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A letter to my family fourteen years later :: A Life Modified No. 2



July 29th, 2000.  A day I will never forget.  Today marks the 14th anniversary of the car accident that changed my family’s life.   When I think back on that hot summer day, I remember fear, a flight for life helicopter, a small hospital, excruciating pain, and confusion; but I also remember comfort, relief knowing we were all alive, and peace that my family was by my side.  If this is the first time reading my #alifemodified series, this introduction post might fill you in a bit.

July 29th. 6:30am.  That day, that moment, changed not just my life…it changed every person in my family’s life.    I was thrown out of the car the moment we hit the guard rail, and broke most bones around my eye and on the left side of my face, broke my left collarbone and shattered my right, punctured my spleen and liver, and came out with a severe brachial plexus injury resulting in fully paralyzing my right arm from the shoulder down.   But I was not the only one to get injured.  My mom, Heather, broke a few ribs from the seatbelt and badly sprained her leg, my sister, Jamie, severely broke her neck at C1 and C2 after being thrown out of the car on the 2nd roll and it is a miracle that she is even living, and JD, thankfully, only had a bad cut on his shoulder.

But even though, each member of my family had their own emotional and physical burdens to carry – they sacrificed so much for me.  So today, as I think back…on that moment fourteen years ago that forever changed the course of my family’s life,  it seems like today would be the day to share my letter to my family.

Mom, Jamie, JD… thank you.


Where do I even begin? My eyes fill up with tears as I think back to all that you have sacrificed for me.  Even when you had broken ribs and moving around was painful, you’d help me sit up every morning since with my broken collar bones I couldn’t sit up out of bed myself.  You helped me get dressed every morning for that first 6 months, would put my hair in a ponytail, and would encourage me daily even when you were tired and in pain yourself.  You worked your butt on at your jobs, even while still being injured, to pay for my medications, surgeries, almost daily physical therapy.  You are truly one of the most selfless people I know.  As the years went on, and the surgeries continued, you would sit and pray with me when my nerve pain was too much to bear.  You dealt with my emotional breakdowns, my cries out to God, and the days when I wasn’t kind or gracious in how I asked for help.  Thank you for sitting for hours in waiting rooms and doctor’s offices, to make sure you were always there when I woke up from a surgery.   As I got older, you encouraged me to try my hardest, and even at times would have the strength to put aside your motherly fear to let me pursue my dreams.  Thank you for encouraging me, despite all my medical complications, to study abroad to Ecuador for a year when I was 16, because you knew I’d love the experience. Thank you for extending me endless amounts of grace, through all the different stages in adapting to a disability.   Thank you.  Thank you does not even cover the surface of my depth of gratitude.  I feel that God has blessed me, knowing the trials we had ahead, with a mother who is strong, resilient, encouraging, selfless, and will continually point me back to Him.

Jamie,  I am so blessed to have such incredible sister.  The accident happened only a few short weeks before your freshman year of college orientation at Wheaton, and I remember the struggle you had with being excited about college, but wanting to stay home to help mom and the family.  You have such a servant’s heart.  That even though you were dealing with your own intense and severe injury, your first thought was wanting put your college experience on hold so you could stay home to help mom and help take care of me.  I am so grateful that your neck healed miraculously over the course of that first year, and that it did not lead to surgery or serious complications!  Thank you for being my number one support.  When I would come visit you at college, the love and encouragement I received gave me energy to keep on going.   Thank you for doing my hair.. like whenever you were home haha.  And for actually trying new styles that took longer, because you knew I would appreciate it.   Thank you for teaching me to rock climb and having the patience to keep letting me try after many failed attempts.   Thank you for being my work out buddy and taking time to help me modify exercises.  Jamie, you are my listening ear, my biggest cheer leader, and best friend. Thank you for loving me so well.

JD,  I am so blessed by my relationship with you.  Thank you for embracing me as not only your sister, but your friend.  At a time when I needed encouragement in those early years, you loved me so well.  When I was a freshman and you were a senior in High School – you proudly called me your sister, whether it be tackling me to give me a hug in the hallway, or shouting across the lunch room in front of all of your friends, “Hey little sister!”. :-)  Leaving words of encouragement on post it notes in my lunch bag or making sure every guy in the school knew that you were my older brother.  You were there for me.  You encouraged me, boosted my self-esteem and gave me confidence at a time when I felt weak.  Thank you.

Jamie + JD…thank you for not making me feel like a burden.   It’s easier to help care for someone with a disability or an injury in the beginning…but over time, it can get wearing. Thank you for extending grace and patience with me.  In the early years, mom needed to devote a lot of attention to helping me, which meant at times she wouldn’t have as much time for you two…thank you for not holding bitterness and resentment against me.  I have been asked about my arm and my story a lot, as we know, thank you for your patience in hearing the same story over and over.  Thank you  both for the daily things…for cutting my chicken, opening jars, tying my shoes, doing my hair, carrying my snowboard, slicing an apple, and so many things over the years that would take too long to list.

Fourteen years ago today…our family was in a horrible car accident. When I look back at how that event on July 29th, 2000 has bonded our family unit and shown the amazing characteristics of the incredible people who I get to call family.. I would say it was worth it.  I love you all.

Your daughter and sister,




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  1. Kate Larkin says:

    I had the pleasure of meeting you on a flight to Seattle. You are an amazing woman and very talented photographer. Reading this, I see where you got it. What a lucky family you all are to have and treasure each other!

  2. Wow, Kelly. What an unbelievable thing to experience. So thankful with you that everyone survived the crash and recovered from their injuries. You are a crazy inspiration to be still doing photography with only the use of one arm!!

  3. Jade says:

    Wow, what a powerful story! You are lucky you have such an amazing family. All the best to all of you :)

  4. Ray Urner says:

    Intense story, man. Happy you’re here to write it. ;)

  5. Anna says:

    BLESSED! I have a feeling this story makes God smile…and gives HIM all the glory! :-)

  6. Chantal says:

    Wow what an incredible story you have to tell as what axing bravery you and your lied ones have to go through such a hard time!

  7. Whitney Lane says:

    <3 Such a beautiful letter

  8. Chris De La Mare says:

    Kelly, today was the first of a series of sermons my Pastor is doing on the book of Job and he is using your story along with it when he gave out your website and blog in service. I didn’t have a chance to write it down right away as I was filled with emotion. You see most of my life I have been a moderate to severe epileptic. I have been divorced and since remarried three years ago to the woman I now believe to be the love of my life and the one God had intended for me all along. I hope I get a chance to exchange emails with you, as Jan 08,this year marked the tenth anniversary since I had a major operation and loss the use of my left arm, left perifial vision out of both eyes and also learning to walk again. The surgery I had was called a hemisphere-ectemy, separating the 2 half’s of the brain to stop epileptic seizures. I have questioned my Faith in God and Christ, my wife knows this however she just doesn’t truly understand no matter how I explain it. Please get back to me as would love to hear more from you and also share more.

  9. Jill Casserly says:

    Kelly -what an amazing letter to your fam! Thanks for sharing it with us. I never knew the details of your family’s injuries and their support. SO awesome! I am so thankful to God for allowing your family to embrace the changes you’ve had to make after that car accident 14 years ago and for allowing ou to pursue photography! Never once have I thought your injury made you any less gifted or able to do a fantastic job with your art! In fact, I’d say it only makes your work even more amazing. You are an amazing Kelly and I hope I am able to have you photograph my wedding one day. I am so glad God had us both go to Wheaton and cross paths.


  10. Kim Aposporos says:

    Such a letter to your family, and a testament to you strength, courage and faith. I know you beautiful mother and am awed by her strength and love. Best wishes on your continuing journey. Best wishes.

  11. […] of my right arm and numerous other injuries. To read a bit more on the accident, click here and […]