Heather Twitchell: A Teen's Brush with Death
By Ken Hulme
The 700 Club
“Just before the accident, my life was pretty rough,” Heather Twitchell says. “I was staying out all hours of the night -- living life on my own terms.
“I did do a lot of partying. I was going to the clubs with the wrong people… I was very angry because my parents wanted to control everything that I was doing -- who I was hanging with people, where I went 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week, 365-days-a-year. I was not to be controlled.”
On a warm summer day in 1999, Heather was driving back to work when she turned left at an intersection near her home in Bradenton, FL. An uninsured driver slipped through the red light and struck Heather’s car almost head-on. Heather’s seatbelt probably saved her life; it also came close to killing her.
By the time the helicopter transported Heather to Tampa General Hospital, a giant pool of blood had filled her body cavity. Heather was bleeding to death from a badly damaged liver.
Dr. Lewis Flint, head of the trauma center at Tampa General, recalls, “The right side of her liver was shattered, and there was an amount of blood inside that probably represented about half of the blood that she had in her body. It definitely was a life-threatening situation. We were not able to get it to completely stop bleeding at the first operation.”
So Dr. Flint closely monitored Heather’s vital signs until a second surgery became his only option.
“We brought Heather back to the operating room and found that the damaged liver was not going to be able to survive. The tissue was too badly damaged,” Dr. Flint says. “About two-thirds of her liver we had to remove at that time.”
But that wasn’t the only problem Heather would face during her three-month hospital stay.
Susan, Heather’s mother, recalls, “Fever, racing heart, swelling, massive loss of blood, incoherent, infections, body functions all shutting down, and I would hear continuously these words from all of them. We just go minute-by-minute.”
In the operating room at Tampa General, Dr. Flint and other surgeons operated on Heather nine times to try to keep her alive. They were doing a remarkable job.
By while all this was happening, others were fighting a battle on a different front -- a battle for Heather’s soul.
“I mobilized prayers on a lot of fronts,” says Susan. “I wanted her to live so that she could come to Christ. That was my greatest concern… As awful as the accident was and as awful as her health is right now, the worst thing would be to die and spend eternity without Christ.”
Susan stayed by her daughter and prayed throughout the ordeal.
“While Heather was in the ICU, I prayed that she would literally feel Jesus holding her in His arms and that she would cry out to Him and He would save her,” Susan says.
That’s when something unusual happened.
“I was coming in and out of consciousness,” Heather says. “I came to one time, and my mother was whispering in a singing kind of way in my ear ‘Jesus, Jesus, just say His name, Heather. Call out His name.’ I felt, My mother’s gone crazy. What is she doing?
“Then as I was listening to her, it was like someone just grabbed hold of me -- like a parent cradles a baby. I started seeing something very bright, just off in the distance. My insides just had this child-like curiosity…
“Then I heard my mother’s voice again, (singing) ‘Jesus, Jesus, just call on His name, Heather.’ In my spirit, I’m going, That’s right. You’re the only way out of whatever is going on. Save me. Come into my life. Just save me.”
At that moment, Heather surrendered her heart to Christ.
After three months she finally came home to finish recovering but she still faced one more surgery -- to close her abdomen which doctors left open due to severe internal swelling.
That last operation had Heather worried until God sent her a message…
One day as she was washing her truck, a week before the surgery, a stranger came up to Heather and asked for directions. Then the lady asked Heather another question…
“The lady said to me, ‘Do you believe in dreams?’ I said, ‘Sometimes, yes, sometimes no.’ She goes, ‘I had this dream last night that God told me that I was going to go on a walk. He was going to lead me where to go. I was going to see a little girl washing her truck and that I’m to give her a very specific message from Him.’
“She says, ‘He told me to tell you that He hasn’t forgotten about you and your family. He was with you all the first time in your car accident, and He hasn’t forgotten about you yet. He’s not through with you yet. He’s going to come back soon.’”
Heather turned back to her truck, and 10-20 seconds decided to look for the woman but she was gone.
Heather came through that final surgery with flying colors and today, with her husband, is celebrating the fact that her life has been saved in more ways than one.
“I am very grateful that the Lord saved me and my life,” she says. “I can’t imagine my life without Him in it, and I can’t imagine it without what He’s done for me.”
As for Heather and her mom today, they’re best friends.
“I couldn’t believe that a mother could love me that much after all the awful things that I did,” Heather says. “She had no reason to be standing there. I couldn’t believe that my own mom could have loved me that much and that God loves us that much more.”
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