Let’s Talk Spinal Cords

Our Journey to Healing Day 365

Joshua 1:9

9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

"I find that anticipation is worse than the anniversary." - Joy Lavender

1 year ago at 7:13am, I found myself in a situation that I had absolutely no idea how to handle.  News was leaking about the accident and people from all over started to pray. After rushing to the hospital and learning of his injuries, I begged for coffee and started making phone calls to family.  In typical LeAnne fashion, I found myself trying to be the hostess with the mostess in the surgical waiting room as family and friends started to arrive. Small talk is apparently difficult when the only thing on your mind is your husband and the long, grueling surgery he was enduring. I finally gave up with the "social butterfly" attempt and went to a quiet little corner to just sit and pray. 

Around 6pm that night, the neurologist huddled us into a little room to speak with us. He explained that Derek did great (even signed off on his own spinal surgery) but the damage was worse than they expected. They gave him less than a 5% chance of walking again and said that his recovery time would be extensive due to all the other broken limbs.  A few minutes later, his mother and I finally got to walk into room 610 on the 6th floor to see him for the first time. After a series of doctor meetings, we learned he shattered his T6 vertebrae and also managed to break his left wrist, right hand, left arm, scapula, 8 ribs, his nose, eye socket, occipital bun, had a collapsed lung and also suffered hearing loss in his right ear.

We struggled through the ICU phase with an incredibly scary moment on Monday, June 27th. After a rough night of low oxygen level, his lung collapsed around 7:30am. I remember being ushered out of the room as about 15 doctors and nurses came rushing in. I sat there shaking and asking a doctor if he thought Derek would have brain damage since his oxygen was so low. He looked at me and said "LeAnne. I'm not worried about brain damage. I'm worried he isn't going to survive this."

But he did and he did it with guts and glory! After a scary first few weeks in the ICU, we escaped and headed off to RIC in Chicago for inpatient rehab. Rehab consisted of 3 hours of Physical and Occupational therapy, as well as 3 hours of exoskeleton research each day. I was blessed by a wonderful family with keys to their gorgeous condo and enjoyed the walk down Michigan Avenue each morning to go see my man. 

Fast forward 4 months and we made it back safely to our city. We found a great accessible apartment this fall, started back to work the first of the year,  bought a house this spring, and will start renovating our home this summer! We went on a mini trip, had a new niece, celebrated a wedding anniversary, 2 birthdays, and decided to get a puppy. Yup. It has been quite the year.

It's no secret that I (LeAnne) have been the one blogging this whole time. It is also no secret that you all have been asking to hear from Derek. So, for the first time in blog history, Derek is here to answer some of your questions: 

You and motorcycles don't have the best track record. How do you feel about them now?

I am still a motorcycle enthusiast! I wrecked my dream bike (be careful what you wish for) but I still understand and share the lure of the motorcycle. Unfortunately we have been around people who have been injured in all kinds of different ways, some of them were being reckless, others didn't do a single risky thing. End of the day, motorcycles are dangerous, I was lucky enough to have been raised in a culture of motorcycle safety so my helmet, titanium threaded jacket, and gloves helped mitigate the damage (i.e. saved my life).

How has this trial helped you grow this past year? 

This trial has helped me grow a lot in my relationships with others. Obviously, LeAnne and I have grown closer to one another then we'd ever imagined. While a lot of it may have been out of necessity, we have had the great opportunity to spend a lot of time together and our marriage has become stronger as a consequence. I have also grown much closer to friends, family, and co-workers. They have done so much us over the past year that it has really brought us closer to everyone involved. 

This trial has also really helped me grow in my sympathy and understanding of others with disabilities. Being surrounded by people with varying levels of disability for a few months has really opened my eyes to the different types of issues people have to deal with on a daily basis. 

The best part of this past year? Go!

It's hard to put a "best part" to it. There have been so many little things that have added up over the past year to make it great it would be an injustice to pick just one. Celebrating holidays, niece/nephews birthdays, getting a new niece, resettling down in Indianapolis, and believe it or not going back to work all come to mind. Drinking water for the first time in about a month after the ICU was also a pretty exciting moment!

What is one thing you and LeAnne have done to strengthen your marriage this past year? 

We have been spending A LOT of time together! Not being able to drive and requiring a lot of assistance when I was freshly injured required it. We have spent our time together reading, playing cards, and wandering around Indy/Chicago. Our marriage has been strengthened by intentionally finding new ways to appreciate each other in view of our new lifestyle.

How has transitioning back to work been going?

I have been VERY fortunate to have an amazing workplace that has done nothing but support me through everything. I am also very fortunate to have an occupation that doesn't require a lot of physical labor. Transitioning back to my pre-injury efficiency has been a bit of a challenge, but I have slowly been making progress.

1 prayer request

I can't possibly ask for any more prayer or support for myself. We have been so overwhelmed with kindness and love this past year it would be selfish to ask for anything more. One of the most difficult parts of this past year has been my inability to properly thank everyone who has been there for us. My friends, family, and fellow co-workers have done so much for me I can't possibly repay them or even properly show them how much I appreciate all they have done. I guess my prayer request would be that I can use this experience to identify ways that I can help others in similar ways people have helped me this past year.


Well, we did it! We made it a whole year and we appreciate you all more than you will know. 

Thanks for sticking by our side. 

With Love,

The Lavenders