I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. ~ Psalm 143:6, NRSV
It appeared to be an ordinary morning as I got into my Volkswagen to attend friend’s graduation exercises at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Eight months pregnant, I had just completed my residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Los Angeles County/University of Southern California Medical Center (LAC+USC) and was studying for my board exams. My husband and I were also preparing to go to Nigeria.
My habit was to use a seat belt while driving; however, that particular morning, I sensed a strong urge by the Holy Spirit not to use the seat belt, so I did not. While driving west on the Santa Monica freeway at 65 miles per hour in the fast lane, I suddenly saw in my right peripheral vision a white car veering toward me. I remember thinking, “I hope he gains control of his car so we can avoid an accident.” Then everything went blank until I opened my eyes and saw two men hovering over me. They told me, “You have just been in an accident, and we are on our way to UCLA Medical Center.” I wonder why UCLA since I had just finished my residency at LAC+USC. I lost consciousness again.
The driver of the car that hit mine had lost control of his car while trying to avoid a car whose driver was making an unsafe lane change. My car crashed into the center divider; I was ejected from it and ended up in the middle of the Santa Monica freeway during the busiest hour of the day. It was a miracle I had not been hit by another car while lying there, or that I had not been crushed inside my car. Had I been strapped into my seat, survival was doubtful because the car’s front end was totally demolished.
The next painful 24 hours were eased by a nurse who never said a word but just squeezed my hand as if to say, “Everything will be all right.” In addition to the concussion sustained, I had a broken scapula and rib, a subluxation of the right hip, an extensive laceration to the face, and multiple wounds and abrasions. But worst of all was an abruption of the placenta with fetal demise. Being unable to be placed in stirrups, a difficult induced labor ensued; our little girl was delivered stillborn. How sad the day and dark the night.
Through God, my nightmare turned into a series of miracles. The plastic surgeons repaired the large facial laceration; the scar remains almost invisible. While hospitalized, at the urging of my husband and with the assistance of a close friend who reviewed with me the night before, I took my ob-gyn board examination. A proctor was provided by the USC department of obstetrics and gynecology. God enabled me, in spite of extreme pain and fatique, to take the exam-using my right hand to write and my left leg to support the clipboard. I passed the exam successfully.
Subsequent to discharge, and because I was unable to stand and do surgery or deliveries, I took a residency in anesthesiology. This decision enabled me to combine all skills learned into obstetrical anesthesia, a field that resulted in employment at three medical schools: Martin Luther King Jr.-Drew, Loma Linda University, and Michigan State University.
As I became pain free and able to practice obstetrics and gynecology, my dream of becoming a medical missionary materialized. God has allowed me to practice in the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Lesotho, Kenya, Malawi, and Jamaica. No matter how dark the night, God can turn it into a brighter day.
–Evelyan Thomas, LLUSM class of 1962, specialized in obstetrics and gynecology as well as anesthesiology. She and her husband reside in Redlands, California. They previously spent time in West Africa as missionaries. She is an active member of the PAPS Team International. January 29 is her birthday.