Miracle on Valentine's Day
February 16, 2009
Two days ago, I was taking a hike at our farm near Columbus, WI. It was what I would call a “sparkly sunny day”. We had received a fresh covering of snow the night
before, and I was eager to bundle up and get outside to “experience” the beauty.
As a rule during the winter months, I always hike on the country roads bordering our property. Since I walk alone, I figure staying on the road is the safest thing to do, in case I would fall or
get stuck in snow. We are fortunate to have many acres of beautiful land consisting of a variety of woods, open fields, and everything in between. I am happiest when I am hiking at the farm. I’ve
done it for ten years, and I often tell people I’d rather be at the farm than go anywhere on vacation.
I had walked nearly two miles on the road and decided it would be fun to cut through our land and take the trails back to the house. I figured that the snow wouldn’t be too deep. I had no thought
that this decision would almost kill me.
It felt exhilarating to finally be able to be on our hiking trails again. All went well for about a half mile, until I reached the marsh. There was water and ½” ice as far as I could see. The trail
was completely submerged. While I was considering if I should turn back, I stepped into calf-deep water and my boot quickly filled with icy-cold water. This startled me, and I considered turning back
the way I’d come, but was afraid that by the time I arrived home, my foot would be frostbit. I reasoned that I’d better just keep going forward, and perhaps have to “wade” through the marsh (after
all, how deep could it be?) some of the time while I made a beeline in the direction of the house.
This was a big mistake. The next step I took plunged me into water above my knees. I was totally shocked. I felt trapped and a little disoriented. I could feel my feet and legs becoming progressively
more frozen. I knew I needed to hurry through the water as fast as possible before hypothermia took over.
As I tried to hurry through the water, it kept getting deeper. There was a layer of ice on the water, so every step I took I had to lift my leg high and push through the ice with my shins. Every step took so much effort that I feared it was my last.
I found myself crying out to God saying “I will trust You!!” and then “Show me how to get out of here!” Then I lost my footing and fell into the water on my hands and knees, and was then soaked up to my chest. I struggled to stand up again, and angrily yelled “Why are You allowing this to be so hard???” I realized at that point that I could die from this situation. Even though I was shocked and angry that Jesus would allow this to happen, I continued to have a deep “knowing” in my spirit that He was there and was not abandoning me.
I was feeling more disoriented with each step I struggled to take. It felt like sheer panic (the kind where you lose all rational thought) was just a breath away. I recalled a few survival type TV programs I’d seen. I knew that I must not give in to panic, and I must keep moving (even though I felt much past my own human ability to do so). Stopping was not an option. I decided I would keep fighting and if I had to die, at least I hadn’t given up.
I repeatedly fell in onto my hands and knees. It felt hopeless, but I had what I now realize was supernatural strength to keep going forward. Again I cried out to Jesus to show me the way out. I then saw a deer stand. I knew it wasn’t in the marsh, and if I could get to it, I would hopefully find solid ground.
The deer stand was still a long way away, and I felt I had no strength left to keep lifting my legs , crashing my shins through the ice, and pulling my feet from the suction of the marsh floor. I was constantly aware I was losing feeling in my feet. I tried to wiggle my toes inside my boots as I struggled to walk forward.
I have never experienced such a supernaturally strong will to live. I knew that if I survived, it would be because my Lord Jesus gave me His strength. I also knew that if it was His timing for me to go to be with Him, it wouldn’t be long.
I felt no fear of death, but I felt enormous fear of whatever pain lay ahead of me before I lost consciousness. Most of all, I desperately didn’t want my loved ones to go through losing me just two years after our son John died. That was most important to me; to stay alive for them.
I knew that it was probably useless to scream for help. It was 30 deg. outside and our neighbors are very far away. Bob was in the house, so I knew he wouldn’t hear me. Nevertheless, I screamed for Bob and I screamed for help over and over as I fought my way to the deer stand. The minutes before I finally reached the deer stand are a blur for me. Once I realized I was on solid ground, I told myself I was going to live.
The next huge hurdle was hiking back to the house. I could see it, but what was usually a five minute walk took much longer. My feet and legs felt like wooden stubs, and I needed to get through at least six inches of snow. I could only get my feet and legs to take baby steps. It seemed like an eternity. I was afraid I’d pass out before I got to the house and die from exposure.
To keep from giving into panic, I repeated over and over “get to that door and Bob will be there to help you”. I knew then, and only then, would it be safe for me to give in to the terror I felt.
When I finally opened the door, I cried out for Bob to come help me. His first thought was that I’d been attacked by a dog, but quickly realized I was completely soaked and on the verge of hysteria.
He quickly got me into a lukewarm shower. I kept begging him to not let the water be hot. Even cool water felt like my feet were literally in fire. We then wrapped my feet in a thick towel and I sat shaking and sobbing in the warm shower for a long time. I finally felt it was safe to let down my guard and feel the enormous panic within me.
Bob held me in our bed, skin-to-skin, to further warm me. He prayed for me and thanked God He kept me alive. It felt so good to be safe with him and know I was going to live. I was so thankful that my feet eventually responded to the warmth, and showed no signs of frostbite. In my opinion, this is a miracle. The only indicated of physical trauma is that my legs (ankle to mid-thigh) are covered with large bumps, bruises, and abrasions. They took quite a beating crashing into the ice over and over, but they served me well. Also, my lungs hurt. I couldn’t take a deep breath.
Eventually I put on layers of clothing and sat in front of the fire place. It took six hours before I felt completely warm. I had an overwhelming desire to call our adult children and be comforted by the sound of their voices.
Every time I close my eyes I re-live being in the cold water, straining with every step to save my life. Yesterday I researched hypothermia and learned that the time of survival for a person to be in “ice water-approx. 32 deg.” is 15 to 45 minutes. I believe I was in the water about 40 min. I was fortunate that the water wasn’t over my head and I was able to touch the bottom to keep moving.
Without a doubt, I KNOW God gave me the mental and physical strength to make it through such a dangerous situation. I also know it’s going to take time for me to adequately process this experience.
Those of you who know me, know that I am a very “literate” person. I express myself best through writing. I’m writing this and sending it to help me process this ordeal.
The following Bible verse is one that I have thought about many times throughout my life. Now, more than ever, it rings so true.
“Thus says the Lord, who created you…He who formed you…Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
For I am the Lord your God…Fear not, for I am with you.”
Thanks for listening to my story.