Changing Pain into Purpose

10/14/2017 .
Alexandra Applegate  .  Storytelling Intern

The wind rushed past Kim’s skin as she sped down a canyon road on her bike under bright, blue skies. She had been a cyclist for six years and had just finished a challenging two-hour ride on the canyon road. As Kim approached the intersection a large truck turned in front of her. There was no time to stop or turn.

Kim woke up, lying face down on the asphalt. For a moment, she wondered if she was in heaven. She glanced around, noticing the familiar surroundings of the canyon, and realized that she was right where she last remembered. But to her surprise, she didn’t feel any pain. She did a quick inventory of her limbs and after finding everything intact, felt herself breathe a sigh of relief. The feeling didn’t last long.

An ambulance arrived shortly and the EMTs checked her over and loaded her onto the stretcher. By the time the gurney slid into the ambulance, every little movement sent shockwaves of pain up her side. She knew something was seriously wrong. At the hospital, her fears were confirmed. Her pelvis was broken in three places.

“I didn’t realize that a broken pelvis meant I was totally incapacitated,” Kim said. “I couldn’t walk, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t do anything. I would try to get out of bed and I couldn’t. It was excruciating pain — the most pain I’ve ever experienced.”

Naturally independent, this injury would force Kim to rely on other people for assistance. The next five nights in the hospital gave her time to fully realize how dramatically her life would be altered by this injury.

“My small group came around me in the hospital room. They just wrapped their arms around me, prayed for me, and took good care of me,” Kim said. They helped her remain positive, being determined to press on even when she felt she would always be hurting.

After she left the hospital, Kim went to stay with her parents who would be around to help her on her road to recovery. Since she could hardly move and it was painful to go anywhere, Kim felt she couldn’t attend Saddleback Church in person. However, she took advantage of the online services and watched every single Sunday. “Every sermon spoke to my heart to never give up hope,” Kim said. Her small group members also remained by her side during the recovery process — helping her get to appointments or run errands. Needing people around to help with every little thing was a humbling experience for Kim.

For three months, Kim’s movement was limited to what she could do in  her wheelchair. “It often felt like the pain got worse,” Kim said. “The doctors keep telling me , ‘The bones will heal,’ but the whole time I had  doubt — I thought I was going to be stuck in a wheelchair  forever.”

As Kim continued to heal, she began to recognize the difficulty of living with limited mobility. She noticed buildings that weren’t wheelchair accessible or bathrooms that didn’t have low enough sinks. She realized that her condition  was only temporary but there were people that had to wrestle with this every single day.

“It’s hard to really know the day-to-day struggle of what it’s like to be a disabled person in this country unless you’ve been there. Accessibility isn’t always available to people with disabilities,” Kim said. Her heart began to break for people who struggled with physical limitations.

Through a friend, she heard about the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) — a nonprofit organization that supports disabled athletes. Once she had recovered, she began volunteering. The more time she spent volunteering, the more she realized God was revealing her calling. Working to help people with physical handicaps felt fulfilling.

“All of the sudden my whole world changed and I wanted to help people with disabilities,” Kim said. “I understand their position and their perspective. It took six months of healing for God to reveal where I really belong.”

Shortly afterward, Kim became the Production and Events Manager for Free Wheelchair Mission in Irvine, California. Kim knows the value of being able to understand what their clients are experiencing and going through. She realized God had led her to a role he had created for her.

“I had always felt, with all the jobs I’ve had, that there was something missing. There was something pulling at my heart even before the accident,” Kim said. “But the accident completely changed my world. I feel like the accident was a gift.”

Through the support of my family, friends, and small group, Kim felt encouraged and supported to be able to follow the path God had set before her. Going through all that pain and rehabilitation wasn’t an easy process, but it pointed Kim in the direction to helping others who have to live with those challenges day-in and day-out.

“Through that accident, I was able to recognize and empathize with some of the challenges individuals with disabilities face every day,” Kim said. “God has the power to turn pain into something beautiful.”

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