|Tom and Julie Clements with their son Thomas, three daughters, and grandson.|
October 29, 2010. Roswell, Georgia. There are times when God
answers prayers through the way events unfold. And there are
also times when he answers in words, as he did
Tom and Julie Clements will always remember the
time when God spoke to them through both events and
In 2002, their 17-year-old son Thomas got into a car
accident so severe that he had to be airlifted to
Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, the only Level 1 trauma
center in a 100-mile radius.
“As a parent with a
child in an accident,” says Tom, “the worst thing you
can hear is that your child has been airlifted to
Immediately, they began to pray. As they drove to
Grady Hospital, all of the members of the family (except
Julie, who was driving) used their cell phones to ask
friends and relatives to pray for Thomas. They spread the
word through e-mail and the Internet, and the prayers and
good wishes began pouring in from people of all denominations.
A priest named Fr Tim Hepburn also came and said
a prayer of healing over Thomas.
One of the key indicators
of Thomas’ condition was a monitor on the wall displaying
the intracranial pressure reading, which measures the level of pressure
in his head. Normal pressure levels are usually between 7
and 15 for a resting adult, and much lower if
the person is standing. Anything higher than 20 is beyond
the range of normal and requires immediate action.
As the days
went by, Tom and Julie would check the monitor every
time they entered their son’s room. On the first day,
the measurement was at 18. The next day it was
24. Then it was 28.
“We know people who have actually
survived with an intracranial pressure of 30,” one doctor told
them. Other doctors warned that such high pressure levels could
turn their son into a vegetable, if not kill him.
next day, his measurement was over 30, and in the
following days it rose to the high 40s.
going to live?” Tom asked the doctors. Their answer was,
“We’ll know in the next 24 hours.”
At this point, the
doctors had put his son into a hyperbolic coma as
the last resort. All other attempts to lower his intracranial
pressure had been unsuccessful.
That night found Tom on his
knees at his bedside.
“Lord, you’ve given us these four
wonderful children,” he prayed. “Thy will be done. Just give
us the strength to carry on if you take our
Then he went to sleep.
Sometime around one in the morning,
he woke up and heard an audible voice say to
him, “Tom, I am giving your son back to you.”
next day, Tom got up at 5:30 in the morning
and went to the hospital. As always, the first thing
he did when entering the room was glance at the
pressure monitor on the wall.
The intracranial pressure had dropped
from the high 40s to… 4.
Normally, pressure levels rise and
fall on a gradual scale. They don’t suddenly plummet from
40 to 4 overnight. When he asked the doctor about
it, there was no medical explanation for what had taken
place. In fact, the doctor had never seen a patient
in his care come out of a barbiturate induced coma
Communicating with the cross
The healing process was not instantaneous, however.
At first, Thomas could only slightly move a few fingers
on his right hand. They taped a pencil to his
index finger to see if he could write, since he
was unable to speak, but he only wrote squiggly lines.
Tom made a page with the alphabet written on it
to see if he could communicate by pointing to letters
and spelling out what he wanted to say, but Thomas
was unable to spell.
The next day, Fr Tim returned and
suggested that the family say a prayer of thanksgiving. At
the time, only Julie and her daughter Carolyn were present
in the hospital room. Standing around his bed, they began
with the sign of the cross.
Then they saw Thomas
use his index finger to make a little sign of
the cross on his thigh. It was his first communication
after two weeks on the brink of death.
At that moment,
Julie says, “I knew that no matter how things turned
out, he had God to support, lead, love, and give
Thomas’ recovery was gradual; since the frontal lobe controls
personality and emotions, it took him time to reconnect many
relationships and six years to redefine who he was. He
also had to relearn how to walk, add and subtract,
play his guitar, and accomplish other tasks.
But time and constant
effort have completed the cure. Thomas, now fully recovered, is
preparing for his upcoming wedding on January 1, 2011.
About 15 years before Thomas’ accident, Julie and Tom
were rushing to the hospital for another reason: only 25
weeks into pregnancy, Julie was already in labor. They knew
the probabilities for the baby’s survival were remote—she was 15
weeks early—so there was nothing to do but pray.
car ride to the hospital, Julie prayed out loud, “Lord,
thank you for three healthy children. I guess this one
is for you.”
Their daughter Lauren was born at 1
pound, 9 ounces. Against all odds, she survived and is
Looking back, Tom says, “I didn’t consciously think of
saying the same thing my wife had said, but I
ended up praying in almost the same words.”
or trauma strikes a family, it is natural to wonder
why God allowed it. Sometimes the answer to that question
comes only with time, in retrospect. Sometimes the reasons never
become entirely clear in this life and the only thing
to do is to give it over to God.
Clements, Thomas’ accident was a source of unexpected blessings.
the accident, our family was a bit disconnected,” recalls Julie.
“They alternated between congenial, confident, and cruel.”
But standing by Thomas
and joining together in intense prayer did something to the
“The entire experience has made our family close,”
says Julie. “My children learned how much they really love
each other and how meaningless their quarrels were. We truly
value our little family and the second chance that God
has given us.”
At the same time, she observes, the experience
was a vivid lesson of the power of prayer. Eight
years later, they still encounter people who ask Thomas, “Are
you the young man we prayed for years ago?”
is a symbol of their prayers and ours answered,” Julie
And that is a lesson not easily forgotten.
is part of a series about God’s action in
the lives of Regnum Christi members who turned to him
in prayer. If you have a story to share, please
contact us at this link.