how determined he was and still is to continue his life!!! Love you all!

    Like

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