March 2, 1999…as I sit and wait in the doctor’s office with Shawn, I feel miserable. I’d been suffering from a cold and being 4 months pregnant with Lydia, I couldn’t take just anything. It was time for my monthly check up and I couldn’t wait to get in there and find out what I could take to ease things. We waited for what seemed like hours only to hear that someone went into labor and the doctor could not see us. I got a list of things I could take for my cold and we headed home.
We had less than ideal living situations. We had been struggling financially and had never really learned the value of handling money in a way that lead to prosperity. We had gotten so low that we had been evicted from our trailer we were renting and were currently living in the front section of my mom’s house, sleeping on a mattress on the cement floor. Shawn dropped me off at home and headed to work. I took some cold medicine and laid down to rest before having to go coach a freshman volleyball practice. I woke up at 2:45 and headed to practice. Two and a half hours later Amanda (who was almost 2 years old) and I came home…no daddy. I was perplexed because he was always home around the same time we were. I tried to call…no response. I called work and a very irritated person informed me that he never showed up that day. My head swirled with various scenarios to explain why I couldn’t find him.
In my distress I did what most girls do, I phoned a friend. Diana and I had been best friends in high school and I now coached volleyball with her and her husband Tim who was also a friend from high school. She came and picked me up and we headed to Petoskey to try and find my lost hubby. We saw nothing on the way and, as the lady had told me, he wasn’t at work. On our way out of town Diana said, “What about the hospital?” “Surely someone would have called me right?” I said. (This was before cell phones were in every pocket and every purse.) But just to be sure, we stopped by.
No one was in the lobby so I picked up the lobby phone, “Northern Michigan Hospital, how my I direct your call?”
“Yes, I am looking for Shawn Powers and am wondering if he is here?”
“One moment please.”
I hear a man’s voice on the other end of the line, “This is Dr. Smith.”
I replied, “Yes I am looking for Shawn Powers.”
“One moment please.”
“Hello?” It was Shawn’s voice!
“Hi! What happened?”
“I guess I was in a car accident…who’s this?”
There was a long pause that I will never forget as long as I live. The wait seemed like an eternity and as I waited my heart began to race.
“Shawn, do you remember me?”
Yet another pause…”I’m sorry…I don’t”
At that point everything became like one of those dreams where you are trying as hard as you can to go fast. To run from someone or to something and you can’t move faster than molasses in January.
“I’ll be right there!” I hung up the phone and began trying to find my way from the out patient lobby to the emergency room entrance. It seemed to take forever as we turned down hall after hall in a maze of confusion. My mind was in high gear, racing with what to say, how to act, what to do. What did this mean for us? How was this going to affect our lives and our family. Why didn’t he remember me? We had had some really tough problems lately, what if he remembered just that and didn’t want to forgive me for all I had done? What was I going to do with one baby and another on the way?
Finally we reached the ER and turned the corner to his room. Then I didn’t know where on earth I got the peace and strength that came over me at that moment. I now know that it was God Himself bringing me through this moment in our lives. I waked through the door, walked up to my husband of four years, held out my hand and said, “Hi, I’m Donna. I’m your wife.”
He smiled timidly, seeming to not know what to say. The doctor gave me the details as far as he knew them. Shawn had missed a sharp curve for reasons unknown. He had driven off the road, over a snowbank, stopping short of a tree. Though he had his seatbelt on, the jolt smashed his head through the driver side window, knocking him unconscious. His first memory is in the ambulance where he woke up. Not being able to tell the paramedic or doctors much of anything, they began tests to see the extent of his injuries. Not knowing if he was a druggie, they gave him no pain meds for the excruciating headache that he suffered as a result of his head injury. He endured CT Scans, X-Rays, and even a spinal tap without pain management. When asked who he was, he knew. When asked if he was married, he assumed so due to the ring on his finger. When asked if he had children, he was certain he did not. Mom, dad, brothers, sisters…any recollection of anyone…gone. He laid in the hospital all day, watching people go by. Did any of them know him? What kind of life waited for him and would anyone come for him?
He asked for the Chaplin to come see him. Though he had been an atheist prior to his accident, he figured the Chaplin had to be nice to him because that was his job. So he waited, but no one came. Laying there all day in horrible pain being put through test after test, he began to pray. He prayed all day and waited to see if anyone would come.
As I stood there taking everything in, the doctors assured us that his memory would return probably the next day. Maybe this wouldn’t be as bad as I thought after all. He stayed the next three days in the hospital, more tests, and still no memory returning. They ruled out a seizure as the cause of his accident and to this day we still do not know what made him go off the road.
Day two in the hospital was a day Shawn nor I will every forget. The day he met Amanda. Up to this point, doubts plagued his mind along with the unrelenting migraine. How could he know we were telling the truth about him? About his past? About his life now? What if he was some sort of experiment and we were just feeding him lies? (He’s always been a fan of sci-fi…some things never change) He was very good humored about everything considering all he was going through. He sat there overwhelmed and straining to remember amid the pain and there she was. As something that I studied in Biology class, I always wondered how I, a person with brown hair and brown eyes, could have a baby with bright blonde hair and baby blue eyes! Now I know…she entered that room and their eyes met. The moment she saw him, her walk became a full out toddler run (or at least the best she could run with a big diaper bottom). “Daddy!!!!” She was so excited to see him. It was in that moment that he began to believe everything we’d been telling him. It was doubtful that we would coerce a not even two year old to fake him being her daddy. And she looked exactly like him! There was no denying that we were his family and that we loved him very much.
After exhausting all avenues they could, Shawn was finally released to go home. I was ashamed to take him home to a mattress on a cement floor, but with all he was going through, he didn’t seem to mind. Light overwhelmed him, people overwhelmed him, he did not like the outdoors because it was too big to take in. We waited for his memory to come back. Days passed and there was no progress despite the photos and videos that we bombarded him with. It was odd for him to see someone that looked just like him, doing things that he simply didn’t recall.
He had a hard time reading simple books like Dr. Seuss. It frustrated him that he couldn’t read a children’s book to his daughter. He suffered anxiety, depression, insomnia, agoraphobia along with intense pain among other things. Since he could no longer work, I found a job bussing table at a local restaurant. I worked days, we enjoyed dinner time as a family, and then when we went to bed he sat up unable to sleep. One night he sat at the computer and lifted his hands to the keyboard. Excitement came over him! “I can type! I know how to type! Please, open something so I can type!” It was the first recollection he’d had and it was wonderful! He spent his nights typing a journal and chatting with his dad, whom he didn’t remember.
The nights being as lonely as they were, Shawn wanted a pet to keep him company. We ventured out to the pet store on a quest to get a guinea pig and left instead with a baby pet rat. She was adorable and he named her Henry (yes a boys name but it was so fitting). She became his best bud. She would sit on his shoulder while he sat up on the computer all night. When we went to the ball field she would ride in the hood of his sweatshirt or in the pocket. What a sweet blessing she was, though I never thought I would be fond of a RAT, she won my heart as well.
One afternoon Shawn looked at me and said, “I’d like to go to church.” We had sworn off church a long time ago and vowed never to return. His lying for an entire day in the hospital praying left an impression on him and he was curious to know more about God. Not wanting to disappoint him, he had been through so much, I said yes. Our friends Tim and Diana Euler were “church-goers” so I asked them if we could tag along. They picked us up and away we went. It was the beginning of our family becoming Christians. I sat and wept and wrestled with God for weeks until the Sunday before Easter that year when I surrendered my life to Christ. Shawn, continuing to have difficulty reading, was given a NIrV by Pastor Halsted. (It’s an NIV for a 3rd grade reading level) It was by that Bible and attending church as often as he could, that Shawn became a Christian a couple months later. It is because of God’s work through Shawn’s accident that our family is part of God’s family through His Son and what He did on our behalf.
As time passed Shawn did better. It was a long year of recovery but he did so well to come back and fight to get back on his feet. In August of 1999, we welcomed our second daughter Lydia into the world. Shortly after that we moved from my mom’s house to a duplex with the help of United Way and friends from church. We were on state assistance and food stamps, living on $222 per month. Shawn continued to relearn computers and caught on very quickly. No memories regained other than a couple country songs that he recognized but he pressed on.
10 months after the accident a computer job opened up at Inland Lakes Schools in Indian River. Shawn did his research on the systems they used and studied up on it. He applied, was interviewed once, then twice, then was offered the job! Since that time we have welcome one more daughter, Elizabeth, to the family in 2001. We had a home, good jobs, we were off state assistance, and Shawn even tried writing about computers and landed a job at Linux Journal Magazine! He now also does training videos for a company in Oregon along with now working at Cornerstone University in the IT department.
It amazes me how far he’s come and how hard he worked to be the husband and father that God created him to be. He could have just wallowed in self pity over his situation but he pushed himself to take the next step in getting better. He can now enjoy the outdoors, sleep at night (most of the time), and be in public places and groups (although he can only tolerate lots of people for a short time as the volume becomes overwhelming).
We praise God for all He has done in, through, and for our family, we are truly blessed. That doesn’t mean that things have been peachy from that point on, it just means that He remains faithful in the midst of the storm. It’s part of life’s valleys and peaks, or as I like to call them hallways and hallelujahs. And through it all, He is faithful!