Tony was born in Florida 37 years ago where he lived with his parents and 3 younger brothers until he turned 18. It was then that he left, to put it in his words, ” to get as far away from Florida as possible.” Since then he has lived in 9 different states before he settled in Seattle. ( I would say he has definitely gotten as far as he can. ) He loves skateboarding, rock climbing, snowboarding, hiking and generally anything outdoors.
It is here in Seattle where he met the love of his life, Amanda. Amanda has 3 children 2 daughters and 1 son. The two have been together for 3 years. Amanda has a degree in culinary arts as well as nursing, however she now works for her family’s concrete business. Tony has also worked there for about a year. They share 5 acres of land, chickens and a huge garden where they grow all of their own food, cooking everything from scratch.
I asked Tony what made him fall in love with Amanda and his answer was so sweet and genuine, just listening to him melted my heart. He said that she would come in to his previous place of employment on a regular basis and make small talk. One day shortly after she left, she phoned and asked to speak with him. She proceeded to tell him that she was the girl who comes in frequently as he replied, ” I know how can I help you?” And so, after a deep breath, she asked, “would you like to go to lunch sometime?”
He quickly replied, “no, and I really don’t get a lot of time to leave for lunch.” He then paused during his story to tell me that he was not looking to date and he absolutely did not want to fall in love. He was guarding himself against that. Amanda saw something in him however, and so she began a daily tradition of making him a homemade lunch and taking it to him for nearly 2 years. She was persistent but mostly she was kind and patient he said. As much as he tried to fight it, the wall he had put up, began to crumble until he could no longer deny the feeling in his heart. He realized that she truly is perfect for him. Despite his every attempt to resist falling in love, Amanda had succeeded in softening his heart causing him to do just that.
Fast forward to August 2016, about 11 weeks ago when Tony, Amanda and the children arrived back in Florida to spend their vacation with his family. On the second day with Amanda driving and the entire family in the car, they were T-boned by a drunk driver in their rental car. Miraculously none of them had any serious injuries. Still shaken from this event and with dusk setting in, they thought a little time on the beach would be a good way to relax. Amanda and the children stayed on shore while Tony walked a short distance before diving into the ocean.
He quickly realized that he could no longer feel his legs and the current of the water began to pull him under. He spent the next 10 minutes flailing his arms while screaming for help as he desperately did everything he could to keep his head above water in the darkness of the night. He was certain he was going to drown. The sound of the waves were so loud that Amanda nor the children could hear him and they had no idea he was in trouble. At last his screams were heard by some people walking along the beach who rescued him, pulling him from the water. He was immediately rushed to the hospital and diagnosed as a quadriplegic.
He had a tracheostomy, was placed on a ventilator and had several surgeries during his stay. He was eventually able to come off the ventilator and have his tracheostomy removed. Still unable to move his legs, he does have some gross movement to his arms for which he is thankful. He has wonderful family support both in Florida and Washington. Dee, one of the staff at the hospital, had grown very fond of Tony and his family.
When I spoke with her, she could not say enough good things about them. She made him her priority to get him back to Seattle. She worked diligently to make this happen despite the things she had going on in her own life. (Her husband just diagnosed with leukemia and being hit by the hurricane.) She is the kind of person you want on your side and the love for her patients was very clear. Now after 75 long days in the hospital it is time to go home to Seattle. However, this has not come without a few challenges as well, mainly Hurricane Matthew which hit Daytona Beach hard and caused obvious delays with the timing of our mission. Despite all of the roadblocks we clung to the comfort of knowing that God is in control and His timing is perfect as always.
We arrived at Tony’s bedside early and were greeted by his parents who had come to bid him goodbye. Of course Dee was also there. As we did our assessment and transferred him to our cot he was quite tearful and scared about the trip. We did our best to reassure him. Through her tears, his mom asked us to update her along the way which we told her we absolutely would. As soon as we boarded Nellie we snapped a picture and sent it out to Amanda, Tony’s mom and to Dee.
Our flight was long but what a blessing to spend this time with such a neat guy. During our refuel in Arkansas we had sack lunches waiting. I had ordered Tony hot dogs since Amanda said he really liked them and had not had them for a long time.
As we flew I fed him his hot dogs and sides and then we introduced him to “milano cookies”, a treat he really enjoyed. We talked a lot about food since Tony is partial to hot and spicy as are we. He told us that while we were in Seattle we needed to try a Vietnamese soup called Pho. He certainly made it sound mouth-watering.
With another refuel in Casper, Wyoming he thoroughly enjoyed the cool fresh air while we had Nellie’s door open. After arriving in Seattle, we boarded the ambulance and arrived quickly at the rehab facility.
As we walked down the hallway, there waiting were Amanda and the 3 children. They had been tracking us as we brought Tony across the country. We had text Amanda and sent pics along the way with each refuel. They were all smiles and Tony was so happy to see them. The staff were ready and waiting his arrival as well. After placing him in bed and meeting the children we all prayed. The smile on the face of Tony, Amanda and the children were priceless.
It was now time to leave our new friends and we headed to town in search of………..you guessed it………..Pho. WOW ! Tony was right it was delicious.
Please keep this family in your prayers as they have a long road ahead of them but they have amazing support from one another and a huge amount of determination.
I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST WHO STRENGTHENS ME.
Thank you to Hal and Chris for sharing this mission with me.
Shelli Engle RN