Fractured Not Broken by Michelle Weidenbenner
Fractured Not Broken is a true story of loss, faith, and a rare love that only happens in nonfiction.
In a sweeping narrative and heart-wrenching story, Kelly exposes the truth about what happened after a drunk driver rendered her a quadriplegic. She shares how she found her way back—through faith and pain, her community, her family, and the love of a man she’d prayed for.
“This is a real life story of heroic virtue—especially of courage, humility, and generosity—a triumph of faith, hope and love. This story involves the very essence of the human spirit, family, and community. To know Kelly and her journey of miracles is to know that with God all things are possible.” —Most Reverend Charles C. Thompson, Bishop of Evansville
Targeted Age Group:: Fifth-Grade and Up
Heat/Violence Level: Heat Level 1 – G Rated Clean Read
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
Adversity changes people. I wrote this story because it was true, unbelievable, and inspirational. The heroes in my world are those people who can persevere despite the adversity they face every day. This story is about one of those heroes.
It’s gonna get harder before it gets easier.
But it will get better; you just gotta make it through the hard stuff first.
Circular lights blared down on me. Hot searing pain stabbed my neck. I cried out, but my voice came out garbled and weak. My lips were parched.
“We’re giving you something for pain right now, Kelly,” the nurse said. She shot the fluid from a needle into my IV bag and the pain ebbed.
“It’s all over, Kelly,” the surgeon said, his blue mask resting on his forehead below his surgical cap. “You did well. I put five screws and two plates in at the back of your neck. I used bone from your hip and fused C-3 to C-4 and C-4 to C-5. Your hip and neck will be sore here.” He pointed to his hip and the back of his neck. “It’ll take a while to recover. The nurses will slowly elevate you to a more upright position, and eventually you’ll start physical therapy, but for now, think baby steps.”
Will I walk? I tried to remember if he’d told me. Maybe I missed that part of the conversation. The drugs were probably making me forget. Before I could ask him, the surgeon faded into darkness.
When I opened my eyes again, I was in a different location. They must have wheeled me somewhere else, but I didn’t know where, and I didn’t know how much time had passed. My head was locked in a brace, so I was unable to figure out my surroundings. Where was Mom? What day was it? Was it morning or night? Was it yesterday that Eric and I were riding horses together?
Then in a blink, everything rushed back—the accident, the surgery. Eric was still at the other hospital, recovering. Was he okay? I need you, Eric. Dear God, please make this nightmare go away. Why me? I closed my eyes, working to succumb to the drugs.
Suddenly, a glob of phlegm caught in the back of my throat. I had to cough, but I couldn’t. My eyes flicked open. Fluorescent lights. Suspended ceiling. I couldn’t turn my head. I was drowning! Who was there? Anyone? I needed to sit up. To cough. Choking. I can’t. Breathe. Please. Someone help me. Where was the call button? There wasn’t one. Even if there was, I couldn’t press it. I was trapped inside my own body. No air. I couldn’t even…cry… out.
I saw myself from above—outside of my body, my hair gnarled and splayed on the pillow. A silver brace encircled my neck, its appendages sitting on my shoulders, lifting my chin. Tubes sprouting like spider tentacles twisting around my body. Was this how I would die?
Two nurses rushed to my side. “We have to intubate you,” one nurse said. “Stay calm.”
Stay calm? I wanted to shout the worse swear word not in the dictionary. If only. I. Could. Breathe.
One nurse approached me with a long tube. “I’m going to insert this through your nose to clear your windpipe. Try to relax.”
My eyes must have bulged, but after the tube was inserted, the mucous thinned, and I could finally breathe. The air filled my lungs and tears dripped down my face.
Never in my life had fear strangled and gripped my life so closely. The realization that I could no longer rely on myself for anything slammed into my chest. And even though I could finally breathe, the air in my lungs thinned. I was more alone than I’d ever been.
One day during free time, we had the opportunity to tube behind boats with the campers. The girls in our cabin begged me to try it. Why not? Didn’t I want them to treat me the same?
“I’ll go with you,” one girl said.
“I will too,” another girl said.
The tube was a three-seater, but they all wanted to go. To be fair, Blayr broke matchsticks into different lengths and had each girl draw one. The two who had the longest sticks took their turn first.
I was nervous and excited at the same time, like the first time I rode the rollercoaster at Holiday World. Two girls draped me in a life vest and placed a red helmet on my head, which was camp policy, and carried me into the water to the tube. They set me in the middle slot until I was snug. One girl sat on each side of me in her own slot.
“If we flip over who will dive in after me? I can’t move to swim so promise me you’ll bring my head to the surface,” I said.
The girls cried out in unison, “I will!”
The driver of the boat nodded. “I won’t go fast enough for you to flip, but if that happens we’ll dive in after you.”
“Don’t baby me,” I said to the driver. “Go your usual speed.”
He nodded and took off.
I squinted in the sun and bounced and careened across the sparkling water. Waves splashed warm water across my arms, misted my cheeks, and dampened my long braided hair. I hadn’t felt this free since before the accident, ready to take on the world and leave my imprint in the lives of the teens surrounding me.
I tubed three times so other girls could take a turn next to me. Other camp members gathered around at the water’s edge to watch. I doubted they ever saw a girl like me tubing before.
The next day was the tug-o-war, and, of course, the girls wanted me to participate in this event too.
“You can be at the end of our line, Kelly,” one girl said. “We’ll tie the rope to your chair. How much does it weight?”
I laughed. “Three hundred pounds.”
“Wow, our team will be the strongest,” another girl said. She tied the end of the rope to the back of my chair. We lined up—their team against ours—with me and my chair at the end of our line, facing out.
On go, I was supposed to roll forward.
“On your mark, get set, go!”
Each team tugged. I threw my chair into forward drive, but within seconds, it jarred backwards and toppled over. My head and the handles of the chair hit the ground and dragged in the sand. There wasn’t anything I could do but lie there and laugh.
At first, no one seemed to notice me in the dirt.
The other team dragged our team until someone on the sidelines shouted. “Stop! Wheelchair down!”
Everyone stopped pulling and turned to me. One girl covered her gaping mouth with her hand. Quickly the girls huddled around me and righted me and my chair.
“Are you okay?” they asked.
I nodded and laughed.
When they saw me laughing and realized I wasn’t hurt, they laughed, too.
On the way home, the trip leader asked me, “Well, what did you think of your experience?”
“I loved it.” And I meant it. It was as if the speakers had spoken only to me. Even though I had gone to be there for the girls, the experience had improved my attitude and deepened my faith. It wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t wheeled out of my comfort zone.
“Will you go with us again?” the leader asked.
“I’d love to,” I said without hesitation.
The song, “The Great I Am,” by Phillips, Craig & Dean, became my favorite song. Whenever I hear it, I remember my first of many Young Life trips, and how I tubed and played tug-o-war with teens in New York.
Thank you, God, for taking me out of my cushy comfort zone to make a greater impact in my life, to show others how great you are, and to deepen my faith in you.
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