The accident occurred as we were leaving town. We had signed the legal papers for our new home and had stopped awhile to visit my wife’s grandmother. Our three-year-old daughter, G.J., was asleep in the back seat of our car, and we were anxious to return to our other three children. My wife, Gaydra, had begun to knit. Neither of us had reminded the other to fasten our seat belts. It was nearly five o’clock in the afternoon.
We were in heavy traffic moving at 55 miles an hour. As we approached an intersection, I suddenly saw a car that was coming from the opposite direction try to make a quick left turn in front of us. There was no way he could make it. And with cars on all sides of us, I couldn’t turn. I slammed on the brakes but couldn’t stop quickly enough.
The head-on collision threw me against the steering wheel and into the windshield. I began to gasp for air and tried to call Gaydra’s name. I could see her on the floor, but she didn’t answer me. Then blood began to run into my eyes. I could hear G. J. crying as I frantically kicked the collapsed steering wheel out of my lap. I was afraid the car might explode from spilled gasoline and felt I had to get my wife and daughter to safety.
At last the door was open and I stood up. The world began to turn white. I saw a trickle of water from the smashed radiator running between my shoes and I thought, as my knees gave way under me, “I’m going to land right in that.” I regained consciousness as some men carried me to the grass at the side of the road. I asked about my wife and child and was told they were going to be all right. I could still hear G. J. crying.
When the ambulance arrived, Gaydra and I and the other injured driver all rode on stretchers in the back. G. J. sat with a paramedic in the front of the ambulance. Several times Gaydra tried to sit up and ask for G.J., but she kept falling back into unconsciousness.
When we arrived at the hospital, G. J. had stopped crying. A doctor came into the emergency room and examined me. He gave the nurse instructions and left. She was pleasant but efficient: “Mr. McCallister, your wife has a depression fracture of the skull. It is causing severe pressure on her brain, and we are going to send her by emergency helicopter to the University Medical Center for surgery. We can feel the loose bone. You are well enough that you can probably fly in the helicopter with her.”
The nurse then left me alone. It was 5:20 [P.M.] by the clock on the wall, and the room was very quiet.
“Oh, Heavenly Father!” I cried. “Please help Gaydra. She can’t die! She mustn’t die!” The tears stung the cuts around my eyelids, and I could feel glass in my eyebrows and forehead. Those moments were the most agonizing of my life as I contemplated losing my eternal sweetheart.
Suddenly I became aware that someone was there at my side. Two men in street clothes, not white hospital uniforms, said hello. They were elders from the Church.
“Would you like a blessing?” one of them asked.
“Oh, yes. And my wife is in the X-ray department. Please administer to her.”
“We already have,” they replied.
“My daughter …” I began.
“We’ve blessed her as well,” the other man said.
They anointed my head with oil, gave me a blessing, and then left. It was 5:30.
I was puzzled. Who were those elders? How did they get there so fast?
Later I found out.
The twenty-year-old emergency paramedic driving the ambulance had his hands full. What was he to do with a three-year-old girl who was frightened and crying? Her parents were both injured, her mother critically. What could he say or do to calm this child?
Maybe a song would help, he thought. But he couldn’t recall any children’s songs—except one. It was a Sunday School song he had just learned in the church he had only recently joined. There was no reason this little girl would recognize it or take comfort in it. But the impression that he should sing grew stronger, so he began: “I am a child of God, and he has sent me here …”
The little girl grew quiet and after a verse began to sing with him, “I am a child of God, and so my needs are great …”
At the end of the second verse he asked softly, “Are you a Latter-day Saint?”
She replied, “Yes.”
“Are your mommy and daddy?”
He reached for the radio transmitter. “This is rescue calling base. Hi, Beth. Would you do me a favor? Look up the number of a Bishop Brower in the phone book and give him a call. We have a critically injured woman coming in who’s a member of his church and we need …”
So the bishop received the message, and priesthood holders were at the hospital within minutes.
Gaydra was never flown to the medical center. They couldn’t find the skull fracture in X-ray. G. J. and I were released that night, and two weeks later we took Gaydra home without surgery. Except for an inability to recall the accident and the several days following, she has totally recovered. We had survived a head-on collision at 55 miles an hour.
A year later we attended the missionary farewell of the young paramedic who helped save Gaydra’s life.