Chaplain: From Death to Life

Sir, I'll be right with you.

Witnesses said that he flew 60 feet into the air when the car hit him. Missouri State Highway Patrol Sergeant Brad Lively, a 14-year veteran, was a mess. Traffic stopped in both directions of Interstate 55.

They thought he was dead.

Then his eyes fluttered.

He began to fight those trying to help him, thinking that he had to get to his car; they had to hold him down.

The chopper came. His wife, an RN, met them at the landing pad.

Inside St. Francis Medical Center, he came to again and tried to get up. He argued that he couldn't have been hit by a car or he'd remember. He still doesn't remember; it'll be six years in June.

His jaw had hit the windshield. Both legs were broken in multiple places. They weren't sure they could save the right leg, as there was no circulation below the knee.

He would be in and out of consciousness for a week. During that time, he had multiple surgeries. As he slowly came out of the drug haze, he realized how bad he was.

As a reflex, he'd put his arm in front of his head before it hit the car's windshield. That had saved him from head trauma. His gun deferred some of the impact, which saved his hip. There were four broken ribs, a collapsed lung, fractured mandible, and his jaw was wired shut. The 6 foot 5 inch Lively lost 60 pounds.

He told his supervisors he'd be back by Christmas. And he was: Christmas of 2005, not 2004.

He went through denial, anger (with himself and others), and felt isolated/alone.

Other troopers, county deputies, city officers and friends took him back and forth from the hospital bed in his living room at home to rehab. His two children were understandably stand-offish; this wasn't the dad they knew.

And then there was the pain.

Progress came, but it was slow. Eventually, he would sneak out and drive with the wrong foot, starting with just a quick neighborhood tour, then more until he could drive himself safely.

At rehab, they said "Take a step." He answered "I don't know how." They told him to put one foot after another. It was VERY humbling.

"You think you're horribly hurt or disfigured, but you find people worse than you." He had mentors in the beginning, then became one. He met a lot of good people that he still sees, and visits the therapists now and again.

Sometimes he still gets a card. He got many, many cards and letters from people he didn't know.

The crash team tells him that it's amazing that he survived. There were times when he thought he'd be better off dead.

In the wake of the 11 surgeries and long term recovery, Brad looks at things differently. He knew he had friends before. He now knows just how good his friends are. He used to be a workaholic. The family gets much more attention. He says he's not so "robotic" in dealing with people; he's much more empathetic, a better listener. And he spends more time with accident victims than the average "bear."

Oh, he had met two vehicles doing 102 mph. When he turned in pursuit, the 2nd vehicle dropped back. He stopped the first. The second driver was headed to pull over in front of, rather than behind, the stopped vehicle and patrol car when he was hit. Lively says it was an accident and bears no ill will toward the driver.

They thought he was dead, but he's alive. That has a familiar ring to Christians this time of year.

Brad Lively wasn't much of a church-goer. But some things changed in that regard, too. When you see him on duty, just ask to see the prayer card over his visor.

Happy Easter. He's alive!