A Death Sentence – BUT God

At 8:42 the morning of October 26, 2020, I received a message from a friend letting me know that a mutual friend of ours had been in a terrible car accident on her way to work. Update after update left very little hope that I would ever speak to my friend, Cheryl, here on Earth. Her injuries were a death sentence…. BUT GOD. This is a very long post but one that I think you will find worth reading. Cheryl, herself shares her account from the morning of the accident until just a few days ago. Yes, that “death sentence” was only how the doctors saw it… not how God planned it. Here is how GOD planned for it to all unfold.

death sentence

Here is a list of injuries sustained from her accident.

  • Traumatic brain injury( this in itself caused a cascade of side effects)
  • Atlanto-Occipital Dislocation (causing yet another long list of deficits)
  • 6 broken vertebrae ( cervical, thoracic, lumbar)
  • Multiple broken ribs
  • Broken right collarbone
  • Both bones of right forearm broken
  • Both bones of left forearm broken ( left ulna open fracture)
  • Major internal hemorrhaging originating in both large and small bowel
  • Deep laceration of the left knee
  • Subdural hematoma with active bleeding
  • Permanent significant hearing loss in my right ear
death sentence
Cheryl’s mom took this the evening of the accident.

If you want to help Cheryl and her family, there is a Go Fund Me page set up for them.


If you know anything about any of this or google any of her injuries, it really was a death sentence but here is Cheryl’s account…

Cheryl’s Account

6 months ago felt just like this morning…cool and crisp. What started out as a normal Monday morning where I got up, put on my gray scrub pants and purple floral coordinating top, placed my torn old slip-resistant shoes on, made my cup of Aldi dark roast coffee, and yelled bye I love you until Michael responded love you too have a good day. 

I hopped in my car and away I went. I remember thinking I should stop by the store but the fuel range was 152 miles so I had one more day to go so I made that right-hand turn on 42. A few minutes later headlights in my lane would rewrite the rest of our lives.

death sentence
Highway Patrol estimated the other driver was traveling at a rate of 65mph at the time of impact. Cheryl was estimated traveling 45mph

I gained access to my medical chart at UNC. I was reading through all the imaging reports. I have been trying to put a timeline together in my mind of what happened at the hospital. This particular image was from a day or so after I arrived at the hospital.

death sentence

The atlanto-occipital dislocation widened by 1.1 cm causing me to be unable to follow commands which led to an emergent surgery where they literally attached my skull back to my spine. Modern medicine is amazing but it was truly God’s hand that made this miracle occur. My dislocation was bilateral meaning that both sides of my Atlas or C1 vertebrae were dislodged from the base of my skull. One study says that 70% of people with an AOD never leave the scene of the accident. Of the 30% that make it to the hospital, 15% die in the hospital usually from respiratory distress. Of the 15% who survive, there are usually major neurological deficits as well as paraplegia and quadriplegia outcomes. There just isn’t a lot of literature out about this injury because it is oftentimes fatal.

I truly do not know how someone could look at this image and not grasp the concept of a miraculous God. All probability and statistics would have left me dead on the road that morning. God spared my life that day and I’m forever thankful. I’m still unsure why He did but I know He is not done with me yet. 

death sentence

So I will praise Him for it all…even for having His hand over me when the neurosurgeon was carefully placing every screw in my skull and spine. I will praise Him for the range of motion I do have in my neck that is slightly greater than the surgeon said I would ever have (granted I still have to shake my whole body to say no ). I will praise Him that the medical team was right there in the moment I needed them to be to save my life. I will praise Him even in the moments I am scared, anxious, angry, and tired because my God at the top of the mountain is the very same God with me in the valley. I will praise Him because my story is far from finished and I know it will be used to glorify Him. I will praise Him for it all!

Cheryl with her husband and four children, celebrating her daughter’s birthday prior to discharge at the hospital.

6 months have gone by quickly…5 of those I stayed surrounded by the 4 walls of a hospital. The last month at home has brought about a lot of learning and adjusting to our new norm. I still have so many questions and some I may never get answers for. Even still I know He makes no mistakes and He will use this for His glory. So I’m going to wait on Him…in His time and only His time will more be shown.

Wait On You

I don’t believe in fairytales, I guess I’ve outgrown them

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t believe

That there’s something bigger than me

Cause I’ve seen it in a hospital room

When the doctors said, “Sorry, there’s nothing more we can do”

Well, it wasn’t through

I’ve never seen a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow

But I’ve got a promise I can hold in the middle of the struggle

God, if you said it, You’ll perform it

May not be how I want You to

But here’s what I’ll do

I’m gonna wait on You

I’m gonna wait on You

I’ve tasted Your goodness

I’ll trust in Your promise

I’m gonna wait on You

Yes I’m gonna wait on You

I’ve tasted Your goodness

I’ll trust in Your promise

I’m gonna wait on You

The scars and what I have learned from them

There are many injuries from my accident that have healed, and many that are still healing. I look at these scars every single day. Some of the scars represent different things to me. 

The scars on my left wrist represent the healing of a bone that was broken and breaking through the skin that has been made whole again. It also represents to me an arm that will never fully function or have the degree of range of motion that it used to have. It also represents a determination to live life and figure out how to deal with the handicap of that injury. 

The scars on my forehead from the halo represent healing that occurred in my neck and skull that by all rights should not have happened. It represents a life that I was given back because I was right on the edge of losing it all. 

Cheryl’s halo coming off

The scar from my tracheostomy allowed me to breathe when my body could not do so on its own. 

I am finally seeing this scar develop on my abdomen from the surgical wound that was left open because my body was too weak to finish the procedure in one day. This scar represents a miracle that occurred in my body. It reminds me every day as it continues to heal and grow together that I too am continuing to heal and grow the pieces of my body back together. This scar will definitely be the bigger one and also the one that is taking the longest to heal.

Then there are the scars the people don’t see and to be completely honest I’m not really good at sharing about them. 

These are the scars that are bedded deep within my mind. 

These are the scars that make me scream in my sleep or talk to someone that’s not there. 

These are the scars that keep me worried about the future. 

These are the scars that have me mourning and grieving for a life that I do not have anymore. 

These are the scars that have me sitting and watching my children play softball together and the scars keep me from being able to join them. 

These are the scars that make me thankful for a husband who will and has done anything to help me but at the same time, the scars sometimes make me angry because he has to. 

My body is healing, the physical aspects of the injuries that I have are healing. The scars are there to show that it is healing and that my body is being made whole. It’s the scars that people don’t see that I struggle the most with.

This song speaks to me because even in the moments where I let the scars get the best of me I know that His plan is so much bigger than my fears. Even though there are many scary things and experiences that these scars represent, more so than anything they remind me of a miraculous and loving God. They remind me that He is still doing miracles and He’s done them in my life. It reminds me that He is not done with me and I have a greater purpose than probably what I would have ever thought for myself.

Cheryl surprised her son on his birthday with her coming home, for good!

I think sometimes the scars in our lives are reminders for us, but I also think that the scars in our lives can also be reminders for others. This song reminds me of that. So maybe someone out there has scars that are similar to mine and they’re struggling with the same scars that I do. Maybe someone else’s scars are different but they’re still healing from them. 

I hope that maybe they’ll read this post or listen to this song and realize that God makes no mistakes and that right now in the middle of the darkness it may be hard to see that, but the new sunrise is just around the corner. So even as I continue to heal, I will praise God for all the scars. This doesn’t mean that there are times that I struggle with the challenges in my life due to the scars, it just means that I know deep in my soul that these scars are a story He will use. So thank him for the scars in your life, and share the story with others because you never know who may need to hear it.

Cheryl 6 months after the accident

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” Romans 8:28

Scars – I Am They

Waking up to a new sunrise

Looking back from the other side

I can see now with open eyes

Darkest water and deepest pain

I wouldn’t trade it for anything

‘Cause my brokenness brought me to you

And these wounds are a story you’ll use

So I’m thankful for the scars

‘Cause without them I wouldn’t know your heart

And I know they’ll always tell of who you are

So forever I am thankful for the scars

If you would like to donate to help with Cheryl’s medical needs, you can visit her Go Fund Me page. 


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