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Giving a Child Back to God
U. S. A. | NEWS | NEWS
The Clements’ experience of God’s providence in the midst of trauma.

Clements family
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 to Moses.

Tom and Julie Clements will always remember the time when God spoke to them through both events and words.

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 Grady Hospital.”

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.

The next day, his measurement was over 30, and in the following days it rose to the high 40s.

“Is he 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.

The prayer

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 child.”

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.”

The 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 before.

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 him hope.”

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.

Remembering another prayer

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.

During that 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 perfectly healthy.

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.”

Why, Lord?

When sickness 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.

For the Clements, Thomas’ accident was a source of unexpected blessings.

“Before 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 family dynamic.

“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?”

“Thomas is a symbol of their prayers and ours answered,” Julie says.

And that is a lesson not easily forgotten.

This article 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.




PUBLICATION DATE: 2010-10-21


 
 


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