CBN.com Diana Burgess loved her job. She was a flight nurse and traveled around the world transporting patients. But on a crystal clear day, landing in Lexington, KY, something went terribly wrong. The brakes failed.
“I heard no brakes,” she tells The 700 Club. “I didn’t panic, because we had the back-up system. I watched him pull back on that and nothing. I was becoming more terrified by the second, because we were not slowing down at all.”
Diana didn’t think she was going to die, but she knew that she was in a serious situation.
“I was trying to do everything so quickly,” she explains. “I was very much aware that we were crashing.”
Diana’s plane careened off a cliff and came across six lanes of traffic going 200 miles-per-hour on a Friday afternoon. They came within 25 feet of cars but didn’t hit a single one.
Diana quickly realized that the four other people in the plane were either dead or unconscious except her co-pilot Jimmy.
“At that point I was smelling smoke,” she recalls. “I knew we were on fire, because I heard that crackling. I cried out to Jimmy, ‘Are you OK?’ He said, ‘No, Di. My back broke.’ When we dropped 60 feet, his back just snapped.”
It was up to Diana to open the door of the tiny jet.
She says, “I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t stand up. I didn’t know why. I tried with all my might to stand up twice. What I didn’t realize was that, on impact, my knees buckled backwards and dislocated. I didn’t have any connection between my upper and lower legs so I couldn’t stand.”
Diana’s pilot regained consciousness and open the door. People who had been stopped at the red light ran towards the burning plane to help. Airport rescue teams arrived within minutes. The only one that died on impact was the patient. But Diana was in danger of dying herself and didn’t know it.
“I had the wherewithal to ask a woman to borrow her cell phone. She was praying for me, so I could call my husband. I really didn’t know how serious it was. She took the phone, and my husband told me that she said, ‘No, she is not OK. This is not good.’ She could see that my toes were pointing in the opposite way of my body."
Diana was assessed to be the most critical of all the survivors and was transported from the scene by air first. In addition to massive leg injuries, Diana had broken her back. She had a punctured lung, she was hemorrhaging, had a temperature of 104, and her kidneys were failing.
Diana was taken to the University of Kentucky Medical Center that houses a Level One Trauma Unit. That’s the highest category of care available to trauma victims. She was given a five percent chance of surviving those first few critical hours. But survive, she did -- only to be told she was headed to surgery, and she could likely lose her legs.
“I was horrified,” she expresses. “I was scared to death. I was somewhat ashamed, because I have very muscular legs. I have my father’s legs, and I thought it was very ironic that the very thing that I was not appreciative of I might lose. I said, 'Oh dear God. I know I’ve complained about them, but I don’t want to lose them.’ I was really afraid.”
Just then, her son got through on the phone.
“He said something amazing. ‘Mom, we are praying for you. The prayer chain at church has started. You are going to make it. You are going to be OK.' Literally I felt this warmth come over my body. It was the peace that passes understanding. At that point I thought I was going to make it through surgery. Prior to that point I wasn’t sure.”
The surgeons spared her legs, and Diana spent two and a half weeks in Kentucky getting stronger every day. But Diana had a long road ahead. Her therapist said that she was going to face the most difficult year of physical therapy that she could possibly imagine.
Diana says, “I had no idea what he meant, because I thought I was an aerobics instructor. I had lifted weights. I was very athletic. I thought, ‘How hard can this really be?’”
Diana soon realized it would be the hardest, most painful thing, she would ever endure.
“I would pray for God’s grace. Not for the next five minutes, not for the next 10 minutes but for the next 20 seconds. It says, ‘My grace is sufficient for you.’ And it was. I was so grateful for what He had done for me [that] I was willing to do whatever possible to get myself better.”
She continues, “There were many times it was so difficult that I wanted to stop. Then this voice inside me said, ‘You can’t stop. You need to press on. If you stop, you will lose ground; you get worse.’ I was not willing to do that. I wasn’t willing to do that for me or my family or for everyone else that put it on the line for me, to save me from that burning aircraft. I felt I owed it to everyone that I was going to make it. I wasn’t just going to make it, I would be back! I wanted to prove to people how miraculous this was.
“At night the doubts would come. In the darkness I would hear those words of doubt. ‘You can’t. You won’t.’ I would claim God’s promises that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. If the God who pulled me out of that burning plane says I walk, I walk. If He says I run, I run.”
Diana came back and exceeded everyone’s expectations.
“It took a lot of work,” she says. “I’m grateful, and I’m humbled that the Lord allowed me to regain this. He chose me to go through this.”
So what’s Diana’s message?
“He can conform us to be more like Christ our Savior. I’ve been walking with Him since I was seven, but those three years brought me so much closer to Him. I know more how He suffered willingly. I didn’t suffer willingly. Christ suffered willingly. I would not trade what I’ve gone through for anything, because I see how far He has brought me and how much closer I am to my Lord.”
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