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Tanner’s Story

Thank you for visiting our CaringBridge site. We created it to keep family and friends updated on Tanner's condition. We will also use it post any prayer requests. Please feel free to sign our guestbook and leave an encouraging word. 

Thank you for your continued prayers and support. 

Carol, Travis, and Tanner Underwood were in a serious car accident on I-35 Friday, March 23. Carol and Travis had minor cuts and bruises, but Tanner was flown to Scott and White in Temple to treat head injuries. He was sedated in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, where doctors monitored the swelling in his brain and brain activity. After several weeks Tanner began to experience partial consciousness, opening one eye and making a few gestures in response to our commands. He stabilized.

One month later he was transferred to a Baylor-affiliated rehab in Dallas called Our Children's House where they specialize in treating pediatric victims of traumatic brain injury. Rather than focus on rehab here, we fought "storming" for multiple weeks. When this was finally brought under control, Tanner faced some significant GI tract inflammation and infection. At the end of six weeks, we were able to arrange through our insurer for Tanner to move to Cook's Children's Hospital in Fort Worth in it's rehab unit where we stayed for another four months. While at Cook's Tanner had surgery, got off some of his powerful (but inhibiting drugs), obtained a Baclofen pump (implanted in his abdomen), increasingly displayed more alertness and responsiveness.  In short, he finally emerged from his coma. He began to answer questions with signals from his eyes, hands and feet. One of the most glorious days was when he demonstrated that he still had the ability to read.  Then he showed he could still do math, even algebra.  He began to work with an in-hospital school teacher and even was able to write messages to us. On October 3, 2012 we had a glorious homecoming parade awaiting us in our neighborhood and we brought Tanner back home--his first chance to be home since the late afternoon of that fateful day in March. We were able to hire a full-time (M-F) nurse and this has been a huge blessing, allowing Carol to return to work.  In January, 2013 Tanner began to return to school, on a very limited basis.  He has been doing significant therapy at Hope Therapy in Waco.  And he returned to school on a M-F basis in August 2013 attending regular classes each morning and then doing therapy at Hope each afternoon.  He has also been blessed with speech therapy through Baylor University.  He still must use a wheelchair as his left side body movements are very minimal (the leg and especially the arm).

Tanner speaks with friends (labored but still speaking), he laughs, he shows his old wit, he plays video games, he watches his favorite Seinfeld episodes on t.v., he goes to Baylor basketball and football games again.  There is laughter in our home where once our lives were filled with tears, sorrow, grief, horror, and fear.  We have Hope.

Our path is long, non-linear, and full of intimidating challenges still. But we have already known joy and experienced celebrations.

We are in a place where angels (posing as nurses, doctors, school teachers, and therapists) serve as the hands and feet of God making miracles happen. And so we await our continued miracle, letting Tanner's mind continue to heal and his cognitive thoughts re-emerge as God knits him back together again.

Please join us on this journey of faith and healing. Please pray for our family (Tanner, his parents Carol & Jim, and his older brothers Travis &Tyler). We are asking God to heal him as we learn to trust in His goodness and love for us all.

Tanner's life is God's glory.

Latest Journal Update

"Consider the Lily"

The first time I flew to Texas from Ohio (Fall 1985) to interview for a job, I was struck by the view from the plane--how desolate the landscape of Texas was compared to the Midwest where I was raised. And while it does have a rugged beauty I have grown to appreciate, for most of the hot long summer the green fades to brown.  But there is a magical moment each year, in the spring, when the bounty stored below the ground works its way through the hard crusty soil to emerge in the form of of colorful rays of light--wildflowers.  I appreciate them more than ever before.

For two weeks after Tanner's accident, I remained with Carol by Tanner's bedside each day, tense, fearful, crying, praying, hoping. Then I had to relieve my colleagues who had been teaching my classes for me.  Thus began our new routine.  We would leave the Ronald McDonald house early as the sun peeked over the hills of central Texas, make our stop at Starbucks for two "tall blondes", and then I would drop Carol off at the entrance to the McLane Children's Hospital in Temple.  With her nerves steeled and determination in her eyes, she would leave my car to begin another day of strong emotions.  I headed north on I-35, the lifeblood and death trap of Texas, for Waco for a day of teaching.  I was luckier than Carol, because for a few hours I could imagine normalcy.  One of my strongest memories for those next few weeks was of the colorful bounty of God's carpet alongside the highway. For it was that special season in Texas where Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrushes bloomed in large clusters up and down the hillsides along the road. 

It was more than their beauty that struck me on those daily commutes.  I recall cheeks stained with tears marveling at the wonder of the annual God-given display.  Many things happened each year, lives begun, lives ended, lives changed forever, ordinary things, magnificent things.  But regardless, each Spring those wildflowers sprung up again.  It occurred to me that this had been happening for thousands of years.  We were so mortal and fragile but some things, by comparison, seemed eternal.  Our suffering would not last forever and, no matter, there would be flowers again.  New lives would begin and be lived and end and then all of this cycle would repeat in the lives of others.  I found comfort in the face of the eternal.  My little unimportant life and its ancillary heartaches was not at the center of the universe and life would continue on its own without me.

So I now see wildflowers in a different light.  They are a sign of the eternal things, not because they each last long but because God brings new ones back each year for his glory.  There are things that often go unnoticed but every once in awhile fight their way to the surface of our minds and allow us to experience a moment of the joy and beauty of the Eternal One. 

We have such moments in Tanner's new life.  Seeing him ride his new bike up and down our street, and getting better at it, is a wonder. Watching him master slope intercepts in his math class and wave off Carol when she tries to help him.  Marveling as his wonderful personality continues to emerge from the cocoon of his brain injury--in those terrific moments when he suddenly announces "Oh my gosh!" as he is seated at the dinner table or watching something on television that captures his imagination.  Or when he looks at a calendar and realizes, "My birthday is exactly one month from today." These things are the bluebonnets of our life that help to sustain us, give us pause to rejoice, and offer a glimpse of the eternal things. The things that truly matter.

For our son is not lying beneath of field of bluebonnets, but sits on top of them, surrounded by their beauty, being slowly re-created by (as Tanner likes to put it in his prayers) his "loving, eternal, holy Father."  And he smiles.  So should we.

"Consider the lilies, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you?" Luke 12:27-28
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Comments

16 Comments

Andrea Sulak
By Andrea
Just reading your latest post now. And yes, Spring in Texas is beautiful. Amen. Thanks for encouraging me on the journey of life. Post again soon and let us know of your plans for the summer....the dog days of summer, but still good days regardless of the heat.
Wendy Knouse
By Wendy Knouse
Your journey and your insight on becoming new in Christ is inspiring. God's love, grace, strength is new every morning and spring again reminds us of the Hope! Blessings to Tanner and his sweet family.
Marilyn Wolfe-Kirk
By Marilyn Wolfe-Kirk
Beautifully spoken and so inspiring.
Shirley & Brent Granstaff
By Shirley Granstaff
Love how well you are able to pen the journey. God bless and keep you and your precious family in His perfect care.
Jan Hurn
By Jan Hurn
Tanner looks awesome!! I love seeing that big smile!! Thanks for sharing!
Pam Robinson
By Pam Robinson
Beautiful words - Once again ~ Yes - life is a blessing!
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Faye Kidd
By Faye and Vernon from Lamesa, Texas.
Tanner has a pretty, happy smile, very good looking young man there! They say stop and smell the roses, Tanner is smelling and enjoying the bluebonnets of Texas. Thank you for your words!
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Kelli Hoffman
By Bob and Kelli Hoffman — last edited
Thank you for sharing. I needed this today! We are thankful to hear of Tanner's succcesses. Keep pressing on!
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charlene parker
By Charlene Parker, Lorena
Thank you so much for sharing these blessings with us. I am so excited for Tanner!! And so happy for ya'll as parents, to be able to continue to be blessed with his wonderful, wonderful self. God is good .... all the time.
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Dana Key
By Dana Key
How very beautiful are your words Jim and what an amazing way to look at the world around us. Thanks so much for sharing what is in your heart and for sharing your family with all of us. Love you all so very much.
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