My story is unbelievable to most. In fact, I would have a hard time believing it if it had not happened to me.
It was another typical school morning, and my partner, Shawna, was pulling out of our driveway with our four kids in the car. As I watched from the front window, I had a strong feeling in my gut to keep our two youngest children at home with me. I didn’t know why, but I found myself running out the door, chasing after the car.
The answer to my intuition that morning came less than fifteen minutes later. As I sat on the couch, I heard the front door open. Quick footsteps followed, and soon my brother was standing in front of me with a look of sheer panic. He instructed me to sit down, and proceeded to tell me that an accident had just occurred involving Shawna and our two boys. I felt sick.
Without hesitation, I loaded up the two kids and ran out the front door. With my brother behind the wheel, we drove to the location of the accident. Although it was only a five-minute drive, it felt like hours.
We came around a corner, and I immediately saw a large gathering of people standing on the road. As we approached, I saw a small child lying lifeless on the side of the road. My heart stopped. It was my six-year old son, Casey.
Everything after that moment became a blur. Shawna’s car had been T-boned, and Casey had been ejected 160 feet from the vehicle. Astonishingly, my other son, Tristan, who was in the back seat behind Casey, did not have a scratch. Shawna was unconscious, and was believed to have sustained minor injuries.
While Shawna was rushed to a nearby hospital in an ambulance, Casey awaited an air ambulance to bring him to the closest city hospital. I was advised to make the one-hour drive into the city to meet the helicopter at the hospital.
By the time I reached the hospital, there were already friends and family members gathered in the waiting rooms and spilling into the halls. Word had spread fast about the accident in our small community, and together we all prayed and waited for answers.
Shawna arrived at the hospital by mid-afternoon. After being assessed in the Emergency Room, she joined me, and we waited for an update on Casey.
Finally, a nurse led us into a small room and said, ‘The next few hours are going to be very critical. Casey’s injuries are severe, and he will need to have immediate surgery. We will do our best, but there is a chance that he may not make it through.’
Shawna looked at this woman with sheer determination and said,
‘No. My son is not going to die in this hospital!’
The tone had been set.
The moment Casey’s surgery was finished, we were taken to see him. Tubes could be seen running in every direction, and his head was twice its normal size.
Shawna went to him first. As she gently held his little hand, she spoke, ‘Casey, when I was pregnant with you, I always used to say that you were going to be a fighter with the way you kicked and constantly moved around. Now you will have to put on the greatest fight of your life. I know that you can do it.’
The head neurosurgeon soon approached us with a look of compassion, and began to share the extent of Casey’s injuries. He had fourteen broken bones, a severed spinal cord, four major fractures in his skull, and a crushed brain stem. Of more concern was the fact that the CT scan showed no brain activity. In other words, Casey was brain-dead. I held Shawna as she broke down and started sobbing.
We were then told that Casey would remain in this state for the rest of his life, and there was no hope of any kind of recovery. In the gentlest way possible, the neurosurgeon informed us that the best decision was to pull the plug, and let Casey go peacefully.
We did what no parents should ever have to do, and signed the papers for our son to potentially be taken to the morgue.
Meanwhile, prayers and ceremonies were taking place right across Canada for Casey, even as far south as Arizona. The show of support was incredible.
My cousin, Jack, was in New Mexico at the time and did not know what had happened. The day of Casey’s accident, he was only told that members from his community would be holding a ceremony for a child who was badly injured in Canada. Jack went just to offer his prayers that day, and only later did he realize that the child he was praying for was his cousin’s son.
I watched as the nursing staff took Casey off life support.
I waited, and I too began to pray.
Hours passed, and Casey’s little heart kept beating as his spirit continued to fight. After eighteen agonizing hours, the decision was made to put him back on life support. Casey wasn’t ready to give up yet.
A second CT scan was performed, and to the medical team’s complete surprise, it revealed that there was now minimal brain activity. The head neurosurgeon said that in her entire career, she had never heard or seen anyone come back from a brain scan with no activity.
Hope raged on, and the support from our community continued to be overwhelming. We had visitors every day at the hospital. On one occasion, Casey’s classmates completely filled his room. Together, these young children all prayed in silence. In the Native culture it has long been believed that children’s prayers are the strongest.
The future was still uncertain, and we kept strong in our faith. Casey had already beaten all odds, and the doctors could only describe his recovery as a miracle. They thought he wouldn’t make it past five minutes, and now he was fighting into his seventy-second hour.
I was deeply humbled by the overwhelming support that continued to be given to my son. In the three days following the accident, there were fifty-three ceremonies that took place in Casey’s honour. Most of these people had never even met my son yet still took the time to pray for him.
Unexplainable things kept happening, and I was seeing the brighter side of life. My relative, Michael, had an opportunity to meet with a Native medicine man awhile back. He gave Michael a small white stone with the following instructions, ‘You will know when you are supposed to use this. When this white stone has served its purpose, it will bleed, and a red line will run through it.’
Michael handed this sacred white rock over to his grandfather, Walter. Walter clearly saw a need for a miracle for Casey, and placed the stone in a leather bag and hung it above his hospital room door.
Several days later, as Casey was about to be taken for a bath, the nurses turned him over only to find that very same stone beneath his torso. No one knew how it had gotten there. When we opened the bag, the stone was still white, but red veins were now spreading through it. To us, that was proof of the miracles that were taking place, and we knew that Casey was going to be okay.
Thirteen days passed, and finally Casey came out of his coma. Shawna and I awoke to him crying out for his mom. It was the most beautiful sound to hear his sweet voice again.
The doctors informed us that he would be blind, unable to walk or talk, and would sustain severe memory loss.
Guided by ongoing prayers and ceremonies, Casey slowly overcame each of these perceived limitations. My son reaffirmed so many people’s beliefs in the power of prayers and gratitude. Although he could not see, Casey began to partially open his eyes, wiggle his fingers and toes, gesture kisses from his lips, and display that beautiful smile.
As time passed, this miracle child got stronger each day,
and we celebrated each step of his recovery.
Still unable to see, Casey was in the hospital bed talking to his grandmother—my mom, Susan. Suddenly he said, ‘Who has bear grease?’ Bear grease is a traditional First Nations medicine used to manage pain.
As usual, the room was full of people. My Aunt Doris, somewhat surprised by the sudden request, said, ‘Well, I have some.’
Casey replied, ‘Well bring it over here!’
Doris dug through her purse, removed the lid, and brought the small container to Casey. He smelled it, scooped up a handful, and spread it across his eyes. None of us questioned his motives but rather just watched as it all unfolded.
The following day Casey began getting his vision back. The head neurosurgeon said, ‘Whatever you guys are doing, keep doing it because it is defying science.’
Casey continued to defy all odds, and thirty-three days later, he was released from the hospital.
Three years have passed since the October morning that forever changed my life. To some, this all might seem farfetched and unimaginable.
We can’t explain it, but it is our reality.
Today, Casey is nine years old and not only does he walk, he also plays hockey. He loves math and actually has the highest mark in his entire class. There are certainly effects from such a significant brain injury, and some days are more challenging than others, but we will take it. For example, Casey is very temperamental and also gets tired more than most kids his age. However, that is just part of his recovery.
I have been blessed in so many ways. The events stemming from Casey’s accident have not only restored my belief in a higher power, but also in life itself.
Hard times will certainly test relationships, and the accident definitely affected my relationship with Shawna. We have been together for thirteen years, and have certainly experienced our share of ups and downs.
Today, we are reunited, and we are a team.
The strength and power of prayer can create miracles. I give thanks to the Creator for allowing my son to be one of these miracles, and that he has another chance at life.
* Lane’s story is an excerpt
from Allan’s latest book: