She died…and now lives!!! Five years GODS Grace.

She was only 16…SIXTEEN.

She was intelligent and athletic… Very self-disciplined, strong willed, determined.

With hopes & dreams…things to do, and places to go.

Then a hurricane named IRENE battered her stormy eye right over Gloucester County, fiver years ago today, August 27, 2011….

Most ‘ladies’ are predominantly ‘late.’ But Irene? This ‘lady’ storm was by no means a lady. She was projected to hit land approximately 7-8pm that Saturday evening…but she decided to roll in sooner. MUCH sooner. (But she failed to let us know…)

I remember it vividly, every minute detail… As if it just happened yesterday, rather than 5 years ago…whenever I hear or see the numbers 8/27, I flashback to that day, forever etched on my heart…

It was raining. That’s it. Rain. No winds, just rain… My husband fixed us breakfast & coffee… While I was gathering together emergency items like flashlights, extra batteries, radio, water, you know, ‘just in case’, he was outside securing loose items in the event the wind later decided to pick up speed…

Around 10:30am, my husband and daughter began talking about driving to see what the water levels were looking like on the river, while I was texting our older daughter who was away at college, and older son who then lived in Norfolk on the water, giving the typical ‘mom’ advice for safety. My ears were alerted to my husband and younger daughters’ conversation…& they asked me if I was coming with them or staying…

Then ‘it’ happened.

A check in my spirit… A little warning bell… I began the typical explanations: said I didn’t think it was a good idea… maybe we should just stay inside where it was dry, didn’t think we should go. Their father-daughter banter was directed at me- saying they’d leave me behind…they’d go without me.

I decided no, if they were going to go, I was going with them. So around 11:30am, as they were preparing to leave, I went upstairs, grabbed my rain boots and rain coat, grabbed my camera, and said ‘hold on! I’m coming’!

Then, as I ran down the stairs, a few steps from the bottom, I stopped, put on my rain boots, and again got a check in my spirit. ‘Don’t go.’ I told my husband again, ‘I don’t think it’s a good idea’, but they were going… So I did, too.

Usually, when I’d get inside my van to go anywhere, when my safety belt went on, I would pray for safety and plead the blood of Jesus over us. This Saturday 5 years ago… I didn’t…

And off we went. Not too far from home though… Down to Gloucester Point, at VIMS, then the Marina-, and we noticed winds picking up, rain bands were coming in stronger… Mild flooding was happening in yards and onto streets… So we decided to turn around and head home., we lived only 15 mins away.

I was amazed by the change in weather in such a short time! Our daughter sitting behind us in the middle seat, was busy texting multiple people with multiple conversations going simultaneously… Typical teenager…when we were about 5 mins from home, coming down Main St- she asked if we could real quick turn down Warehouse Landing Road to see the boat landing dock- so we did.

We were impressed by the leaves that blew off trees onto the road, in some areas completely covering the road, and in places, little twigs and occasional tiny branch…and the high levels of water was coming over the dock- and I remember how odd it was that the seagulls just perched there, oblivious to the storm that was coming in. My husband and I made eye contact, and decided at same time we needed to get home. I believe one of us commented that the storm must be coming in sooner.

So we proceeded to head back home, only 5 minutes away…

Never in a million years would we ever imagined that what would happen just seconds later to happen…

NEVER.

We didn’t see it coming. Not even a hint.

One moment… Life is normal. You’re singing, talking, your daughter’s texting, and the next moment, out of the blue…

BAM!!!

Sudden stop. THUD.

Somehow… It got dark… And silent.

VERY Still.

Within a split second- our life changed.

Ohhhhhh…. If we could rewind the clock…

It seemed as if we were snatched away from a ‘normal’ day, and dragged directly into a nightmare.

I wasn’t aware, but I’d been knocked unconscious…with a concussion. I felt as if I was far, far away, and in the distance I heard a voice calling my name- I barely heard it…but it was my husband’s voice…calling my name ‘Wendy!!! Wake up!!! Can you hear me? WAKE UP!!! (And he was sitting right there next to me).

I struggled to open my eyes… Then I felt a kind of piercing pain on top of my head and kink of my neck… So I tried holding it together, as if preventing it from exploding… And I tried to open my eyes. How could something some simple be so difficult???

And then…. I heard him… Like a whisper… I heard him… And his words echo in my memory over and over, shattering my heart with a cold, numbing shock:

“MORGANNE’S NOT BREATHING!!! WAKE UP!”

Her entire life flashed before me like a millisecond… The pregnancy complications I had with her at my 5th month… The high bilirubin she had at birth… The RSV that threatened to take her from us when she was only 9wks old…the rare blood infection she had in 2nd grade that almost took her from us… Her quiet self absorbed self play, content in her room… Her standing next to me in the kitchen, not even as tall as the countertops, baking cookies… and on and on before me images of her life rotated like lightning flashes before me…And I fought to open my eyes, crying out the only name I knew to cry, ‘JESUS!!!’ Jesus! Jesus!!!’

It took every ounce of strength to open my eyes… And while trying to work through medical shock,and deep pain, and try to figure out what just happened, seeing tree limbs sprawled over the van and seeing the windshield shattered, yet still in place…& seeing the drive shaft on DRIVE position but we weren’t moving… Trying to rationalize something that made no sense at all…Then realizing my husband Doug was trying to find a cell phone to call 911… I turned towards his voice…and opened my eyes…

Our eyes locked again…I’ll never forget it. EVER. No words. The look we shared? It said it all.

Every possible emotion imaginable, was all summed up in that one look…

…then as I twisted in my seat to look back at her…bile began to rise up in my throat, as fear started to attacked me… my vocal cords began to swell…the enemy tried his hardest to keep my mouth shut, as if he knew if he could keep me quiet, he’d win. But no!!! I knew I had something to say!!! I knew with every ounce of my being that I had to fight for the right to speak…

I cried out ‘JESUS!!! Help me!!! Help my baby girl!!! Dear Lord in Heaven, help us!!!’ Then I called out her name…

“Morganne!!! Wake up!!! It’s not funny, open your eyes!!! Morganne!!!” (Thinking somehow, she was pulling a bad joke on us… But she wasn’t… she wasn’t…)

I felt for a pulse. Nothing. None. No life in her…

The image that I witnessed? Seeing her like that? It’s one that I’ll never forget it as long as I live. I see it still in my dreams. Haunting. Nothing any parent ever wants to see. But we did. We did…

There she was…there sandwiched between the middle seat of our minivan, and the roof of the van, was our baby girl… Crushed. Crushed by a huge tree that happened to fall on top of us at that precise moment we were driving by… Her lifeless body was folded over her knees, arms hanging listlessly on each side, long hair hanging out onto floor, completely, utterly… Still. Completely Lifeless. No heartbeat… No pulse. GONE.

At first?

My mind was tempted to give in to the panic and fear I was feeling. It was the most ‘real’ battle of life and death I’ve ever experienced. I had to fight to say “JESUS.” I had to fight to plead the blood of Jesus over her, because all I wanted to do was scream and fall apart, because I was seeing my beautiful baby girl, our daughter, right before me, dead.

Then, the Spirit of God within me took over. A special gift of the Spirit took over, a spirit of faith, and of a working of a miracle, and of special healing, took over me… I remember saying over and over ‘my baby… My baby! Jesus, help me baby!!!’ Over and over… And I kept pleading the blood of Jesus over her… There really is tremendous power in His Name! There really is tremendous power in His blood- it’s not just a song to sing…

Then I quoted scripture. I said ‘it is written! Satan, we submit to God! We resist you in the Name of Jesus!!! You MUST FLEE!!! James 4:7. Take your hands OFF her! In the Name of Jesus, she shall live and not die! She will declare the works of the Lord! Psalms 118:19.’ Then I laid my hands on her lifeless hand, and then on her neck, and said “it is written! Believers shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover! Mark 16:18. Take your hands off her! The life giving blood of Jesus is in her perfecting a cure and a whole!’ And I prayed in the Spirit, and kept praying back and forth, my lips were shattering, I was trembling with shock… But I remember we called 911, and my husband decide to try to crawl out of his broken window, over the live power lines and tree (that somehow out of no where fell directly on top of the van we were driving in with the bulk of it over where Morganne was sitting the very second we were driving by…) in the pouring rain and to the opposite side to try to open the door to get to her… While bleeding from glass wounds…his shear determination was completely focused on his baby girl and getting to her…

It seemed like an eternity…it seemed like time stood still. Maybe it did. But in reality, it was only six minutes… SIX LONG MINUTES… Trapped.

Doug told me to try to get onto the middle of vans floor, to try to unhook her safety belt and try to pull her out into floor so he could try to reach her and open her airways. Rescue hasn’t yet arrived (little did we know they made the decision after her 911 call to ground all emergency response vehicles for safety of responders: IRENE WAS IN FULL FURY), and a nearby resident came to the vans drivers side offering assistance. I remember making it to the middle of van floor, crying and praying, and seeing a large, hairy arm pop thru side window, helped me undo her safety belt. The concern was moving her and risking paralysis… But my calm, sensible husband said she was already not breathing for minutes and it was more important to get her air ways open & breathing… So we proceeded…

There I was…

Sitting on the floor. Helping to pull my 16 yr olds lifeless body off the seat onto the floor, over to the side where my husband’s hands waited… It seemed impossible. And for the third time that day, our eyes locked again- the enormity of what was happening secondary only to our shock…what our eyes communicated was clearly understood by each other… But to this day, unable to communicate. No words. There just are no words to describe the conversation of our souls that took place between our eyes that day…

I saw her leaning back against the door, her head drooped, arms dangled at her side, still not breathing, no color in her skin, no movement, and I see his hands gently cup her chin and lift it.. I see my Father God’s hand guiding his!!! Dear God!!!

And as my husband’s eyes was glued to my eyes… I saw her eyes open… Still neurologically ‘gone’, no expression, no recognition…but she started to breath…SHE STARTED TO BREATH!!!

And then rescue arrived and takes her quickly to the local hospital, and transported me as well… Dazed, in shock, soaked, shivering, praying…they took her for scans… And tried to get our consent for us to be evaluated (which we declined-she was our #1 focus.) when she returns, hooked up to so many machines and tubes… It clearly was. Not. Good.

The expressions on the nurses face as I entered the room where we were there eyes quickly looking to the floor… Well you can say a lot with one look…

They told us her skull was fractured, that she lost a lot of blood, but even worse was that she had multiple hematomas and sub-dermal bleeds. Both sides of her brain was damaged. The worst type of brain injury one could have… She had. And she was critical, barely alive, in need of life saving brain surgery…

Only, there wasn’t a brain trauma dept or Brain surgeon at the local hospital… And because IRENE was in full force, the nightingale helicopter and ambulances were grounded… And both the Coleman Bridge and the Westpoint bridges were closed due to the hurricane…

Dear God, we needed a miracle!

Prayers were already in full force, even though we were not then aware…the hospital admin fought for Morganne’s life… Interceded on the phone with state police, begged for escort to MCV and for bridges to open for her, said if not, she would die.

Permission was granted. But then we needed an ambulance driver willing to risk his/her life to drive in 100 mph winds, and flooding waters, to MCV hospital… AND we needed a transport ER nurse to accompany her there to try to keep her alive… Again the hospital admin came through! She found us a driver. And… There were TWO nurses who agreed to go, and they were amazing. They sacrificed their life to try to help save our daughters.

Then, we needed a way to get to MCV as well, and our friend from church, who happened to be a nurse, who happened to be at the hospital preparing for her shift, prayed with us, and gave us the keys to her Suburban, and we were in our way…

It’s all a blur from there…because flooding was terrible, winds were horrible, trees along I-64 were falling left and right, looked like a war zone… And once we arrived, we had no clue where our baby girl was in the midst of this massive hospital… It seemed like a maze… It was pouring stinging rain, very dark, and powerful winds blowing…eventually, one of the guards (or an angel) escorted us through the back doors and through multiple floors, till we were on the eleventh floor in a surgery prep took, and we saw her. Dear God in heaven, I’ll never forget that ‘look’ either. She was lifeless, hooked up to life-sustaining machines…multiple consent forms were presented hurriedly to us to sign, fast talk about her critical condition and odds against her, and the fact that she was an organ donor come up: they made us aware that since her brain injuries were so severe, the chances of her surviving the surgery were slim to none and explained what would happen if she didn’t survive. We told them she WOULD survive, and would fully recover. And, that we believed it would be expedient, cause God has promised and we trusted He would use them to help her.

From there, it was notifying our immediate family, and church family. Our older daughter who lived 5 hrs away began heading towards us, and she was SUCH a huge blessing…taking the responsibility of making phone calls and asking for prayers on Facebook… while she too had to navigate the strong winds of the far reaching storm damaging our state… And the flood of emotions bombarding her heart…Our son was stuck in Norfolk until the tunnels were reopened…he threatened to ride a bicycle in the midst of the storm to Richmond he so desperately wanted to get to us, but was restrained by blockades, closed roads, closed tunnels, closed bridges…
and so we were constant in praying and speaking the Word of God over her…the 8-9 hours she was in surgery were the longest hours of our lives…We were expecting God to watch over His Word we were standing on. We had no other option. We refused to entertain any other report but Gods.

Three days in… A lot happened in those three days… A spiritual battle was won in three days… During the time we were in her ‘upper room’… we were determined to keep her room holy, and consecrated to the presence of God, with an atmosphere of faith. We restricted visitors to family and to those in the highest level of faith who were in complete agreement with us. We asked her caregivers and all the student doctors who followed her to not mention her medical limitations or prognosis of ‘she won’t be able to’s’ while in her room within her hearing range, believing she was hearing every word… We asked them to update us out in the hallway… And we kept Gods Word foremost as her report. So third day…her daddy walks in and asks ‘is Morganne awake?’ She opens her eyes… Looks at her dad, lifts her right hand, and using her finger, directs him to her… I witnessed the sweetest kiss between father and daughter at that moment… and after more tests were done, she is moved…

And over night, miracles upon miracles, odds upon odds surpassed. She sits up in bed… Intubation removed…Begins texting and face booking her friends… And then HER fight begins… She fought against every limitation, every restriction, every report that told her what she could ‘not’ do any more or wouldn’t be able to do due to ‘total brain damage’… But she, with her child like faith…listened to the wise counsel of her youth pastor, Pastor John Michael Clark, who came multiple times and prayed with us over her… and when she was awake, he told her in his matter of fact way that she needed to depend on and trust in Gods Word herself.. he told her that she needed to speak Gods Word for her self… and asked her what scripture verse from God was she going to put her faith in…And so she did.

It was amazing to witness!!! Her sheer determination and amazing faith in God shone through… And as the ‘good’ fight of faith took place, her choosing to believe God in spite of the incredible head pain she endured, memory loss, inability to speak well or coordinate her movements- balance issues, sight issues- she never thought she would not recover. In spite of not being able to stand or see out of one eye, in spite of having a bone missing from her skull protecting her brain, in spite of needing to wear a helmet for safety, in spite of requiring further brain surgery in the future months after swelling went down, in spite of the doctors saying she may NEVER be able to run again…She kept saying she wanted to run…she kept saying she WOULD run…that she needed to get back to her cross country team (as a senior in high school and team captain of her girls DC team- she was determined!) She believed God, spoke with utter confidence that all things were possible with God, and that by His stripes she was healed, and that she could do ALL things through Christ who gave her strength…and she fought for it. She was so brave. She was so positive. I never saw her she’d one tear, not one… Until at the school team meeting she was told she would not be able to participate in high school sports because home bound students were limited to four classes max, and athletes were required to have five classes… The only time she cried and not out of feeling sorry for herself, but out of anger at the limitations out on her… I had to cry in secret cause I didn’t want her seeing me cry. But this girl who medical reports said had total brain damage… She instantly saw her way out. She declined the school home bound reduced class schedule and made statement of faith at that table: she said she believed in the power of prayer, and would ask her family and friends to pray for another miracle so her swelling would go down enough to have her second surgery the following week, so she could return to school as a normal student…

And that’s exactly what happened. She got another miracle. 9/22/11 she returned to MCV for her second brain surgery to restore her muscles, and replace the bone flap and bolt it in place… And a week after that, 9/31/11… She was at school… And after school, she did what the doctors said was impossible: she ran with her team.

God is a God of His Word! He is a God of miracles!!! He is faithful!!!

Our older daughter Helen was such a tremendous help, too. She selflessly put her college on hold, and helped us with Morganne’s therapy and recovery. Only after Morganne’s second surgery and second recovery did she return back to school, missing a semester…I will forever be grateful for the bond these two sisters have… Special.

Five years ago… Our life changed suddenly. We almost lost our lives… And just about lost our daughter… And she was only 16…

A milestone we are celebrating today. Five years. The medical prognosis wasn’t good. In fact, it was completely opposite of good. ‘She’d not be the same person… She’d be a vegetable… She’d need assistance the rest of her life… She’d might not ever be able to walk again, much less run again…she’d not be a he go finish high school… She’d might not be able to drive again’… Etc.
But God.

He watched over His Word. He fully healed and restored her. One seeing her today would never know what she endured. She’s a tiny one… But she is stronger then an ox! And is strong in her faith. She’s my hero. And… She is a recent newlywed, and an RN working in SICU, often with patients with similar injuries as she had…she’s also one with a heart for missions… About to go in her second mission trip in less than two months from now.

Five years. The number ‘5’ has spiritual meaning. The number 5 symbolizes God’s grace, goodness and favor toward humans and is mentioned 318 times in Scripture. Five is the number of grace, and multiplied by itself, which is 25, is ‘grace upon grace’ (John 1:16). Morganne is the fifth member of our family… We almost lost her while I was five months pregnant with her… And her middle name? Grace.

I share all this to encourage anyone and everyone: no matter how badly things seem, God is always for us, not against us…God is the God of impossibilities! In fact, with God, NOTHING shall be impossible to those who believe. Have faith in God. Go ahead. Take Him at His Word. He is trustworthy.


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