There’s a phrase that says, “Boys: Less drama than girls, but harder to keep alive.” Ben Walton, my son, has proved those words to be right all his life.
When I was pregnant with Ben, there were complications. My hormone levels dropped at a dangerous rate, and my doctor said that the pregnancy would end with a miscarriage. My family and I prayed every day, and decided that we were going to let God take control of this pregnancy. For 20 weeks, there was a heartbeat detected during every doctor’s visit. When Ben was born, we learned that he was supposed to be a twin. The dropping hormones were from a “vanishing pregnancy.” Ben was the twin who survived.
When my son was growing up, he was always that boy who was somehow getting hurt. Even as an adult, Ben had some bad accidents at his construction job. So, when I got a call last July that something had happened to him while he was out bike riding, my first thought was, “Of course it did.”
That night, Ben was on the property of our family friend Timmy. They were riding ATVs and motorbikes out in a field. It was his first time on those types of vehicles, but in the early summer evening and away from traffic, no one expected any type of danger. At 10 p.m., Timmy’s wife Libby called me and said, “Cindy, I need to tell you something, but you need to sit down.” Hearing her say that made me stand up right away.
Libby said that Ben had lost control of his motorbike. Unable to operate the brakes, he slammed his feet down on the ground, as if trying to stop a regular bicycle. This shifted his weight, causing him to fall headfirst into a rock bed, six feet down. Though he was able to get himself up, the group all agreed that he needed to get to the nearest hospital, which was 40 minutes away.
“The hospital said his injuries are too severe. They’re going to life flight him over to University of Kentucky Hospital,” said Libby. Because we had firefighters and health professionals in our family, I knew what a life flight was. My son was being transferred to a major hospital via helicopter, and I was two and a half hours away from him.
I told my husband Stan, who was a truck driver and away from home, what had happened and that I was going to UK Hospital with our daughter Nora, Ben’s older sister. I texted the Majors Angie and Herb Carter, who, up until a week ago that day, were The Salvation Army pastors at the Center Hill Corps in Cincinnati, Ohio, where I work. I also texted Envoys Gina and Bradley Harris, our new pastors who had not even met Ben.
At the hospital, I waited in the room where they said Benny would soon be. Timmy was also there, beside himself with guilt for what had happened. I wasn’t angry at him; Ben is not a little boy. He’s a 21–year– old man who can make decisions on his own. Plus, Timmy loved my children as if they were his own; he had warned Ben to wear a helmet, and Ben chose not to listen. As we were talking, the doctors wheeled in my bloodied, banged–up son. They tried to explain the extent of Ben’s injuries, but I needed Nora, an EMT, to translate it for me. Ben had suffered a skull fracture and shattered the whole orbital bone around his eye, which had been completely engulfed by the injury. He had broken his collarbone and his shoulder. Part of his head had been scalped and had developed blood clots, causing a hematoma. Though he never lost consciousness, he could only remember what had happened in bits and seconds, as if someone had been snapping photos and that was all he could see.
Ben could answer the basic questions that hospital personnel ask patients with head trauma (What is your name? What year is it? Who is our president?). But by the third round of the same questions, he was answering them wrong. He also said he had gotten injured “while on the job, putting a truck on a trailer that had fallen. Or was it a school bus?” That made us all nervous; his thoughts and memories were deteriorating.
He went into surgery that night, and six hours later, I saw Ben again, with plates and pins holding him together. His face was completely wrapped up and his head shaved, with a scar covered in dry blood. He had been rushed into surgery so fast that they hadn’t cleaned his wounds properly. That infuriated me as a mother; I asked for some wet towels and did it myself. Afterwards, I returned home to meet with Stan, and drove back with him to bring our son clean clothes.
Ben was in the hospital for three and a half days, and in a wheelchair for three months. He would eventually have a second surgery to repair his shoulder, and needed treatments for his leg, which had developed a terrible infection from the dirt and water where he fell. From the damage Ben had sustained, he might have never been able to walk or communicate again. It’s a miracle that he didn’t lose his injured eye. It’s a miracle that my son is alive today and back at work, now driving trucks like his father.
“Boys: Less drama than girls, but harder to keep alive.” I now have those words tattooed on my right shoulder, around another tattoo of Ben’s brain scans after his accident.
We’re a family here at the Center Hill Corps, and in The Salvation Army as a whole. Officers and other fellow Salvationists that I knew from my 40–plus years with the Army reached out to us. Our new envoys met Ben for the first time in the hospital. We learned that there were people from across the world praying for Ben’s healing. I can’t help wondering what the Lord has in mind for my son to have him overcome so much in his life. When someone talks about being a “God–fearing” person, it doesn’t mean that they live in constant fear of the Lord. On the contrary, it’s an emotional awareness of His power and knowing that He is in control of everything. When I think about Ben healing after that long list of injuries the doctor read to me, I know it was God in control. Timmy and his friends could have decided that, since Ben was walking and talking after his accident, he just needed to sleep it off. My son would not have survived the night if that happened. But God was in control, even after Ben had lost control.
It amazes me how fragile our bodies are, but the more amazing thing is that it doesn’t matter that they are. If God decides you will make it, you will do so, because God stays in control.