Changed in an Instant
Life changed in an instant for Bruce and Sharon Pearson, and their kids, Bethany, Hannah and Ben. On December 9, 2005, 16-year-old Bethany's Ford Probe was t-boned by a truck. She and her friend, Angie, sustained life-threatening critical injuries. Fourteen-year-old Hannah died at the hospital.
Doctors spent 15 hours piecing together Bethany's many skull fractures with titanium plates and screws, and attending to her bleeding on the brain, facial lacerations and collapsed lung.
Following that horrific day, the Pearsons' multiple communities carried them through moments of despair and uncertainty to brighter, purpose-filled days. Connections through family, church, home schooling, neighbors and horse-related involvements supported them through prayers, words, meals and other loving expressions.
CaringBridge became the bridge that connected those communities. Its viral nature helped spread news in moments, going far beyond word-of-mouth to faraway places like Singapore, Thailand, Japan and England. Even the use of CaringBridge demonstrates their communities' contributions - a friend introduced them to the tool and another transcribed the initial journal entries from Sharon's voice recordings.
"Without CaringBridge, I know that we would not have gone through our experience as well supported," Sharon said. "You get the cards and things, but CaringBridge gives immediate support, especially when you need people to be on their knees in prayer right away, or you want to celebrate recovery. The website was readily available whenever we needed encouragement, and the guestbook postings were like a healing balm."
As a nurse, Sharon also knows the value of CaringBridge to medical professionals. Families can relay information as it's told, sharing as much or as little as they choose, without distortion that often comes from much-repeated descriptions.
Depth of Compassion
For the Pearsons, their communities responded immediately. Friends brought meals to the hospital daily. Their Pony Club paid for a hotel room near the hospital for Sharon, Bruce and their son, Ben. Horse friends also brought their horse, Dan, in a flower-adorned trailer to Hannah's visitation, where he gladly accepted well-wisher's carrots for six hours. Twice a week, home school friends shuttled Ben from the home school academy to the hospital, where he continued his studies. When Bethany was well enough, she was also instructed at the hospital.
"You really find out the depth of compassion that people have when there's a crisis," Bruce said. "The word goes out and your communities enlist their communities and they all connect to provide a web of support."
Amidst all the support, Bruce, Sharon, Bethany and Ben leaned on each other first and foremost. "A family's strength is challenged by tragedy," Sharon said. "Bruce has led our family well through the storm. Many days I would just say, 'Honey, hold me close.'"
Each of them has become a changed person because of the accident. Sharon said Ben developed incredible maturity, courage and insight for a boy who was only 12 at the time. Bethany's personality, compassion and sensitivity deepened to new levels.
Today visitors to Bethany's CaringBridge site marvel at her recovery and effervescence. They read about her newfound, unexpected purpose - to help others overcome adversity and realize that life is a gift.
Bethany speaks often to high school assemblies and drivers' education classes. Law enforcement, state Department of Transportation officials, and lawmakers have heard her views on teen driving laws. She and Sharon both speak at Children's Miracle Network fundraisers because Bethany received treatment from a cranial facial specialist secured through the network's funds. More importantly, they know Bethany is a walking miracle.
Bethany said, "I speak in order to bless people and help them see how they can change the lives of hurting children. I leave more blessed than when I came because my story may lead someone to pray or to give."
Whenever Bethany needs a reminder of her journey and that her recovery has been miraculous, she returns to her CaringBridge site. "Whenever I'm having a rough day, I go back and read the guestbook," she said. "It's incredible and a joy to see all the support. The prayers are beautiful and deep and impacting."
The family beams with pride at all that Bethany has become and her bright future. At first a little uncertain about Bethany's speaking engagements, Ben has become a believer in her message and its profound impact. She will soon start college, with the hope of one day helping emotionally and physically abused or injured persons heal using horses therapeutically.
Grateful for Support
The Pearsons are forever grateful for countless people that helped Bethany heal - from adept first responders, skilled surgeons and nurses, dedicated rehab specialists, caring tutors and home school community, and all their family, friends and people who expressed their love, support and prayers through CaringBridge.
Bruce said, "We're so grateful for everyone who teamed up to save Bethany's life. When you're told by medical professionals that they hoped your child would live long enough for you to say goodbye and instead you're able to bring that child home, nothing seems like thank you enough. So many people helped us through this time. It's difficult to express the depth of our thanks to all of our communities of support."