March 7, 2019
“Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
These are the words Laurie Garcia uses to define her journey from despair to Hope. That’s because Laurie, a 57-year old mother of six, believes that life – even at its most difficult – is worth living.
And she should know. Because Laurie almost lost her life all together.
On June 11, 2018, Laurie and her 23-year old daughter were driving on a country road when they were struck broadside by an oncoming vehicle. While her daughter and other driver were not seriously hurt, the same could not be said of Laurie. She was trapped inside her SUV, unresponsive, and without a pulse.
That’s when a random motorcyclist passing by stopped to help. A motorcyclist who just happened to be an ICU nurse. Not far behind was a second driver who, incidentally, was also a nurse. A short time later a priest arrived at the scene. Together, the nurses administered CPR while the priest provided spiritual intervention.
Incredibly, Laurie regained a pulse and began to breathe again.
Laurie calls it a miracle.
“The fact that two nurses had stopped on a rural road to render aid and a priest had given me a blessing was invaluable,” Laurie—who is Catholic – explains. “I felt the love of God like I’d never really felt before. Miracles were things that happened to other people, but the events surrounding my accident are hard to ignore.”
What these good Samaritans didn’t know at the time was how their efforts would later change the course of Laurie’s life. A life that, at that moment, was still hanging in the balance.
Upon arriving to the hospital doctors determined that not only did Laurie sustain multiple broken bones throughout her entire body, but tears in the ligaments of her cervical spine threatened the possibility of paralysis from the neck down and a traumatic brain injury presented potential cognitive impairments. Laurie would likely need to learn how to walk again. Talk again. Live again.
It was no surprise when she arrived at Hope Network Neuro Rehabilitation two months later carrying the heavy weight of discouragement and doubt.
“When I arrived at Hope, I was scared to death,” Laurie says. “I had this sense of fear and loss. I wasn’t sure about things. My foot was in a boot and I was in a wheelchair. I felt like I lost my dignity. I couldn’t even use the bathroom on my own. How long was that going to last? How much would I get back?”
Yet somewhere along the way, Laurie found that her accident became a source of gratitude, not despair.
“I realized I had been blessed with many miracles. The events surrounding my rescue made God more real than he’d ever been to me. The experience made me understand that I have intrinsic value as a person. How could I ever do enough to say thank you? I decided I could start by being the best person I could be.”
So that’s exactly what she set out to do.
“Laurie was in a lot of physical discomfort, was very dependent, and quite anxious and discouraged upon her arrival to Hope,” Kendra Greiner, Laurie’s therapeutic recreation specialist explains. “However, as her stay progressed she had a total shift in her attitude and ability to tolerate pain. She was now giving 110% effort. Her confidence and determination played a huge factor in all of the gains she made.”
Karen Foster, Laurie’s psychologist, agrees. “Laurie improved her mood management considerably. She engaged in our sessions and practiced the recommended coping skills. She was receptive to encouragement from staff as well as her husband. It really made a difference.”
Laurie doesn’t claim complete credit for her comeback, however.
The people I met at Hope were, without exception, fantastic,” she says. “They were supportive, encouraging, and tried to honor my needs, big and small. They showed respect for my privacy while ensuring my safety. And they helped keep me from giving up on my most discouraged days. Everyone was terrific.”
Today, Laurie lives at home with her husband while continuing aquatic therapy rehabilitation at Hope Network. She can walk again, and is one evaluation away from being able to drive again. The relationship with her husband – who was a solid rock of unconditional love and support throughout her hospitalization and rehabilitation – has grown stronger as a result of her experience. And while she still faces nagging fatigue, she has found renewed energy to “be the best granny” to her five – soon to be six – grandkids. She also hopes to help as many people as she can, including serving as a source of inspiration to others in similar circumstances.
“For anyone arriving at Hope Network,” Laurie says, “I want them to know that it really is a place of Hope. Trust the process and the people who work there. But most of all trust yourself. Even when things seem bleak, never give up on life, because you are valuable and have something uniquely yours to offer this world.”
Maybe that’s the greatest miracle of all.
Discharge party at Hope Network
Laurie and the nurse who arrived on the accident scene