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Leisurely Horseback Ride Becomes Fight for Life

Danielle Thompson - 700 Club Producer

Tabitha had been training for weeks to take her first trail ride on horseback.  In March 2016, she and her mother Kim were riding around a local farm, when Tabitha’s horse bolted.

Kim remembers that moment: “I was yelling, hold on, Tabitha, hold on, Baby, just don’t panic.  And I’m chasing her up the road.  She goes around this little curve, and I lost complete sight of her.”  

Kim turned the corner to find Tabitha lying face-down on the path, unconscious, and with blood coming out of her ears.  Kim ran to her daughter and called 911.

Kim says, “I went into, ‘God, help me!’  It was a panic, you know, get it here!  You know, show me, show me what you can do in this moment right now.”

Paramedics took Tabitha to Northeast Georgia Medical Center.  By then, Kim had called Tabitha’s husband Jacob, who was at home with their four boys.  At the hospital, the family learned Tabitha had fractured her skull, causing her brain to swell and bleed.

Jacob recalls, “Especially when you can’t talk to her and she can’t talk to you or, she’s unconscious.  It was a scary moment.”

Neurosurgeon Dr. Arun Jacob said the swelling was getting worse, and she needed immediate surgery to remove part her skull, to relieve the increasing pressure on her brain.  

Dr. Jacob explains, “If it swells a little bit more it can just press on the brain stem and the next thing you know is she can deteriorate really fast.  To the point of no return.  Her breathing can stop, her heart can stop.  And essentially she will be brain dead in a matter of an hour, maybe not even that.”

Friends and family gathered at the hospital, and spread the word asking people to pray for a miracle.     

Kim remembers, “I thought, God, You gave her to me.  You have blessed with the most beautiful, unique child.  And I’m going to have to trust You.”

Tabitha made it through surgery, but Dr. Jacob warned the family that she could be physically or mentally impaired.           

Her husband Jacob says, “I guess my biggest fear in the whole thing was that she just wouldn’t recognize me or our boys.  I wasn’t worried really about her, she was in a wheelchair or anything like that, I just wanted her to know who we were.”

With Tabitha in and out of consciousness, any small sign of progress gave the family hope.

Kim says, “They took this pen and, um, they ran it down her foot.  And her toes wiggled.  And it’s crazy that something so simple as, um, seeing her toes wiggle would just send you almost into a shouting mode.  It’s like, oh thank you, God, you know.  Um, it’s almost like seeing your child walk for the first time again.”

Jacob says, “I told her that, you know, I loved her, and, um, you know, she tried to–she tried to tell me she loved me back.  I mean, she’s my best friend, the love of my life.  

On day 3, Tabitha met Candi Jarvis, a critical care nurse who started working with Tabitha to get her off the ventilator as soon as possible.

Candi explains, “I wanted her to be able to speak to her family and for them to hear her voice that day, um, so that they would know that she was in there.”

She also believed Tabitha needed more than medical care.

Candi says, “The power of prayer cannot be minimized in these recovery processes.”

Kim says, “Candi looks at Tabitha and she said ‘Tabitha, I need you, with God’s help, to give me the biggest breath you got.’  And at that moment, it was like you could see Tabitha’s fight in her reach down and she took the deepest breath!”

By noon Tabitha was breathing on her own, and taken off the ventilator.  But that wasn’t all.

Kim says, “She looked over at her husband, and she said, ‘Don’t ever let them do that to me again.’

Jacob says, “At least I knew I could talk to my wife again, and my wife was going to talk to me!”

Tabitha says, “I remember when people came in, my Mom or Jacob would ask me, ‘Tabitha, do you know who this is?’  And I was like yes, I know who this is, and I would say their name.  And then after everyone left, I was like, if y’all ask me one more time who somebody is, I was like I think I’m going to come off the bed!  I know who everybody is!”

Within the week, Tabitha was walking under her own power, climbing steps, and carrying on conversations.  Nine days after the accident, she was sent home.   

Kim says, “Even the physical therapist that was there, you know, he was like, this doesn’t happen.  This does not happen.  That was a big wow for me, that I knew that okay, we’re on the downhill slide now.  That this is-this is going to be good.”

Dr. Jacob later repaired Tabitha’s skull.  Then, just three and a half months after the accident, she returned to work with no restrictions.

Dr. Jacob says, “Definitely she has done really well, uh, considering the degree of injury that she had and severity of injury.  And, uh, it’s really gratifying for people like us, when we see things like that, because it’s not happening every day.  Even though we try to do our best.  And uh, in that scenario, in that context I think she had a miraculous recovery.”

Tabitha’s husband Jacob says, “How can you not believe in God?  I’ve seen him work.”

Tabitha doesn’t remember the accident, but she knows for sure that she was always in God’s hands.  

She says, “It just shows me that, you know, even when we feel inadequate and that, you know, why are we even here, God?  That He still thinks that we are so amazing and that He cares that much for us.”

It’s with that confidence that Tabitha decided it was time to get back in the saddle.  

She says, “No matter what comes up against me, it’s not going to bring me down.  As long as I know that God has me by the hand and He is carrying me through, and nothing else matters.”

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