I Believe in Miracles! (Part 2)
Story #2- Christmas Tragedy turned Miracle for the Soderholm/Jeffords Family!
It was Christmas day, 2006, my Dad called to give me the news, there was an accident. My 10 year old cousin Allie was playing with her little brothers and cousins outside of the nursing home where they were visiting family, and the unthinkable happened. The kids were crawling through a tunnel of solid ice heaves at the shoreline of Lake Minnewaska, in Glenwood, Minnesota (thats what they do up north for fun, not unusual) . Allie was the last one out when a 5x6 foot slab of ice, 8-10 inches thick, fell on top of her head and pinned her to the ground. (I'm already tearing up remembering that day).
Her Father, My Uncle Chris, who was outside with them and 5 other men (good samaritans) ran to the scene, adrenaline fueled, they were able to lift the ice off of her. She didn't move, it didn't look good. Her brother Blake ran inside for help. Allie’s Mom, My Aunt Jen, called 911 screaming hysterically that her daughter was hurt and needs help NOW! Jen recalls the dispatcher being calm and assuring, he stayed on the phone until help arrived. The first responders were amazing, as were the staff at Glacier Ridge Hospital in Glenwood, where Allie was rushed by ambulance. Her brain was swelling and the ER doctor had to relieve the pressure if she had any chance of making it. With the pressure relieved for now, she was flown by air ambulance to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis. NO ONE was allowed to ride in the helicopter with Allie, not even her Mom or Dad, no explanation, only medical personnel. Time was of the essence! Her parents and grandparents (John & Sue Soderholm) had to drive the longest 2 1/2 hours of their life and not be there as Allie was taken into surgery. Luckily Jen's brother Eric and his wife Kelly (Allie's Aunt & Uncle) were near the hospital and left their own family Christmas party immediately to meet Allie at the hospital as the chopper landed.
Doctors removed a portion of her skull in hopes that the swelling would go down and her brain would heal. She had suffered a severe brain injury and was sedated in a medicated coma, they were not sure she would make it through the night. This was a living nightmare for her parents, and family, to say the least. I can't even imagine the pain and helplessness they were all feeling as their sweet daughter laid unresponsive in that hospital bed. They didn't sleep for days.
Three painfully slow days passed, finally with promising CT scans, the doctors cut her medication and removed her breathing tube so that she could regain consciousness. She woke up slowly, she knew who she was, she had some short term memory loss but everything else was in tact. She just wanted to go home. Allie begged her Grandpa to take her home, and it pained him deeply to not just scoop her up and do just that, but she had a lot of healing left to do. She hated that her head was shaven from the surgeries (as any girl would), so some of her friends and family cut their hair in solidarity. Five days after the accident the doctors and family held a press conference, Allie was now in stable condition and expected to make a FULL recovery! This was miraculous news as just days ago her life was almost taken. Weeks of rigorous rehabilitation would follow before she could go home.
Jen's brother Eric and his wife Kelly were there and provided support in so many ways, they also took the boys for several days until more family could come and take them home to Willmar. My father has 7 siblings, my Uncle Chris is the youngest, being only 6 years older than me. Family came from all over the country to help at home with Allie's brothers so that Mom and Dad and Grandma & Grandpa could stay by Allie's side. It was so hard on her brothers to return home without their sister and parents. We all took turns helping anyway we could, our extended family is always ready to step in and help, distance is no obstacle. My Mom, my daughter Paige, who was 4 at the time, and I traveled from SE Wisconsin to see Allie and take our week to be with the boys. The outpouring from their community and all over was amazing, the story made national headlines. After a series of surgeries to remedy the trauma to her head and brain, Allie spent nearly a month in the hospital. Her last surgery would be that following May, to put a shunt to drain fluid from her brain.
Aunt Jen was able to keep friends and family updated on Allie's condition and journey through CaringBridge.org (This was pre-social media for you young people... at least that I knew of). There were over 2,000 messages left on Allie's site! Messages from family, friends, strangers who heard of her story in the news. She also had prayer warriors from all over, even reaching around the world as news of this Christmas Day tragedy spread. I remember sharing Allie's story with the 3rd-6th grade girls in my AWANA class at church, we all prayed for her together and every week they would eagerly ask for an update.
Once Allie was home and feeling strong enough, that March, 2007, the family held a thank you breakfast for all the people who took a part in saving Allie's life that Christmas day, there were so many people who made that day turn from tragedy into a happy story. It was there that the helicopter pilot explained to Jen and Chris why they were not allowed on the chopper. Because of the circumstances, if they feel the patient might die while in the air (gulp), they need to attend to the patient and not have to worry about tending to the family. WOW! That was so hard to hear, but Aunt Jen said she was glad that she did not know that at the time! The first responders and medical staff from Glacier Ridge Hospital will never forget receiving that call while sitting down to Christmas lunch, that there was a little girl badly hurt on the shore of the lake. The family was overwhelmed by the outpouring of gifts to Allie and the family from all over, even from complete strangers, various fundraisers were held to help the family as well. Chris said you can't really understand what it means to live in a community until something tragic happens. Jen and Chris will tell you not to take a single day for granted, in can all change in a single moment!
Allie was tutored from home and attended school part time when she was able to for the remainder of that school year. She was on restricted activity until she got the all clear from doctors to do everything but contact sports. It was hard for her Mom and Dad to let her go out and about again, but they also knew she needed to "just be a kid again" and had faith that she would be okay. That next Christmas was different, they celebrated by staying at a hotel in Minneapolis and delivering treats to the staff and doctors at Hennepin County Medical Center. My Aunt Jen said "we understand how important those people who work on Christmas day are". Allie has since made a full recovery with few side effects, a miracle indeed!
Fast forward to this Christmas, 2016, which will mark her 10 year anniversary from the accident that could have taken her life, instead it led to a wonderful Christmas miracle! Today, Allie is 20 years old, and in the nursing program at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. Allie has a very tight knit family. She is strong, beautiful, active, and a reminder that miracles are not a thing of the past. She recently designed and got a tattoo that stands for "God is greater than my highs and lows" (see picture below), it is beautiful!
Allie's recent Instagram post shares her take on the accident and life..."God is greater than my highs and lows! December 25, 2006, was a day that changed both my family and my life forever. Although most days I hate the permanent side effects my accident caused, I know it made me who I am today; a stronger, more grateful, and loving person. Life isn't easy and is going to throw you into situations you don't think you are capable of handling. You will want to give up. You will want to stop fighting. But you can't. God does NOT put you into situations you won't push through & grow from. God is so much greater than that little obstacle you are facing and He will guide you through it. You are stronger and more capable than you think. Just. Have. Faith."
I am blessed with some pretty awesome family! Allie, I am so thankful that God left you here to continue to bless our lives! Although I don't see you as often as I'd like, being 8 hrs away, I love seeing you live your life to the fullest (one of the perks of social media)!
Merry Christmas everyone and thank you again to all the healthcare workers at Glacier Ridge Hospital in Glenwood, MN, and Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, MN, and all the healthcare professionals around the world who sacrifice time with their own families to be there to save ours on a daily basis!
Pictured here is Allie's new tatoo: "God is greater than my highs and lows"
Pictured here is Allie's family from last Christmas (2015); Jack, Blake, Aunt Jen, Uncle Chris and Allie on the end. Yes she is beautiful and yes she is taken, sorry fellas!
Praying for miracles-
Shannon the Narcoleptic