August 1, 2016 marked the first anniversary of our son’s accident. A year ago, on a clear Saturday morning Mark was making a routine ride on his motorcycle from Pasadena to his accommodation in Palmdale, Los Angeles. Instead of taking the freeway Mark took the shortcut through the Angeles National Forest, an area notorious for accidents. Exactly what happened next no one knows but his bike went down on a curve and he slid into a roadside barrier. His left leg was completely severed on impact above the knee and his right leg was partially severed off and pulverized beyond recognition. Through what can only be called a miraculous series of events Mark was picked up by a specialized helicopter crew (with paramedics on board) from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and flown to Huntington Hospital where he underwent a series of operations to try to save what was left of his right leg. Mark returned to New Zealand in November 2015 where he underwent further hospital treatment before arriving at his parents’ home in Nelson. Knowing this was an important occasion, we (his parents) prepared a special dinner and wrote him a letter which we read out to him after our meal. This is what we said.
Well here we are, 12 months down the track from an incident that has changed your life forever. A moments inattention or hesitation or over-reaction (or whatever it was) on the road and look at the result. No one is blaming you or pointing the finger, because we’ve all done it – whether it’s reaching for the cell phone or falling asleep at the wheel. And we’re not the ones who had to endure the pain, the agony, the surgeries and sleepless nights as well as who-knows-how-many weeks in a hospital bed. Nor are we left stumbling around on one leg.
We all feel for you Mark, we really do.
It was unbearable for your mother and I to be so far away from you while the surgeons were working on you, refilling your body with blood while they tried to patch together what used to be two perfectly shaped legs. One of them was a lost cause – they could see that. But there was hope for the other one… maybe.
It’s difficult to describe the feeling we both had as we drew nearer to the hospital in LA. We didn’t know what we were going to see. We didn’t even know if you’d be alive. So you can imagine the relief we experienced when we saw you lying there so peacefully, sleeping as if nothing had really happened.
But a lot did happen. It took some days before we could piece the story together. You came as close to death as any man could – or should. It was only due to an incredible combination of circumstances – the perfect storm, the SEB guys called it – a woman stops, a fire ranger makes a call, a helicopter crew decides to dispatch, paramedics apply tourniquets, a critical care team at a hospital prepares. And then you arrive – on time. JUST.
Some call it luck. Others call it quick response. We call it divine intervention. Somebody was watching you Mark. And he has your days numbered. Fortunately for you (and us), your number aint up.
I know you probably think your life stinks right now. And in many ways it does. But, as a wise king once said, “a live dog is better than a dead lion” (Ecclesiastes 9:4). In other words, it doesn’t matter how low or despicable life gets, life is still life and it’s better than being dead. Your future from here on is to a large degree determined by your choices. You can make a real go of it – in the body you’ve got, and make an awesome contribution to this world, or you could waste and squander it.
You can guess which life we are praying for you.
Love you heaps,
Mum and Dad.