Veni, Vidi, Vici

Back in high school, I was an editor of the school newspaper. I practically lived in that newsroom, staying late on countless deadlines and writing stories about all the major happenings and big events. The yearbook staff shared the space with us, and as a huge fan of yearbooks, I would proof and edit their pages often. I remember looking at one page and seeing a feature of a girl named Kristin who was labeled "the blogger" (if I remember correctly), and I noticed she was in a wheelchair. I didn't know why, and being new to the school, didn't want to ask in case it would be inappropriate or rude.

Then, later in high school, I remember hearing about how Kristin walked across the stage at her graduation to ongoing applause from everyone in the whole stadium. I remember being so in awe of her and what an incredible act of courage and persistence that must have been, especially to conquer something so big in front of so many people. I knew then, even though I knew next to nothing about this girl, that she was a fighter.

A few years later, I happened to be home on a Sunday morning to attend church with my family. There she was again, this time on stage sharing her story. For the first time, I heard a little of the tragic accident that explained her need for a wheelchair. Again, I could see the strength and bravery in her as she shared something so vulnerable in front of another huge room full of people.

Now, Kristin is part of the young adult small group at Hope that I lead. A random gathering Hope calls GroupLink connected her to me and my group, and we all have absolutely loved getting to know her better.

Yes, Kristin is absolutely strong and 100% a fighter. But I think the first thing anyone in our group will tell you about Kristin is that she is HILARIOUS. She has this incredible dry sense of humor with the best timing that totally catches me off guard and makes me laugh out loud all the time. She has the best snort-laugh I've ever heard, which makes me laugh even harder because it's so awesome.

Never once has being in a wheelchair stopped her. I honestly don't notice it most of the time, because whether we are just crowded around someone's living room for small group or around a bonfire or if we all venture to Uptown Alley for some bowling, Kristin's there.

The past few weeks, our small group decided to take a break from our usual study series and instead each pick a week to share our story with the group. Two weeks ago, it was Kristin's turn. As she read her story to us (the story you'll read below), all of us were completely sucked in. The way she told her story was beautiful-- it wasn't coming from a place of anger or bitterness or frustration, but a place of total trust in God, a place of peace and understanding, a place of faith.

Her entire life was changed in such a short moment, but it didn't destroy her. She is one of the most carefree, honest, hilarious and real people I've ever met. She answered all of our many questions with grace, explaining things in terms we understood, cracking jokes about things that could very easily have been painful, patiently sharing with us this story that left us all amazed at what true faith looks like, even when disaster strikes.

I'm so thankful this girl is no longer a stranger to me and is now one of my dear friends. I'm so grateful for her life and her laughter and even her awesome stories about Tinder and how she met her boyfriend, Douglas. Her story is a true testament to her faith in Jesus, and I'm so honored to share it with you.

Here's Kristin's story.


My name is Kristin. I’m 24 years old and I’ve lived in Richmond for my whole life. I graduated from Randolph-Macon College with a degree in Clinical Psychology, but have a job at a law firm. I just finished my 7th marathon this past winter! I really enjoy writing and riding my handcycle in my free time and when it’s not so cold outside. 

Imagine yourself during the best year of your life – the time you felt the happiest and most content. For me, that time was 2005 when I was 14 years old.

In the summer before my sophomore year of high school, I was on top of the world. I had tan skin, an athletic body, and more friends than I could count on two hands. My grades in school were slightly above average and I got along well with my family. My freshman year was what I suspect will always be the best year of my life, and summertime only exaggerated that. I was invincible.

Summer months in Virginia mean unreasonably humid weather and my tomato-red face. As response, the youth group at my church organized a day trip to Kings Dominion. Aubrey, a girl I’ve known most of my life, signed up along with myself and two of her friends I recognized from the hallways of my high school, but had never spoken to. One of them was Feild.

Almost immediately after being introduced in the church parking lot, I knew I liked him. Feild was tall with light brown hair and a smile that was warm and contagious. I remember positioning myself in the line loading into the church van so the “natural” order would lead me to the seat next to him. When my plan didn’t work, I squished my body to sit directly behind him and sat uncomfortably on the edge of my seat for the 2 hour-long ride. I was trying to be as close as I could without appearing as captivated as I felt.

That day at Kings Dominion was full of roller coaster rides, hot dogs, and theme park games. By the time we loaded on the bus to go home, I was crushing hard. Feild was easy to talk to and made me feel so comfortable around him. He made me laugh and that’s the biggest reason I liked him.

The end of the summer came quickly. On the last weekend before I turned 15 and we started our sophomore year of high school, Aubrey invited me, Feild, and Mark to her lake house at Lake Gaston in Greenville, North Carolina. I knew Feild from Kings Dominion and Aubrey since childhood, but I only barely recognized Mark; he was my newest friend. Since meeting him, I’ve heard great things and he sounds like someone I would have grown close to if I had the opportunity.

Needless to say, I was stoked on going to the lake. It was my chance to show off to Feild, let him realize his mutual attraction, ask me to be his girlfriend, happily ever after. A lot was riding on that weekend. I bought a new bathing suit, packed my cutest summer clothes, and washed my hair.

I don’t remember many details about the next couple of days. I have few scattered memories, but none of them have been confirmed because, aside from a few random run-ins, neither Feild nor Aubrey has spoken to me about or after that weekend.

I remember Aubrey’s house sitting on a hill with a yard of green grass behind it. In my mind, I can picture the couches in the living room that I think the four of us slept on. I remember a boathouse with a roof that covered one boat and two jet skis. I remember climbing on top of that roof over and over to jump in the water below. I was wearing my new bathing suit and on my best behavior so Feild would like me. I remember trying so hard.

            On the afternoon of our last day at Lake Gaston, the four of us divided onto the two jet skis: Feild driving Aubrey and Mark driving me. The combination of a No Wake Zone and driver inattention resulted in a collision that ended Mark’s life and dramatically changed mine. One second is all it took.

            When Feild and Aubrey’s Jet Ski collided with ours, I was in the middle of turning my body around to look behind us. The Jet Ski hit me on the left side of my head and the T8 vertebrae in my back, causing a traumatic brain injury and a complete spinal cord injury. Mark was hit in the back of his head, fell forward into the steering wheel, and died on impact.


            Now imagine all of that happiness and contentment that came from your best year coming to an abrupt stop. That’s what happened to me; my life was turned completely inside out. Everything I had ever known and loved was taken away from me in one quick second.


            A group of people floating on a boat nearby saw everything that happened and came to our aid moments after our crash. Within seconds, they called the coast guard and were swimming over to pray over our limp bodies and help however possible. They were our angels. Without these people, the four of us wouldn’t have received the necessary and almost immediate attention that we did.

            The second on a long string of miracles was the quick response of the coast guards. The location of our crash was in an area outside of their regular route and they were “coincidentally” floating close by. Because of that, they were able to reach us in less than 5 minutes and get help from the rescue squad, also “coincidentally” close to our accident.

            From the middle of Lake Gaston, my and Mark’s bodies were transported to a local medical center. Mark was declared dead on arrival. My body was then air-lifted to Pitt Memorial Hospital in Greenville, North Carolina. I was medicated enough to remain in a coma and prevent my body from going into shock from the trauma of my injuries.

My family and best friends’ family was put to the test in the worst way possible on that day. All in different vacation spots around Virginia, my parents, sister, Katie, and Katie’s parents flocked to North Carolina to be with me during the worst time in my life. My parents were told I would not live.

I don’t have any memory of the month I spent at Pitt, but I surprised everyone and somehow stayed alive. Once I was in stable condition and doctors confirmed my brain was not swelling beyond my skull, my fragile and comatose body was transported to MCV’s Trauma Unit in my hometown of Richmond, Virginia. I was still comatose at MCV and stayed as an inpatient for a little over one month and until I was able to breathe on my own; my body couldn’t be moved again until I was no longer respirator-dependent. My parents were given a more complete list of my injuries. As follows:

{C}·       {C}T8 paraplegia

{C}·       {C}Short Term Memory Loss

{C}·       {C}Traumatic brain injury

{C}·       {C}Pericardial effusion with tamponade

{C}·       {C}2 bruised & collapsed lungs

{C}·       {C}Lacerations in spleen, kidney, liver

{C}·       {C}Acute blood loss

{C}·       {C}Multiple grade 1 splenic lacerations

{C}·       {C}T11 & T12 vertebrae misaligned & cracked

{C}·       {C}Internal bleeding in brain & lower abdomen

{C}·       {C}Blunt cardiac injury

{C}·       {C}Shocked bowel

{C}·       {C}Multiple renal lacerations

{C}·       {C}Respiratory failure

{C}·       {C}Grade 4 liver lacerations

{C}·       {C}Right adrenal hematoma

{C}·       {C}Left corneal abrasions

{C}·       {C}Rhabdomyolysis

{C}·       {C}Large retroperitoneal hematoma

{C}·       {C}Subarachnoid hemorrhage

{C}·       {C}Left hemothorax

{C}·       {C}Mediastina hematoma

{C}·       {C}Pneumomediastinum



From MCV, I was moved to Children’s Hospital also in Richmond, Virginia. My body was still extremely frail and my survival was still a question. Because I survived beyond doctors’ initial bleak predictions, their forecasting to my parents got a little more specific. They were told that I would live, but I would be unable to comprehend; speak; swallow; feel or move below my injury; the list goes on. I continued to prove them wrong when I returned to consciousness in October and could form complete sentences and function as a close-to-normal teenager. To this day, I continue to work to undo the last item on their list: walk.

My short term memory loss started to fade in mid-October of the same year. It was a gradual process and required a lot of patience from my family and friends that surrounded me. At that point in my life, I had a lot of friends to surround me. Every day of the week from the time of my accident until discharge from the hospital, I had friends visit me so much they had to be limited to 2-3 per day to avoid overstimulation of my brain. When my memory was still fleeting, Mom took a picture of every visitor that came and posted them on the walls surrounding my by so I could always be reminded of the people who loved me, whether I remembered their visit or not. In most cases that’s all they were- pictures. My mind was weak and in recovery for the first couple of years after my accident.

I have few memories of my time in the hospital and even fewer memories of the month before my memory started coming back in October. I clearly remember a Speech Therapy session with my therapist who I don’t remember the name of. I remember her fingers pressing on the top of my tongue and being told to resist movement and push them off. She did the same thing on every angle and from every direction of my tongue. I was told those exercises were meant to strengthen my muscles, but I remember just thinking it was gross.

I have another misplaced but perfectly clear memory from that same therapist on a day before my memory loss faded. I was sitting in the hospital’s black and orange loaner wheelchair with a shoulder-high backrest, anti-tipping bars, and clothing guards on either sides of my thighs. I remember the wooden table pressed against the wall of the room and my therapist telling me to scream as loud as I could. In my mind, I was panicking and I remember hesitating for what felt like several minutes before following orders. The Speech Therapy room sat at the end of a runway of administrative offices and a Physical Therapy gym full of other patients- not the place for an outside voice. My memory gets blurred but I remember cooperating and not at all expecting the result: my scream was a whisper. I remember my surprise and pushing my voice out as hard as I could, to no avail.

Then my memory blacks out.

I don’t remember the first moments after my short term memory came back and I don’t remember the first moments I realized I am paralyzed. I’m not sure I want those memories. By the time my mind started coming back to me, I was already relatively deep into my rehabilitation and had too many things to do and to distract me. Because of that, I missed out on the sadness and lamentation that is expected in a situation like mine. Energy I would use to regret or pity my situation is the same energy that I need for rehabilitation of not only my body but also my mind.

My journey began in Carlsbad, California two weeks after I was discharged from the hospital in December, and I suspect will continue for the rest of my life – long after I am able to walk. In one second I went from a confident teenager on top of the world and with no clear direction, to a struggling young adult with an unsolicited purpose to better myself and use my story as a testimony to others. I was robbed of the opportunity to mature with all of my peers, and instead expected to adapt and cope with my situation more smoothly than most adults are able.

Throughout everything I’ve been though, my family has been very tight – we work together. In the wake of my Jet Ski accident, an overwhelming amount of people in my life floated away from me. But my family has always been there. With a trachea in my neck prohibiting my voice and my mind still elusive, Jessica made a communication board with letters and words for me to communicate. Dad created a website to update my peers and community, which later became so popular that it later helped me raise over $4,000 toward spinal cord injury research and my participation in the 2011 New York City Marathon. 

Because of the attention put on my accident, I felt a tremendous pressure from an audience expecting near-perfection. That meant I wasn’t given the time to grieve and/or feel bad for myself because I had too much to do and too much to live up to. I am confident that played an important role in my acceptance and healing after my accident. Being in such close proximity to death puts life in a unique perspective that is hard to grasp by someone that has not experienced a tragedy of similar magnitude. For this, I am grateful. For this, I wouldn’t change for anything.