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Surviving an Accident as a Homeschool Mom

By Joyce Swann
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #11, 1996.

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Joyce Swann

EDITOR’S NOTE: Many of you have written to ask for more details about how our popular columnist Joyce recovered from her accident, and if she was able to continue homeschooling. Here, by request, is Joyce’s story.

On May 5, 1995, I was involved in a bizarre accident in which I was run over by our family’s large custom van and nearly killed. As I was being rotated backward under the van, I kept thinking, “I never would have believed that this is how I would die.”

When the van finally came to a stop, I was pinned under the steering crossbars with the full weight of the vehicle resting on me. I was conscious, but the air had been squeezed out of me. I was unable to breathe or call out for help. Before I lost consciousness I said, “Lord, I really need to finish raising my children, but if you don’t send someone out here to find me, I’m going to die under this van.”

That brief prayer was a reminder of a covenant between God and me: He had told me to homeschool my children, and I had agreed. We had a “deal.” I was responsible for being the best home teacher I could, and He was responsible for keeping me alive.

My left hip, pelvis, and ribs (all 12 of them) were broken—the good news was that none of the fractures was severe enough to require surgery. My right femur (thigh bone) was completely broken in two places and was protruding from my body under my hip. The bone eventually had to be put together with two large metal plates. My right hip ball was so badly crushed that it had to be replaced with a metal ball. In addition, the right side of my pelvis was broken, and my heart and lung were bruised. In fact, my lung was so badly bruised that two weeks passed before I was able to take in enough oxygen on my own to sustain life.

Under the circumstances, I could have justified taking my first vacation in twenty years from the rigors of homeschooling. Yet, I had reminded God that I needed to finish the task He had given me: I needed to raise and educate my children. From the beginning of the recovery, I urgently desired to get back to work.

While I was in the hospital, Alexandra (24) and Dominic (20) supervised our four remaining students. When they came home from work in the evening, they discussed lesson assignments, gave advice, and regulated the work that was continuing during our daily school hours. I was so ill that they did not tell me immediately that the children were continuing their school work, but when I learned that the younger students were putting in their three hours a day and the older children were checking up on them in the evenings, I felt a sense of relief.

On Monday, May 22, I came home. I was taking no medication, but I was running a temperature and felt as if I had a severe case of the flu in addition to the broken bones. I was so nauseated that I could eat only a few bites and so weak that I could not get up on the edge of the bed without serious assistance. Although the outside temperatures were close to 100 degrees, I experienced chills so severe that I had to turn the heating pad to “high” and cover myself with comforters.

The next morning I decided that Judah (11) and Stefan (12) would come into the bedroom and have their school with me while Gabrielle (14) and Israel (15) would continue to work in the school room and come to me for help. I would, of course, read everyone’s papers and supervise their work. We continued this practice for three weeks.

Fortunately, Judah had begun the university shortly before my accident and was able to work independently. Nevertheless, I knew how strange those first few weeks of university work could seem, and I wanted him to know that when he needed me, I was there, ready and willing to help. I also knew that our eleven- and twelve-year-old must be experiencing some trauma from my accident, and I wanted both of my pre-teen college boys to realize that our school would continue normally.

The fourth week I went to the schoolroom in my wheelchair. Much of the time I was so sick that unless I was answering questions or discussing some concept, I sat with my head on the table. After an hour or so, I would find it impossible to continue, and we would move the school back to my bedroom.

My weakness was disconcerting, but the thing that bothered me most was the oxygen deprivation and my inability to read and think.

When I had first arrived at the hospital, the doctors told my family that I had been extremely oxygen-deprived, and they were concerned that I might suffer serious permanent brain damage. I thank God that did not happen, but for a time I found it very hard to read. I did not tell anyone, but when I tried to read, the words simply did not make sense. I would have to re-read a paragraph several times before I could understand it. I knew that this was a temporary condition, but my inability to process information made it extremely difficult to work with one graduate student and three undergraduates.

Yet, the daily effort paid off. Within weeks my ability to think and process information had returned to normal.

My mind and my body healed together. Each day I grew stronger, and each day I was able to take back more territory both in my own life and in my homeschool. In mid August the intense and constant pain which had haunted me for months suddenly left. I went from, “I don’t know how much longer I can endure this” to being virtually pain-free. I began to feel strong and in charge again. The worst of the nightmare was over.

The children accomplished a lot that summer. Israel finished the summer trimester at Cal State and entered his final trimester in August. He received his Master’s degree in December. Gabrielle is working on her final unit of study and writing her Bachelor’s thesis. She will receive her Bachelor’s degree the summer of ’96. Stefan and Judah are continuing to work towards their Bachelor’s degrees, and if they experienced any trauma due to my accident, it is not apparent.

I am so grateful for my wonderful family who have helped me so much during this difficult time. They were always there to help me physically, emotionally, and spiritually. They dried my tears and bolstered my spirits when I felt that I could not go on. They did everything humanly possible to help me through this ordeal.

In looking back over those five months, I am most grateful that I serve a God who always keeps His promises. Twenty years ago when He told me to homeschool my children, and when I said, “Yes,” we entered into a covenant agreement. Although I have tried, I have not always kept my part of that agreement to the best of my ability, but He has been more than faithful. He is truly Jehovah Shammah—the God who is there.

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