7 Everythings I’ve Learned from a Traumatic Event

Happy Valentine’s Day!  On this day I wanted to share a story from one of the most inspirational young couples I’ve ever met.

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Cameron and Bailey before the accident

Meet Cameron and Bailey.

Even though I’ve known Cameron’s mom for several years, and have known of Cameron, I didn’t meet this engaged couple until this past summer when we started attending the same Sunday School class at church.  They were instantly intriguing to me, and I knew I’d want to know more about their story.

Cameron was in a life-threatening car accident a little over a year ago in which he lost his left arm {along with many other injuries that Bailey will explain below}.  He fought for his life for many months in the hospital afterwards.

What I adore about this couple is how they’ve allowed God to take this hellish event to transform their entire lives with such maturity.  As soon as he was healthy enough, Cameron and Bailey started attending church on the regular.  Instead of sitting around feeling sorry for himself, Cameron has decided to give back to his community and is a contributing member of the community.  For example, he helps adults and children with workouts four nights a week, and he regularly volunteers with the kids at our church.

It also seems to me that God specifically hand-picked Bailey just for Cameron. I find it fascinating that she has worked with amputees and knew exactly how to help him adjust {coincidence? um. no.} She has been faithful to her commitment to him through this entire situation {talk about “for better or for worse”}.  While many would be scared to face such a tragic event, Bailey has embraced it.  I asked her one time if she ever felt insecure about Cameron’s physical condition after the accident, and she immediately said, “Absolutely not!”

Even though she is about a decade younger than me, she exudes wisdom, I knew I had to have them share their story for my 7 Everythings I’ve Learned series.  This one is specifically from Bailey and what she has learned through this traumatic event.

Enjoy:

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My name is Bailey and I am 23 years old. I have a wonderful fiancé whom I’ve been dating for eight years, and eventually I will become Mrs. Cameron Renfro. People used to give me a questioning look when I told them the fun fact that I’ve dated someone for that long and I’m only 23 years old; now I often see a jaw drop when I tell them my fiancé was in a terrible car accident with multiple traumatic injuries, and now lives as an amputee . . . that word still doesn’t roll off the tongue, but I’m not sure it ever will. Then again, at one point in my life prayers didn’t “roll off the tongue” either, and now they come easily.

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Cameron’s car after the wreck

Just over a year ago Cameron was in a car accident and suffered multiple life threatening injuries. The doctors told us he had a 10% chance of survival and then followed with not expecting him to “make it.” His life was saved at Stormont-Vail Hospital where the first of his miracles were performed. His liver had been severed, he lost his left arm at the scene, broke his femur, hip, and several facial bones. Stormont-Vail stopped the bleeding in his liver which initially saved his life. God placed several amazing surgeons and nurses in the right place at the right time, and we are forever grateful. They were able to get him stable enough to fly to KU Medical where he spent 30 days in the ICU—followed by a month on different floors of the hospital and inpatient rehab before returning home 64 days later. Once home we continued to travel to Kansas City three times a week for outpatient therapy until April, at which point he continued therapy closer to home.

So where are we today? Cam is healthy and well and working his tail off to make the most of the life God has gifted him. If you haven’t been through a totally life changing event that flipped you upside down and sideways—changing everything you know about life, I am so happy for you. If you have, I hope you have learned from that experience and been able to grow from it. I pray that when hardship hits, you find the energy to look for the positives, strength to carry on, and your love for God, your family, and friends grows tremendously.

When Courtney asked me to write about “7 Everything’s I’ve Learned” I started making a list. And that is what is wonderful about all of this—I have learned SO MUCH through this experience that I actually have to narrow it down. I want you to know this is from my perspective, and what I have learned is from my own two eyes, heart, and soul. I’m not saying Cam wouldn’t feel the same way I do, but I have a feeling his blog entry would be a tad different 😉

Now I’m going to seem a little contradictory here, but that’s because it’s not a smooth journey. Learning life lessons and learning about yourself are very difficult things to do. You don’t see the process while it’s ongoing. You only see the current hardship, the obstacles, the world turning its back against you, flipping and spinning you round and round . . . until it stops and you can breathe for a second before the next whirlwind of events. But it’s rounds 3, 4, 9, 10, 20 that you realize you learned something. After a while you are able to look back at where you were and recognize your growth. You develop a new understanding of obstacles, challenges, and adversity and know that in the end, you will survive.

And with that lengthy yet vague introduction I would like to share with you the 7 {most important} Everything’s I have learned.

1. Breaking down actually builds you back up. At the time you feel the weakest, like you can’t hold onto your emotions any longer or you will explode – do! Let it go. Ugly cry, smear your make-up, let your nose run, and let it all out. Also, I suggest you pray. Talk to God and get whatever you need off your chest. You will feel incredibly relieved once this moment has past. The tears will eventually stop, make-up wipes off, and when you are somewhat presentable to the world again, you will most likely feel a huge weight lifted off your shoulders. The hard part is that it takes a while to get to this point – days, weeks, maybe even months. But once you let go without holding back, it’s like it all washes away.

2. You are stronger than you know. It’s true. You see other people go through all kinds of experiences and wonder how they do it. When it’s your turn, you probably won’t see it in yourself, but odds are someone is admiring how you are handling the situation. Strength is a funny concept; there are so many ways to be strong and everyone is in their own unique way.

3. There is no room for “what if’s.” When going through the loops and swoops and chaos of life, don’t get caught up in these questions:  “What if ____ had happened?” “What if I had done_____ instead?” When things get scary and you don’t know what is going on, turn to God, but try not to ask such questions. It can tear you apart. God has a plan for everything and while we might not understand or even agree with it, you cannot change what has happened in the past. You can hope to influence the future in one way or another, you have a choice of how to deal with your cards, but there is no answer to the question, “what if?” While that might seem frustrating, just trust in God and know He will take care of you because that is really all you can do about the past.

4. Plant your own green grass. Making the best of a situation doesn’t come easily. Complaining does. But how far does that get you? You cannot compare your life experience to others’, or be resentful of what they have NOT had to deal with. That kind of attitude gets you nowhere. Some people would love to have your green grass, so take care of it, love it, and grow with it.

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Bailey with Cameron during physical therapy after the accident.

 

5. The bad days are going to happen. It’s all a part of the healing process. Being as strong as a superhero is hard to do 100% of the time and that is okay. Bad days are going to drag on, things might get worse before they get better, and occasionally your attitude makes you compatible to a walking grenade that could explode at any second. Unfortunately, stress creates more of these days than we would like, but they make you appreciate the good days . . . and how much better a good attitude feels than a bad one. Go to bed at night, say your prayers, and get ready for a better day ahead.

6. Tragedy only lasts as long as you allow it. I am not saying the heartbreaks will stop completely or as long as you have a positive attitude things will go your way. But I am saying that when reflecting there is ALWAYS something to be thankful for. I never would have guessed the positives that would follow our “tragedy,” but once I look for them, I lose count of all the blessings we’ve received.

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Embracing the change

7. Prayer works. I saved the best for last. I mentioned earlier that I haven’t always prayed a lot, and I still don’t pray as often as I should, but what I have learned is that prayer works. God heals in many ways, and when it feels like there is no hope left, pray about it. There is always hope. God is always there for you when it feels no one else understands. He listens, He forgives, He answers, and He is always present. A woman we met when Cam was at KU Med said over and over again, “The more prayers that go up, the more blessings come down,” and that is one of my very favorite sayings. I have witnessed and received physical, emotional, and spiritual healing – sometimes all in one day. I am very thankful that I have had the opportunity to witness the power of prayer, and I am excited to keep learning more about it.

 

You might be able to gather that our journey has been a long one; but I also hope you recognize the positive tone that goes along with it. These were not easy lessons to learn, but I am thankful that I have. A positive mindset, support of loved ones, and trusting in God will get you through anything . . . and that now means everything to me.

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Our culture is obsessed with “love,” but what is depicted in various forms of media is based on warm fuzzies and lust.  True love stands firm when the storms of adversity try to knock you down.  I hope on this Valentine’s Day that you can see what love should look like through Cameron and Bailey and her life lessons will be of encouragement to you no matter what you’re going through.

Love,

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