Millimeters from Death

by Rebecca Dawson on April 01, 2018

Millimeters from Death

What would you think, if the road you were traveling on was named, Misery Hill?

Would it make you ask the question, “why Misery?” Well, Kent and Diane Brownhill now know the answer to that question!  Misery Hill, located in Clines Corner, about sixty miles outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico is the happening location for accidents. According to the New Mexico State Highway Patrol, accidents occur on average a few times a month (significantly more in “bad” weather conditions), but when they do occur, they rank high on the destruction scale. The wind swirls down over the surrounding hills and creates a vortex that has a tendency to pick up and toss around trucks with travel trailers. The area has seen many fatalities over the years. And that is where our story begins, just millimeters from death.

Many of you know the Brownhills. They are no strangers to our church. They are members of Chuck and Stuart’s and the Defenders iCONNECT classes. Kent serves on the Media Team and Diane works with the children’s sewing group on Wednesday evenings. They are also members of Gideons International. For those of you whom may not have heard of the Gideons, their primary evangelistic outreach is to give out pocket size New Testaments called Personal Workers Testaments (PWTs) and to place full size Bibles in hotel rooms and hospitals throughout the world. In October, the Brownhills attended a Gideon Convention in Amarillo, Texas. Afterwards, they left Amarillo with a case of PWTs in their truck and took a side trip to the Albuquerque Balloon Festival. It was on their way home that the accident occurred in Clines Corner, New Mexico. While Kent sat leisurely in the passenger seat, Diane excitedly maneuvered the truck with a travel trailer. It was a proud moment, one in which Diane later says, “maybe I shouldn’t have thought that…” When unbeknownst to either of them, God permitted high winds to sweep down over the hills and threaten the trailer. Diane struggled unsuccessfully to keep the trailer in line and yet as we all know, there is no amount of human might that can contend with the forces which God creates! The trailer, with powerful wind force began to roll and picked up the attached truck (Diane and Kent in tow) and tossed it around and over like a child’s toy truck.

As Diane and Kent took turns sharing their stories, I am reminded that people respond to traumatic situations in a variety of ways. The Brownhills were no exception. Kent, during the seconds in which the accident was occurring was thinking through the logistics (while also having an oh-so-common, “oh, blank!“ moment) and Diane who should have been in an utter panic as the driver, was in complete peace! Diane tells the story beautifully with tears in her eyes. As the vehicles were tumbling and bouncing around, she felt incredibly protected. She felt she was wrapped in the wings of an angel because she saw a haze of gray, and heard a voice utter, “He’s got you.” She had no doubt she was surrounded by the protection of an angel. Why would she? Scripture says, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:7) and also, “For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.”
(Psalm 91:11). 

Sometimes, despite being wrapped in the comfort of God, we are too traumatized and hurt (physically and or emotionally) to think straight. Words simply do not come. And that is more than okay. As the Brownhills’ rolling truck and trailer came to a rest, they, too, rested in the scripture hidden within their hearts, “In the same way, the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groaning’s too deep for words.”
(Romans 8:26). How beautiful it is to be at peace in the midst of chaos. The truck as noted from the picture was in the shape of an uppercase “M.” The lowest part of the “V” in that “M” was the roof of the truck bent down deep separating Kent and Diane. They could not see one another. Both of their heads also were pinned in the upper parts of the “M” corners.  Kent’s left hand found Diane’s right hand and Kent began to sing the Doxology, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow, Praise Him all creatures here below, Praise Him above ye heavenly host, Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.”  Ahh… are you teary eyed yet Sagemont family?  

The Brownhills then endured a mass of flurry. A truck-driver pulled off the road to assist them. He gave them both a PWT (the same PWT the Brownhills had cases of in their trunk) and then used his own standard sized Bible to rest Diane’s hand on in order to stabilize it. It was quite swollen and bloody at this point. An off-duty police officer called in the accident and directed traffic. People prayed with them and countless more stopped to help pick up road-strewn belongings. To give you an idea of the wreckage, the only thing left remaining on the travel trailer was a toilet, to which I must add, “kudos to both the makers and installers of said toilet!”

Kent and Diane waited for an hour for the emergency crews to arrive. The Jaws of Life were required to free Diane. Kent knew he could worm his way out of the pinched state he was in but heard a voice tell him, “Stay, don’t move.” And with good reason. As it turns out, his C2 vertebra was fractured.  He was mere millimeters from death. Had he moved his neck the slightest before the stabilizing brace was applied, he would have been singing with the angels instead of his wife. Shortly thereafter, they were taken to the Emergency Room.

At the emergency room, Diane was quickly treated in the Trauma Center. She was covered in blood but the actual injuries were less severe. Her clothes had been disposed of by staff. While she waited in her hospital gown, she was given discharge papers and told she was welcome to leave. Diane kindly reminded the staff that first, she still had a husband somewhere in the hospital and second, she arrived in clothes but had no clothes to leave in.  Hospital social services snapped to and not only brought her a set of properly fitting clothes but also a list of hotels. They also called and paid for a taxi to take her wherever she needed to go. Sounds good in theory right? But how does one still suffering from a traumatic event function at this stage? In a numb, decisionless haze! The list was overwhelming. Choosing where they should stay was simply too much, she didn’t know where to begin and that is when she received a text message. It turns out she did not need to begin at all. 

Their family jumped through hoops to care for them from a distance. While Diane was looking at hotel list, she received a text message. One of the Brownhills’ five children, daughter Trinette, texted to let them know she had made hotel reservations for them and that she would fly out the next day from New York City. Their daughter Shawna had been the point of contact for everyone since the accident. Another daughter, Leslie, from Kingwood, flew in the next morning as well. Leslie took charge of the situation as she secured an SUV, contacted the police, discovered where their truck and trailer were and took them to the storage lot to reclaim what little was left of their belongings.

Their daughters brought them and also purchased empty suitcases to carry some of their parents’ belongings back home. Trinette, a frequent flier, was able to secure at no charge two seats in first class (think painfully achy bodies) as well as to cover the four overweight (eighty pound) suitcases that contained what was left of their belongings. Once back in Houston, Matt, their son in-law, drove across town from Kingwood to pick them up and take them home. It was a long night for him. Jennifer, their daughter from California, started a prayer chain in her church and flew to Houston as soon as she could leave her teaching job. James, their only son, stayed close by to handle any heavy lifting.

Diane says “It is amazing to think that the accident happened at 10 a.m. on Tuesday and we were home by 10 p.m. on Thursday.  And we made no decisions except to trust God and surrender to His will. God took care of the rest.” And yet, this was just the beginning of the outpouring of love for Kent and Diane Brownhill.

Like the taxi driver. He was a psychology major who took them to the pharmacy and then to the hotel. He waited with them at a pharmacy until the prescription was filled. Do you know of any taxi cab driver that would do that? He also kept them calm and laughing by telling them some entertaining stories of his cab driving experiences.

Then there was the tow truck driver. He went above and beyond his job by sorting through the wreckage to find anything of value to return to the Brownhills. The tow truck driver recounted beautiful stories and testimonies of God’s amazing love and grace through the countless automobile accidents he had seen. He used his job as an outreach platform that had literally saved lives. The Brownhills were in awe of his stories.

God’s care for them did not stop when they returned home. Their iCONNECT classes began bringing meals which lasted for weeks. Friends Jesse and Laneil Vawter from the Sagemont RV Club came to their house and checked on their physical injuries frequently. Other friends and neighbors also brought meals and gave them rides when needed. Many people inquired about their health and offered assistance. Never before had the Brownhills asked for help. They knew about our God – the Jehovah Jireh - but had never experienced the God who provided everything they needed even before they knew they what they needed.  Each time they retell their story the impact of all the events and people amazes them and humbles them. Why would a God take such good care of them? All the right people in the right places – just a coincidence? NO! Just lucky? NO! Jehovah Jireh? AMEN! 

Both Diane and Kent feel they have learned deeper life lessons which they would like to convey.  Diane says she experienced an incredible peace that surpasses all understanding. She recognizes that this gift came only when she totally surrendered to Christ. Now when she experiences difficulties, she reminds herself that there is a God who is in control, who loves her and that peace returns. Kent on the other hand has a different, yet valuable lesson. He embraces more fully the importance of stories. Sharing our stories, our testimonies, is incredibly powerful as is the flipside - listening to others when they share their stories and testimonies. I couldn’t agree more! Thank you, Kent and Diane for sharing your incredibly personal story of pain and triumph with us. Your faith and perspective are evidence of God’s faithfulness to even the smallest of details.