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A Deadly Errand With An Unlikely Outcome

Robert Hull - 700 Club Producer

“It was really terrifying. It was really terrifying and very surreal,” says Cecilia, “Thinking of my family and everybody, you know, probably grilling hot dogs and they have no idea that we’re dying on the side of the road, you know, two minutes away.”

On July 4th, 2010 Cecilia and her brother Joe left a family party to run an errand. Joe lost control of the truck and slid off the road, hitting a tree. The impact left them alone and fighting for their lives.

Cecilia says, “My leg was so mangled and so intertwined with the tree and the metal and bones sticking out. I’m seeing my brother’s ear detached from his head and his breathing was really heavy and hoarse and ragged.”

Joe was unconscious and bleeding heavily. The only thing Cecilia could do was pray.
“I was praying ‘Lord help me. You’re the only One who knows where I am. You’re the only One who could do anything about it. So just help me through this. And please Lord, send somebody to find us.’”

Minutes later a man found them and called 911. Soon after, Mike and Mary Detwiler raced to the scene and witnessed the rescue efforts to save their children.

Mike says, “They were trying to tear him out of the vehicle when Mary and I went up. There was a state trooper there. He would not let me go down there. He said it’s too bad, don’t go.”

“It was still smoking,” recalls Mary. “I don’t know how anyone could have survived that. I really don’t.”

Mike says, “They finally got Joe out of the car and they threw him in a helicopter. They let us see him first.”

Mary continues, “And when they took him out of the car, he—I thought he was dead. He was just lifeless. Just lifeless.”

“It was horrific. We thought he was gone,” says Mike.

Rescue crews worked for two hours to get Cecilia from the truck and save her mangled leg. Both kids were flown to St. Louis children’s hospital. Dr. Jose Pineda recalls Joe’s condition. “There was always a concern that he might not survive. CT scans and the way he looked we could tell that it was what we call a severe traumatic brain injury and I would say in the spectrum of severe he was amongst the severe of the severe.”

“Joe’s brain pressure was really very high,” says Mike, “And they did not think he was going to make it through the night. And they prepared us for him not to make it that night. By the time Cece got there, she was in worse shape than Joe. She had almost bled to death. They told us by the time she got to the hospital she had less blood in her than you’re supposed to have as a human being. So she was minutes away from not making it.”

Mary says, “The first day walking in and seeing your two kids side by side in an ICU room is pretty horrible.”

“You’re praying let them get out of the day,” says Mike. “Just give them another day. Let me see them one more time. Just to tell them I love them.”

Cecilia endured several surgeries to save her legs. Meanwhile Joe remained in a coma- but alive. As days went by Mike and Mary waited and prayed.

“You’re searching and you’re praying and you’re trying to find a way to get there. And you’re trying to hope that your prayers are heard,” says Mike.

“Everybody was praying for us. And we felt it. We definitely felt it,” Mary says.

“The faith of our friends and family, they just stepped up. I saw them live their faith because they just stepped up and did things,” Mike says. “You know, it’s one thing to say something. It’s another thing to just step up and help someone that’s that far down into the pit. Because boy are you looking for an arm to come down, you just don’t know which way to turn.”

For weeks Joe showed little sign of improvement, while Cecilia endured painful physical therapy and wondered if she would ever walk again. She says, “Feeling like, you know, the wonderful life I had was just over and done with. And this is what I had to deal with now.”

Mike says, “I remember her saying, you know, to me, it was tough. She said, ‘Daddy, my life’s over. I just don’t know what to do. What am I going to do?’ I said, ‘Honey, we’re going to be with you, we’re going to work with you. We’re going to make the best of whatever comes.’”

Then, almost two months after the accident Joe began to wake from his coma. It was still unclear what his mental and verbal capacity would be. Until one night a priest was praying in Joe’s room.

“He’s saying the prayers and he finishes up the Glory Be. And Joe starts to whisper the end of the prayer with him. The very first words he said were ‘Glory be to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,’” Mike remembers.

Joe began a long recovery process both mentally and physically. Both he and Cecilia have recovered beyond anyone’s expectations.

Mike says, “Their recoveries were unbelievable. In Joe’s case he’s off the charts! The expectation of what his recovery probably statistically should have been and what he has achieved is remarkable to say the least.”

Joe says, “The doctors told my parents that I think it’s actually true, you know, like Joe will never be the same again if he survives, and I’m not the same. I think—I feel like I’m definitely better than I’ve ever been.”

Joe says this experience has confirmed his decision to pursue the priesthood. The entire family is thankful God walked with them in the darkest time of their lives.

“I’m amazed,” says Mike, “God’s mercy is really what you feel, because I sure didn’t deserve it.”

“Look how amazing, you know, of a recovery we had and we wouldn’t have had it without the grace of God,” Cecilia says.

“You know, I came to realize, you know, we have a God who suffers, who bleeds, who suffers with us, not just for us to save us, save us from sins, save us—get us to Heaven. He suffers with us like as our brother too. And so I find a lot of peace in that,” says Joe.

“Cecilia says, “God is always with you, even when I can’t see Him even when I feel like He’s not there, it’s because He’s carrying me through it. No matter what doubts I might have sometimes, you know, and what my experience is, like I can never, ever doubt that God loves me or that God hears my prayers since that day.”

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