by Vinnie Freeman | July 7, 2019

April 19, 2018 was a day of new beginnings. 

I had finished work with my therapist, Tami, that afternoon, and my Thursday night men's group had come to an end. I was looking forward to my first Thursday night off in years, and I planned to go for a hike at Mission Trails then do some grocery shopping.

The next thing I remembered seeing was swirling, flashing lights—harsh rays that made me squint hard. I asked the woman next to me where the party was. She told me she was my nurse. I was in the hospital, and I had been in a serious car accident. Three days had already passed.

I had just gotten on the road that evening when I was t-boned a block from my house. The impact fractured 12 ribs, my pelvis, and caused bleeding in my brain and my lung to collapse. My injuries were life-threatening, and to top it off, nobody knew where I was.I didn't show up for work on Friday or a hike on Saturday. When my friends, Mark and Becky, read about the accident in the paper, they put two and two together. They contacted my dad, who called my sister.  She was able to locate me Sunday at the Scripps Memorial ICU. She and her husband flew out to be with me, and she got the word out to my co-workers.

My injuries were life-threatening, and to top it off, nobody knew where I was.

Dena, from the hiking ministry, did a Facebook post asking for prayer and suddenly God and His people were on the move. The response to Dena’s post was amazing. People I didn't even know were praying. Then the visitors came—by the droves. So many people stopped by to see me that my sister had to play scheduling coordinator and space them out.

As an avid climber, I told myself that I would be up and around soon. But the pain began to tell a different story. Once I understood the gravity of my injuries, and after only being able to get around with a walker, I realized it would be a long road back.

I was released after nine days in the hospital but had to go back for an endoscopy a week later when I had internal bleeding in my intestine. It was on this second hospital visit that I took my first lap around the ward holding my IV tower. I prayed that I could return to hiking by July, but with how painful that one lap was, on that day in early May, that seemed very remote. A third hospital visit was required after a hematoma was discovered in my chest.

But as I mentioned, God was on the move, and anything is possible. Never underestimate the power of prayer!

The healing that came through my friends was unbelievable. My accountability partner was a big help, locating where my car was towed and retrieving my personal belongings. Becky took time to walk with me, literally holding me up the first time I tried to walk around the block. Eventually, I was able to walk one lap at the local park. She also took care of my mail and worked with my HOA in getting new house keys as well as making sure my condo was okay. When my Hiking Ministry friends, Kendall, Dean, and Dena, did the Mission Trails 5-Peak Challenge in one day, they carried a cutout of my head, "including" me in the group shots at each peak.

How that lifted my spirits.

Once I was released from the hospital, my dad let me stay with him and his caregiver, Suzette, who was gracious enough to assist me and cook an extra portion of the meals she made for my dad. I couldn't lay down and had to sleep in a zero-gravity chair. My Aunt Sue was always available at a moment's notice to drive me to my numerous doctor's appointments.

Despite no income and limited disability, my bills and mortgage got paid.

Amazing things continued to happen. Despite no income and limited disability, my bills and mortgage got paid. Someone anonymously paid my health insurance premiums. My friend, Fred, kept me connected via phone calls and by driving me to get-togethers, lunches, and graduations. Meals were cooked and delivered. My co-workers worked with my Padres season ticket rep and got me a signed Trevor Hoffman baseball. When I mentioned to Becky I was looking for a Nissan Altima, she said her brother-in-law was trying to sell the 2013 Altima he inherited from his mom. It was the perfect car for me, and when I test drove it, it was the first time I got behind the wheel since the crash. (That was a little scary).

On June 30, I slowly hiked the grasslands in Mission Trails. It wasn't pretty, but I reached my goal. I have to admit I was a little overwhelmed when I reached the top of the Grasslands.

God truly is awesome!

Physically, my recovery started to accelerate. The fractures began to heal, and I was finally able to sleep in a bed. After 96 days, I returned to work part-time on July 25. Three months later, God opened a door and turned my County Parks and Recreation graphic design contractor job into a full-time position with benefits. In November, I took over as leader of the Hiking Ministry.

I am now fully recovered and can do pretty much everything I could before the accident. I'm a little stiff in the morning; it might be from the accident or just plain old age. There's no trauma when I drive, and I feel no latent fear when I go through the intersection—something I do almost every day. With the help of my attorney, a settlement was negotiated that took care of all my medical bills.

God could have taken me Home that day, but He still has work for me to do for Him. The hike I set out to take took an unexpected detour into some painful and scary moments. But so much good has come out of this experience. It has changed my perspective on life, and every hike I take is even more glorious than before. I feel truly blessed and appreciative of all the people in my life. I am in awe that He is with me every step of the way. Each day truly is a gift.

I wasn’t always mindful of that gift prior to my accident.  But I am now. That is why, April 19, 2018 was a day of new beginnings.

Thank you again from the bottom of my heart for all your prayers and support. Praise God!

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For more information about the Hiking Ministry, click here.


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