Out of Control!

My car slid off the interstate. Would this be the way I would die?

It was a cold January morning, but the sun was shining and I was eager to get on the road. I left my home in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, about 8:00 a.m. heading for a Christian booksellers' mini-convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. My husband had to keep the Christian supply center that we co-owned and managed open for business, so I was going alone.

I made it through the Knoxville rush-hour traffic, and Interstate 40 East was not too crowded. My cousin had insisted that I take her new car on the trip. My cousin's car had cruise control, something I'd never had before, and I wanted to take advantage of this feature. So, I set it on 55 miles per hour, relaxed, and turned on a Christian radio station. The music was peppy and uplifting, and I began to sing along. I felt good.

Split-second disaster

Just as the four-lane interstate narrowed to two lanes, I passed a large, white-panel delivery truck. I was pleased that I could get around it before we got down to two lanes. A few miles later I passed a vehicle on an overpass. In that passing lane, as I neared the end of the bridge, I hit a patch of ice. The car careened down into the steep median, before going up the other side. What seemed like forever, was only a matter of seconds.

Having lived in the Northeast for several years, I knew not to touch the brakes when skidding on icy roads but to steer in the direction of the skid. Being unfamiliar with cruise control, however, I didn't realize that I needed to tap the brakes to disengage this feature. I was going full speed into the median. Also, the steering wheel went wild?I couldn't control it. I just held my hands up and waited. I'm going to die, I thought. This car is headed toward the other side of the interstate, and I'll hit a car head-on! Is this the way I will die? Jesus, help me!

Suddenly, the car stopped. And it stopped on the inside shoulder of the westbound interstate! The cars whizzed by me. I sat stunned?had God sent an angel to take the steering wheel and apply the brakes? I was alive!

Sitting motionless, I was startled to hear someone knocking on the car window. I noticed the white delivery truck I had passed earlier parked on the other side of the median and realized the two men driving it had stopped to help me. They opened the door and asked me if I was hurt. I told them I didn't think so, but they suggested I get out to be sure.

I did, and except for a pain in my back, I seemed fine. As the men walked around the car checking for damage, another car hit the same icy spot and came flying down into the median and up again, barely missing the front of my car but continuing across the westbound I-40 and into a ditch on the other side.

One of the men told me, "Lady, your tires are okay, and if you're sure you're not hurt, I would strongly suggest you try to start the car and move it?fast! Others will hit the icy spot, and the next one might not miss you."

A pain-filled journey

I thanked them, got back into the car, and started it with no problem. I slowly merged into the westbound traffic and headed back to Knoxville. My car was covered with snow, mud, and grass from the median, and people passing me stared and pointed as I drove about 10 to 15 miles per hour.

The pain in my back worsened. I sat first on one hand and then the other, using them to relieve the pressure on my back, while steering with the other hand. I prayed desperately for guidance and help. Should I go off at the next exit and phone for help? Should I go to a nearby hospital?

At each exit the very thought of lifting my foot from the accelerator to the brake made me panic. So I kept driving. I felt God was giving me the strength to continue. I inched the more than 50 miles back to Oak Ridge.

There, I didn't get one red light so I never had to use the brakes. I turned slowly into the hospital parking lot, and almost coasted into a space right in front of the emergency-care door. I had to lift my foot and touch the brake, and I was able to do it?the first time since I left the accident scene.

God held me in his hands

I signed in, telling them that I had been in a car accident. After completing all the red tape and answering questions, I was told to have a seat.

When a nurse came out to call the next patient, she took one look at me and, mercifully, asked me if I wanted to lie down. The tears came then, as she gently helped me to a gurney and paged a doctor. It so happened that the best orthopedic surgeon in Oak Ridge was at the hospital. He came immediately to the emergency room.

After x-rays and tests, the doctor told me my back was broken! The fourth lumbar vertebra was crushed. He admitted me to the hospital and ordered traction. Then he looked at me kindly and shook his head.

"Young lady, I have many patients who are paralyzed and in wheelchairs with the same injury you have. If one sliver of bone had moved, you would be in that same condition. With all your movement and driving, it's a miracle you aren't much worse off. Someone was watching over you!"

As I was wheeled out of the emergency room, I remembered the New Year's Eve service we had attended just days before. My husband and I had sung a duet, "I Don't Know About Tomorrow, But I Know Who Holds My Hand." I have trusted and proven those words many times, but never like I did on that January morning.

A Christian Reader original article.

Copyright © 2001 by the author or Christianity Today International/Today's Christian magazine (formerly Christian Reader).
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Originally published January 01, 2001.