|Caroline and Cali, Seth and Tommy loving life in Zambia|
Caroline tells of her horror as those able got out of the car. She thought her sister Katie was dead, they could not find Thomas who ended up about a 100 yards from the car, and Seth was alive but obviously injured badly. They soon found Thomas sitting up crying with his head covered in blood. We don’t know any details about the eventual transport to medical clinics but what we do know is that the medical people first on the scene (long after the accident), were not well trained and the two Seths insisted they not touch our son, Seth, because at that point they knew he had significant injury to his neck and back. They took the others to a local clinic that, from first reports, was dirty and unable to give quality care – we think they were later taken to the Avenues Clinic in Harare where they still remain as of today. Hours after the accident, Seth was transported to the same clinic.
In some miracle, which we yet do not have the details of, Seth was not further injured by the transport. We still don’t know the extent of his injuries but are told that he broke his C-1 vertebra in 3 places, along with C-7 and one other. From the internet we learned that over half of those with broken C-1s die, most of the other half end up quadriplegic, with 3% not paralyzed and able to recover (an estimated 6-12 month period). By some blessed process, an LDS doctor eventually was alerted and in coordination with the insurance company they were able to get a medevac flight for Seth to the Sandton Clinic in Johannesburg, South Africa where the care would be much more professional (flight time was 2 hours). That move and the fact that Seth did not suffer paralysis in the crash, transport, and initial handling of him, are miracles.
It’s all been traumatic for everyone but Caroline has a terrible burden trying to care for the kids and Katie and be separated from Seth during this critical period. Combine that with the fact that their car is totaled, they are in a foreign country, the clinic only accepts cash payment, and their temporary “trip visas” from Zimbabwe have expired. The bishop’s wife is caring for Cali and the Church organization is doing wonderfully to help where they can – thank goodness for that. Caroline hopes to be able to get everyone back to their home in Zambia before too long but how to do that is unclear. She cannot be with Seth at this time since she is caring for the kids and Katie and must get them back into their resident country.
Seth Wiggins accompanied our Seth on the medevac flight and is with him in South Africa where all tests are being re-done to get a more accurate assessment of his injuries (they didn’t trust the results from the Harare clinic), prognosis, and treatment plan. They have been long time best friends and we can’t have wished for a more supportive, able, and loving companion for our Seth during this awful trauma.
Communication and time differences have made all this very hard. We are trying to stay in touch with family back home in America, medical people in Johannesburg, as well as Seth W. and Caroline but Africa is 10 hours behind Fiji time and staying in touch with the rest of the family in the US means coordinating with their time which is 18 hours behind Fiji time. Combine that with difficulty hearing and understanding (we call through our computer), and different accents in Africa, and it is all so complicated.
Annie and I are in a mixture of grief and terrible turmoil over what to do and how to move forward in a way that would best bless everyone. Our son, Matthew, may fly to South Africa in a few days to be with Seth for a week and that would be a great blessing. We have talked with our mission president about the situation and he has clearance from the Area Presidency for us to leave if we need to. But should we? It seems a terrible contradiction not to get to Seth’s side as soon as possible and yet we’re not sure if going just now is best since Seth W. is there and Matt may be there soon (too many people there at one time doesn’t seem best and perhaps staggering our visits may be more beneficial). Should we take a 1-2 week “leave” from our mission and go there, or, end our mission altogether in anticipation that Seth’s recovery will be long term and complicated (not to mention the needs of Caroline and the kids). We just don’t know and cannot get clarity and unity on what to do at this early stage. The flight for us to South Africa is 45 hours long and costs thousands of dollars so that makes the decision as to what to do more complicated as well.
If we stay in Fiji – how can we ever get our heads and hearts into missionary work again while Seth and family are daily suffering? I am so torn over this but we hope that time will help and Heavenly Father will guide us. I’ve gone through bitter moments, angry that Seth and family were not protected from the accident. Yet my bitter heart has been tempered in prayer knowing that this could have been much worse and perhaps they were protected after all. I am on a rollercoaster of emotions and mental turmoil and hope that they will not get in the way of clear thinking and a humble heart.