Triumph in Adversity

 

Written by Melanie Phillips Clemens in the October 2011 Issue

Automobile accidents claim the lives of more than 40,000 Americans annually, according to studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Many crash victims survive but are left with physical reminders of the tragedy they’ve endured. For Lindsy Neely, injuries that could’ve destroyed her became the blessing she never imagined.


Born and raised in Edmond, Neely graduated from Edmond Memorial in 1993. While majoring in Interior Design at UCO, an accident forever altered the course of her life. “On my 21st birthday, my life turned upside-down. While driving to meet my mom to tan and go shopping, a car pulled out, hitting my car and  pushing me into oncoming traffic where I was hit on the driver’s side. The older gentleman who first hit me was going to a funeral. My heart goes out to him; maybe his mind was on that. Thankfully, everyone lived,” said Neely. The impact knocked Neely unconscious while paramedics spent 45 minutes cutting the car to get her out. With multiple injuries including head trauma, doctors were uncertain if she would live.


“I was in a coma for 8 ½ days with a broken neck, five broken ribs, three broken pelvic bones, a broken tail bone, broken left arm and leg along with a crushed pancreas and fractured spleen. Both of my lungs collapsed and I had a brain injury. Because they didn’t know who I was, they entered me in the hospital as Jane Doe. When they made contact with my parents, they told them nothing which made my mom think I was dead. At the time, my dad was an associate pastor at Henderson Hills Baptist Church. There were many people from the church praying, nurturing my family and bringing them food during that time,” said Neely. After 52 days, Neely left the hospital fully recovered except for the short-term memory loss that brought unexpected challenges.


“At first I was very discouraged and mad at God because I didn’t see anything good in this. I had to relearn how to walk and talk. I could no longer live on my own and had to move back in with my mom and dad. I lost my friends and was unable to go school. My driver’s license was swept away automatically because of my head injury,” said Neely. Even though doctors recommended 24-hour treatment out of state, Neely’s parents chose local therapy believing that familiarity would help her recover. She spent 3 ½ months in therapy to cope with the memory loss. Neely became involved in the Think First Foundation, a program designed to raise awareness for teenagers to reduce the risk for brain and spinal cord injury from motor vehicle crashes, violence, sports and recreation. “We went to schools before prom and shared our stories. It was a job for me,” said Neely.


A former professor offered Neely an opportunity to come back to drafting class for free. “He was kind and supportive, letting me attend class to see if I could do the work. I fell in love with design again but had to take another class that required more memory and I couldn’t do it. I’d taken an art class before the wreck so I decided to take another one. I never thought I’d enjoy art because I’d never painted before but I loved it. I feel free when I paint. It’s as if God said, ‘I’m taking this but I’m giving you this instead,’” said Neely. She graduated from UCO in 2002 with a degree in graphic arts.


Eventually, Neely sought employment through an agency that helps people with brain injuries, but she had no success. “Thankfully, my orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Johnson, hired me to work in his office,” said Neely. “After a year, I felt like God had something more for me.” While working for Johnson, Neely met celebrity Mark Harmon. At the urging of Johnson, she began painting for Harmon’s charity events and has painted about 10 paintings for their fundraising auctions. Neely still does commissioned paintings but her greatest joy is teaching art each summer. “I work mostly with children and love it. I’ve taught an adult art class and hope to teach more,” she said.


Discovering a love for art wasn’t the only good that came from this adversity. Neely shared, “God took this and turned it. My family is much closer now. I’ve reunited with friends that I’d been separated from. One of them stayed with me after the wreck and we’ve been friends ever since. It’s a blessing that I started painting because everything else takes longer for me to do. Even though I love it, I’m not here to paint; I’m here to
serve God.”


To view Lindsy Neely’s artwork, visit originalmemories.blogspot.com. For art lessons, call 326-5797 or email [email protected]

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