Participatory Journalism:
For a Greater Purpose

by John Cristen Crawford

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    We were on our way to Mammoth Mountain, California, where we planned to enjoy a wonderful week of ski racing and fun in the snow. Just as we were entering Tonapah, Nevada, the driver of the car asked me to take the wheel for a minute. Three of us were in the car. The third member in the back seat grabbed the wheel in a joking manner, turning it almost completely around. The car spun from side to side on the road, finally going off a 10- or 15-foot ledge. I was thrown from the car after it left the road; seconds later the big Travelall rolled over me.

    As I hit the ground I turned my head. I don’t know why I did, but I just did. This saved my face from being crushed into the ground. Then I blacked out, but not for long. I remember getting to my feet and standing a few seconds until my friends laid me back on the ground. The only thing I was really worried about was having a broken back because it hurt. It was hard to breathe. I remember thinking that when people die they usually say, “Well, this is it.” I didn’t think “this is it,” but I was sure that dirt and gravel were in my lungs because it was so hard for me to breathe.

    I was taken to the tiny Nye Valley hospital where the only patient they had that day was me. Luckily there was a doctor on call. He and the staff cleaned me off, sewed up my cuts, and told me I had a broken back. I was glad it was nothing more serious but felt terrible about not going on to Mammoth Mountain.

    Shortly after, two elders who were passing the hospital came in and gave me a blessing. No one had told them to come. They were just going by the hospital and decided to come in and see if they were needed. The two just came up to me and asked me if I wanted a blessing. They didn’t know then, and neither did I, but I had a ruptured spleen that immediately repaired itself or I would have bled to death. The internist who cared for me later said, “This is a very unusual occurrence—a spleen healing itself. In fact, it is almost unheard of.”

    The next morning a doctor from my hometown, Provo, Utah, flew in to see me. As soon as he looked at me, he started to give orders, and I was out of that hospital and into a plane in a hurry.

    I don’t remember much about the plane ride, but the doctor told me it was a nightmare. He said I blacked out completely two times. The pilot wanted to fly above the storm, but the doctor told him to stay at a lower altitude to keep me alive—the plane did not have a supply of oxygen. An ambulance, oxygen, and my dad were waiting at the Provo airport.

    After three weeks of pain, discomfort, discouragement, no food—it wouldn’t stay down—continuous intravenous feeding, being rushed to intensive care and onto an ice bed several times to reduce an extremely high fever, several blood transfusions, and having my back and side punctured to remove the fluid from my lungs, the doctors decided that the only thing left to do was to operate and remove one of my kidneys to try to stop the infection and bleeding.

    Members of our ward and many of our friends and relatives fasted and prayed for my recovery. I had many wonderful blessings from my father and the bishop. We all had faith that everything would be all right. I made it through the operation, but my heart was weakened. We also wondered if the remaining kidney, which was also diseased, would take over.

    The next week was spent in the intensive care unit with a heart monitor registering every beat. At one time the monitor stopped. I told the nurses to call my mother and tell her that the machine said I had just died and ask if she wanted to come and see me.

    I can’t tell you how often and how sincerely I prayed for little things—that the nurse would find a vein that wouldn’t collapse, that I could swallow something that would stay in my stomach, or that my fever would go down without my having to be packed in ice again. These prayers and many others were always answered.

    The doctors, three specialists, told me later what was wrong. Besides a broken back, I had three broken ribs that had punctured my lungs. The pressure, the fluid in my lungs, and infection, as well as drugs they had to give me, had injured my heart. I also had had a ruptured spleen, which was healed after my blessing from the elders. One badly diseased kidney was removed, and the other one had infection in it. When my folks asked the operating physician if I would make it, he just shook his head and said, “We can hope. His insides were a mess.” He and the other specialists told us later that by all medical standards I should have died soon after the accident and many times since.

    I stayed in the hospital about two months. I lost 50 pounds and was so dizzy that I couldn’t walk without help. I was to have stayed at home and been taught by a tutor. However, I was determined to go to school. With the help of a good friend I was able to do it.

    Within a few months the doctors said I was completely well. In fact, after a final examination by the internist, he brought out a large assortment of charts and papers, held them up in the air, and said, “What can I say? You are okay. There is absolutely nothing wrong with you. Be careful about contact sports—you have only one kidney—but many, many people live to a very old age with only one kidney. In fact, some people are born with only one. Come back and see me in a year.”

    I am grateful to be alive and well. I can do anything I ever did before—ski, play tennis, play basketball, exercise. I am so thankful for dedicated doctors (I hope to be one some day), wonderful, patient nurses, and for well-equipped hospitals; but most of all I thank my Father in heaven for his many blessings to us. I’m especially grateful to be serving the Lord in the Canada Calgary Mission. I know our Father loves and guides us and that he has a mission for each of his children. He does preserve lives for a purpose greater than we realize.

    Illustrated by Kent Goodliffe