With God, Nothing Shall Be Impossible
In 1982, Stephanie Rivard, 17-year old high school senior, suffered a major head injury in an automobile accident. In the 18 years of rehabilitation that have followed her three-month coma, she came to know God in a very close relationship. This is the story of a continuing struggle to overcome handicaps with the help of God.
I don’t remember anything about my accident, but an eighteen-wheeler truck broadsided me on my way home from summer school. I suffered a devastating head injury and remained in coma for three months.
I came out of coma still able to read, but I was unable to walk or talk. My left arm was paralyzed and my left leg was very weak. My right eye did not open much, and when it did, I had double vision. I could hold my head up, but I was unable to do simple things like rolling over. My long battle with rehabilitation was just beginning.
Before the accident, I had been taught that there was a God. But I think I only believed because it was something I was supposed to do. Soon after I came out of coma, an incident brought me in close touch with God. In October 1982, the deacon from our church brought communion to me at the hospital, the first time since before my accident. At this time, I could not talk at all. After receiving communion with my family, I pointed to the wall where my mother had taped all my cards. One of the cards had a special message that I had been looking at for several days. I kept pointing to the wall until my father found the correct card. I nodded my head ecstatically when he pointed to the card with the message, “With God, Nothing Shall Be Impossible.” That message has become the inspiration for my long rehabilitation, still underway.
But that rehabilitation hasn’t been easy. I was an in-patient in three different rehabilitation hospitals. I had the same schedule everyday and it left me exhausted. Everything was so difficult that I sometimes wished I would die over lunch so that I would not have to endure the afternoon’s therapy. But the routine was always the same.
At the end of the day, I would look forward to returning to my hospital room. My parents would be in the room waiting for me. Seeing them made a celebration inside of me. I had a deal with myself. During the day, I would do anything the therapists asked. The evening, with my parents, was my time. I had set aside the night for myself.
I loved going down to the cafeteria with my parents, because I would see people other than the therapists. My parents would talk to other parents while I sat around and smiled at everything. When you cannot talk, you learn fast that responding with a simple smile cures a lot of problems.
Along about this time, I decided to give God a try. I found that admitting there is a God helped me endure my daily therapy activities. As time went by, I began to realize I was getting the courage to continue from somewhere. I kept remembering that card, on the walls of my various hospital rooms, and on my bedroom wall at home, when I finally left the hospitals. It was always there, with that message – “With God, Nothing Shall Be Impossible.” It was that message that always persuaded me to push onward in my fight to regain a more normal life.
During the year 1983-84, I finished high school with one class at school and one at home. I also had six hours per day of physical and speech therapy. I graduated in May of 1984. Shortly before that another event altered our lives.
I have twin sisters, Kathleen and Teresa, who are a year older than I am. They had both planned to be home from college for the summer but another accident occurred. Kathleen had completed the last exam of her sophomore year. When returning from an evening out, the driver of the car she was in fell asleep at the wheel. Kathleen received a severe head injury and like me, was life-flighted to Hermann Hospital. She was in coma for five weeks. She progressed more rapidly than me, because her problems were
not as bad. However, having two serious head injuries was difficult, for me, for Kathleen, and for our entire family. It was particularly hard when my parents were pulled away from me to care for Kathleen while she was in coma. But again, I came back to “With God, Nothing Shall Be Impossible.”
As I continued to improve physically, I got stronger in my feelings toward God. When I first admitted there is a God, it was only a thought “why not – maybe there is?” But as I have continuously made progress and had the courage to carry on, I have come to realize that there must be a God. In September of 1984, I realized there was more to God than words. It was then that I started reading the Bible (up until that time, I had great difficulty reading because of my poor memory – a side effect of the head injury). In the three months that followed, I read almost every book in the new Testament. This has given me more enjoyment out of my life. In the Old Testament, I particularly enjoyed Psalms and Proverbs, for they taught me how to live accordingly. I printed my favorite verses on sheets of construction paper and hung them in my bedroom. This helped me remember in spite of my poor memory, because I saw them over and over. I changed them out from time to time.
With God behind me giving me the strength to continue, my walking and talking are continually improving. Now when I go out I can make people understand me, although sometimes I have to repeat. I am walking, but am still very slow and unsteady. I am pleased with myself in that I have completed two college courses with the help of a tutor. Although my speech and physical abilities have come a long way, I still have a long way to go.
I still have the card with the message “With God, Nothing Shall Be Impossible”. It has helped me, right from the start. Whenever I can get someone to listen, it is my duty to share my experience so others might believe. My greatest hope is that through all my suffering others will benefit in coming to know God and to know they can overcome their difficulties with God’s help.
(End of original story)
Update – 1985-90
Many things happened during this period as I continued my recovery. Throughout all, God continued to be a source of courage and hope.
My sister Kathleen continued an excellent recovery for three years, surpassing me in physical abilities. However, she had the same memory problems that I have, and also developed seizures from her head injury. Kathleen and I, accompanied by our Mom, began making appearances at EMT training courses, talking about head injury and rehabilitation. We joined the St. Bernadette’s Young Adults, and began going to parties and dating. We both continued our rehabilitation programs under Mom’s direction.
Then in 1987, Kathleen went into unwitnessed seizure, leading to cardiac arrest. She was resuscitated, but not before suffering major additional brain damage from loss of oxygen. She became persistent vegetative state. My parents tried hard to rehabilitate Kathleen, but nothing worked. After two years in vegetative state, my parents allowed Kathleen to die by withdrawing artificial hydration and nutrition. She died November 20, 1989.
Update – 1991-99
I have continued my recovery, and no longer use the wheel chair, except for significant outings. Although I am unsteady and occasionally still fall, I walk through all my daily living. My talk is still quiet but everyone can understand me. I live across the street from my parents and my rehabilitation consists of daily living, plus working out for hours every day on my many exercise machines. I have a housekeeper who helps me clean the house one day each week but I still do my own daily chores. Two days a week I have a friend and companion who drives me to my hair appointment and the grocery store, etc. to help break up the monotony of being at home all the time. I also visit the local nursing home once a week. Although I have obvious physical handicaps, my greatest deficit is poor memory. My house is full of written notes and reminders.
I would like to share with you a writing I saw somewhere, called “I love the word impossible…”
I love the word impossible because my God believes in adventure and extraordinary mountains. And He dares to be alive in a world crawling with terrible situations.
He promises to be bigger than any impossibility because He is love.
And love always finds a way through, in time.
Love isn’t scared. It builds bridges instead of walls.
It never gives up. It always hangs on.
It waits with stubborn strong hope…sometimes even years.
Impossible means that I, an ordinary young woman
Can be something special and significant in an enormous, hurting world.
I can be love where I live, and that is Christ.
I love the word impossible.
God has continued to be a major part of my life. There has been one purpose in giving you my story. That is to share the courage and strength found in our Lord. The positive love of our Savior, behind our daily routine, gives the encouragement needed to get through whatever we must do.
Update – 2000-10
Rick Lane and I were married on Oct. 28, 2000. Rick and I went together for six years, after meeting at church. Being married to Rick has given me the freedom to do more than I could before. Even though he works and is only here when he is not working we spend our time together doing things I could not have done without him. I still have lady friends who come during the week to help me do things like grocery shop, run errands, get my hair done, visit friends, and see movies. I still enjoy getting and sending mail to my pen pals and friends that I have met over the years. That is how I spend my free time at home besides making telephone calls. I still keep up with my exercising also but just like everyone else my age is catching up with me. I can’t exercise like I used to but am still happy and blessed to be able to say that with my new elliptical I am exercising an hour on a daily regimen.
After Rick and I married in 2000 we continued sharing our homes so that his mom could still live with us. However, by 2002 Rick’s mom started to need more personal care than Rick was able to provide because of his work. At that time Rick’s mom moved in with her daughter and Rick moved into my home where we live now and have shared since 2002. Since Rick’s sisters live nearby we still care for his mother every other weekend to give his sisters a break.
Since January 2008 I have been dedicated to getting up at 4:30 or 5 in the morning to read my daily scripture, pray, exercise and compose my own “Thought for the Day” centered on my scripture readings. This has become a personal ministry for me which I have come to really cherish. I enjoy writing them and after Rick types them up we make copies to share by mail, e-mail and personal handouts to those I meet and visit. I have not missed a day since I started and have now started on my second year.
My husband Rick had a stent installed June 2009. It makes me realize how much I love him, and how we are a great team. Rick is a loving, caring man who believes in God. Having Rick makes me strong and gives life a purpose.
Living the love of God gives purpose to life. Time keeps marching on…that is a good thing. This story has aged right along with me. I am older now but my message is still good.
Update – 2012
More time has passed but our “Thought for the Day” has continued along with the early morning rises, daily exercising and weekly routines. More friends have been made and thoughts shared during our weekly outings. God has continued to bless us in many ways through these friends we have met, our family and the constant and faithful companions who help us on a regular basis. We are truly thankful for these many blessings.
Update – 2018
Rick and I have now celebrated 18 wonderful years of marriage and we both thank God for his many blessings and the lives we share with each other. We also mark a ten year anniversary of our “Thoughts for the Day”. With the help of my faithful companions who are still with me, I am able to continue to go out and share my “Thoughts for the Day” and this story while I go about my daily routine. I continue to exercise each day and have added one day a week of physical therapy to help strengthen and enforce my physical abilities. Mom has been living with heart problems and has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, while Dad just turned 79. Both are still going strong given their circumstances. We love them both and cannot thank them enough for all they do. My sister Teresa lost her husband Mark, who was battling Pulmonary Fibrosis and a double lung transplant rejection. They both have a strong faith and know that death is not the end but just the beginning. Teresa has been coming down on the weekends to spend time with us and Mom and Dad. This has become a very special time for all of us. We pray that the years ahead will continue to bring many of God’s blessings to you and all of those that we know and love and have met over the many years.
Update – 2020
The last two years have had its ups and downs, as I am sure is true for most of us. As I always say, “If life was easy, would it still be life?” The most significant news to report for the last two years is the passing of my Mother and my friend on January 9, 2020. She was a friend to those who wanted her friendship and to those who needed a friend. We all will miss her very much.
With God, Nothing Shall Be Impossible.