Sometimes life can get hard. Scratch that. Most of the time life is hard. When we are at our lowest, it can seem like there is a never ending stream of challenges and hardships that are standing between us and happiness.
But we are able to persevere and get through those rough patches, sometimes through our internal fortitude but more often, through the help of our friends and loved ones. When one family faced a difficulty beyond what most of us will ever go through, they would have to rely on each other for everything…
Featured photo credit: www.littlethings.com
Jim and Karisa were a couple that loved children. At the ages of 31 and 29, they were still relatively young. But they’d married early and after they’d had their first child Angela, they just kept on having kids.
By the time Angela was 8 years old, she had 4 siblings: 6-year-old Zachary, 4-year-old Wyatt, 2-year-old Nicholas, and the newest addition to the family, baby Juliana who was just 2 months old. Jim and Karisa couldn’t be happier with their big, happy family…
The Texas couple had a churchgoing family, bringing all the kids to services each Sunday. Perhaps their Mormonism was part of the parents’ decision to have so many children. It certainly seemed as if they’d taken the Bible passage “be fruitful and multiply” to heart.
On a beautiful Sunday afternoon in April, the family was piled into their 2005 Chevrolet Suburban. They had just left Church and were heading southbound on US 87 toward their home in San Angelo, a drive they’d made hundreds of times before…
As Jim Clemens sat behind the wheel of the cruising vehicle, he noticed something that made his heart suddenly drop. In the oncoming lane of traffic, a big red SUV suddenly turned it’s wheels. In just a split second, the vehicle would be passing the painted lines into his lane.
In a flash, Jim’s body was shot through with adrenaline. He had time to turn the wheel of his vehicle but couldn’t tell if he could turn it fast enough or, if he turned the wheel too fast, it would send his SUV rolling. With no other option, he pulled as hard as he could away from the oncoming red blur…
But there just wasn’t enough time for Jim to avoid the oncoming vehicle. When the Red Chevrolet Tahoe collided head on with Jim and Karisa’s Suburban, both vehicles traveling at a high speed, the results were devastating. Despite the fact that they’d all been wearing seatbelts, each member of the Clemens family was badly hurt.
Tragically, Jim, Karisa, and 2-month-old Juliana were all killed. Angela, 8, sustained major head injuries and broke both her legs, Zachary, 6, broke his back and had other internal injuries, Wyatt, 4, suffered brain injuries, had multiple strokes, and was paralyzed on the left side of his body, and Nicholas, 2, suffered a number of lacerations and bruises…
The Other Vehicle
The driver of the other vehicle, 23-year-old Monique Deion had apparently lost control of the SUV for unknown reasons. Both she and her 1-year-old son had suffered serious injuries but were able to recover fairly quickly.
But for the 4 surviving Clemens children, their road to recovery, both from their injuries and the loss of their parents, would be long and unfathomably difficult. The severity of their injuries and the risk of infection not only meant they would be in the hospital for weeks, they would also have to be kept separated during that time…
But after several weeks, when the risk of infection had subsided, the kids were finally able to see each other again. Reunited at physical therapy, Angela and Zachary laid next to each other and silently held hands for a long time.
“Angela was the scariest at first because we just didn’t know what her brain function would be because she was unconscious so long and she sustained a lot of head injury,” said Teresa. But after a few weeks, Angela was beginning to recover. She started speaking again and was even reading and singing at times…
But it wasn’t all good news for her. According to Teresa, the children have been told that their parents died but given their ages, coming to terms with that loss will take a long time. Due to memory loss problems related to her injuries Angela forgot they were gone and had to relive the pain of finding out more than once.
Wyatt had regained feeling in his left side and was beginning to walk again. Still, he would get tired easily so, when he went to visit Angela in her hospital bed, he told her that he was going to go back to his room after a few minutes…
“Angie still doesn’t say a lot of words,” said her great-aunt Teresa Burrell, “But she leaned over the bed and looked in his eyes and said, ‘Wyatt, I need you.’ That active, sweet boy stayed there with her and held her hand for another 25 minutes. Wyatt doesn’t sit anywhere for 25 minutes”
And that being together, according to Teresa, the children’s being together has been helpful in their healing. “I think it gives them power,” she said. “They grieve together, but they also find happiness together.”…
Hoping For Recovery
According to Teresa, that togetherness, the children’s resilience, and with a lot of prayer, the children are recovering much better than expected. “We didn’t think any of them were going to be able to walk, and now we’re thinking they all might hopefully walk again,” she said.
They also received a lot of help from extended family, friends, members of the Mormon community, and even strangers. In order to help pay for Jim, Karisa and Juliana’s funeral arrangements as well as the children’s medical care, the Clemens’ started a Facebook fundraising campaign…
‘We Feel It’
“People have been so kind and so supportive in their thoughts, in their prayers, in their contributions,” Teresa said. “We feel it, we really do. And we just have so much hope for these children and their future.” Through the help of thousands of people, the fundraiser got nearly $200,000 in donations.
Lean On Each Other
The Clemens children will continue to strive for recovery through the support of their family, their community, their faith, and perhaps most importantly, the support from one another. They will have months, if not years of hardship ahead of them physically and a lifetime of emotional difficulties but, together, they will do it.