During the beginning of 2014, I realized I needed a spiritual revival. I had been a Christian for 10 years, and after yet another break-up, I realized I needed to run as fast as I could towards God. I began praying a series of prayers:
One being for my best friend to return to God. I remember listening to a sermon by Francis Chan that year. His question was, “When was the last time you got on your knees and begged God for someone else's soul?”
I had been best friends with Misha for half of my life and I had never gotten on my knees and begged God for her soul. So I began to do so.
In my second prayer, I asked God to lead me to the man I would marry—a man who loved God with all of his heart and who wanted to serve the poor.
The third prayer focused on my father rekindling his relationship with God. He had always raised me to believe in God, but did not pursue his own relationship with Him. The fourth prayer I asked God to use me. I wanted to make a difference with my life. I wanted to leave a legacy. I didn’t just want to live a mediocre life focused on the self.
For seven months, I prayed these prayers daily. On November 7, 2014, I took my dog for a walk like I did every other day, and I once again prayed these prayers. I asked God again what it would take for these things to happen. This time, though; I heard God answer me. He said, "Erin, something tragic needs to happen." I thought about something terrible happening to my best friend or someone in her family since my main prayer had first been focused on her. Then God said, "No, Erin, it's going to happen to you."
In that moment, I asked myself if I could pray the next prayer. I wasn't scared, more shocked, but I felt sure. I wanted desperately for God to answer my series of prayers and so I made a request: I said, "Okay, God, do whatever you need to do, just do not take my life."
On November 9, 2014, my life changed forever. After leaving the movie theater, I drove home on Chicago’s I55 South expressway—a roadway I had driven countless times. A wrong-way drunk driver entered the opposite side of the expressway using an exit ramp and drove for miles before she hit me head-on. When tested, her blood alcohol level read twice the legal limit. The only memory I have is of driving home at 1:30 in the morning with no cars on the road on a very cold November night. I remember listening to music and admiring the light as it streamed down from the street lamps.
The next memory I have is of waking up in an ambulance. I didn’t know what had happened to me, but I was in the worst pain of my life. So. Much. Pain. The paramedics strapped me to the gurney with a neck brace. I could not move, or feel, anything below my waist. I could barely make out a word as I went in and out of consciousness. The paramedic walked over to me, grabbed my hand and looked me in the eye. He said, "You are lucky to be alive. People do not normally survive crashes like this." The next moment, I woke up in the hospital to a state trooper standing over me. I jolted my head back in surprise. In my mind, I ran down the list: "I wasn't drinking. I wasn't on my phone. I wasn't tired. What happened!?" I assumed the state trooper saw the sheer terror on my face because after asking me to verify my name, he asked if I knew what had happened. I shook my head no. He then dropped a bomb of which to this day, I am still learning to understand its gravity.
He said, "Ms. Massey, you were hit head-on by a drunk driver traveling the wrong way on the expressway. You are lucky to be alive."
There were those words again. "You are lucky to be alive." But when your body is in shock and you are in the worst pain of your life—the kind that feels like your abdomen is going to explode—you don't exactly understand the gravity of those words at the moment.
I would find out later that it was truly a miracle that I survived. On impact, my spine shattered at L5 and S4, immediately paralyzing me from the waist down. I suffered such severe burst fractures that my spinal canal filled with bone. My cauda equina was so severely compressed that my surgeon said my nerves looked like cooked spaghetti. I also had three broken ribs, a fractured sternum, a severe concussion, lacerated liver, severed iliac artery, and holes in my bowels, colon, and small intestine. My right heel also broke in three places.
The plastic surgeon said that while the seatbelt saved my life, it sliced my body in half. It tore my rectus and oblique muscles all the way to my spine on my left side.
The morning of the crash, the doctor came in and informed my family that the surgical teams needed to do two emergency surgeries, but they didn't know which one to do first. Either the trauma team would repair the organs and artery that were leaking free-forming fluid and blood into my abdomen— and that would kill me within hours if left unchecked— or the spinal team would decompress my spinal nerves with the hope that some function in my lower half would be restored. After a while, the doctor came back into the ER room and informed all of us that the two surgical teams had decided my organs would be repaired first. My spine would need to wait. The neurosurgeons ended up operating on my spine two days later as my family told they felt I was too weak to be put under anesthesia again— less than 24 hours after my first 7 1/2 hour surgery.
Ten days after the crash, I became septic because the first surgery to repair my organs had failed. I almost died again. The trauma surgeon said that had they caught the infection any later, I would surely have died.
It's been four years since that horrible night. I have had eight surgeries in total, three of which were emergency surgeries. I spent 68 days in the hospital including the rehab hospital. I spent the next two years learning how to walk with a walker, then a cane and finally with only orthotics on my feet and ankles. I also needed to learn how to self-catheterize to urinate and how to care for a colostomy bag. I am a paraplegic and my life is forever changed.
But despite all of this, my surgeons call me the "Miracle Patient." They never knew if I would walk again, but I am now with no assistive devices except the orthotics in my shoes. I still have no bladder or bowel function and cannot feel about 40% of my legs. I live in constant pain and am not able to work a full-time job, but I am alive. I am well. I am now married to the man I asked of God.
And God kept his promise: He has answered each and every one of those prayers, and I now have a story to tell.
The week of my wedding and during the last criminal court date, I had the unique opportunity to tell the drunk driver who almost killed me that I forgave her. I also had the opportunity to demonstrate my complete forgiveness by hugging her that same day— and right before the officers took her into custody to serve her 18-month prison sentence. I forgave her and showed her mercy even though I didn't think she deserved it.
Then again, I believe God forgave me and has shown me mercy despite the fact that I did nothing to deserve it.