For the last two months, a hospital room has been home for 18-year-old Tyler English. He does not remember what happened on June 17 that sent his SUV flying 10 feet into a tree. But even through the fog of that night, he does believe that a series of God-incidences saved his life, and he looks for what God wants him to do next.
Tyler, a member of Southeast Christian Church, was hooked up to IVs and monitors at Frazier Rehab Institute in downtown Louisville, his left knee was swollen at least double normal size. Visiting friends sat in wheelchairs and leaned on walkers around the room.
A single bed tucked in the corner is where his parents, Dan and Dina English, stayed for weeks while he was in critical condition.
Surviving the accident is sobering, and Tyler, who was facing an additional knee surgery this week, realizes that everything could have changed in an instant.
It began a few minutes after the accident when a passerby noticed the sheen of headlights in the woods near the road. Knowing that glow was far from normal, he followed the light to find Tyler pinned in the car that looked as if it had been pulverized in a giant blender. After calling 911, he stayed with Tyler until rescue workers arrived.
“I believe God put him on that road at that time to save my life,” Tyler said.
Doctors later said Tyler may have bled to death without immediate help.
Even then, it took rescuers two hours to remove Tyler from the pile of twisted metal.
Dan keeps a photo of the crushed car on his cellphone. Looking at the debris, it’s hard to imagine how he survived.
They also see God’s hand in the hospital and in the doctor on call that night. When Tyler arrived at University Hospital, Dr. Madhu Yakkanti was on call.
After a lifetime in sports and dealing with injuries, Dan knew the doctor as one of the best in the country to treat Tyler’s injuries.
“God put us with the right doctor at the right hospital,” Dan said.
Dan heard about the accident four hours after it happened. It’s the call no parent wants to answer.
Tyler was in critical condition in the ICU with a broken tibia, femur, an open book fracture of the pelvis, dislocated kneecap, torn ACL and meniscus and broken fingers on his right hand. He had lost a lot of blood and was in a medically-induced coma.
Doctors warned of possible complications with blood clots and infections. They predicted he would not be able to walk without assistance for at least three months.
Within hours, the waiting room at University Hospital was packed with more than 120 friends, relatives, members of his former football team at Trinity High School, where he recently graduated, and former classmates from Christian Academy of Louisville.
Soon prayer chains stretched across the country from Michigan to California as people from many different denominations prayed for the young athlete, who was well known in Louisville as a standout left tackle at Trinity.
Through the toughest days of Tyler’s recovery, Dan put out calls to pray about his fever, about infections, surgeries, for rest and peace through difficult days.
“We learned a lot about the power of prayer,” Dan said.
Right after the accident, it seemed that Tyler’s whole future was in doubt and his goals in question.
Though he loves to play guitar, read and fish, playing football is No. 1 in his life. It may even be in his DNA. His grandfather, Wally English, played professional football, and his father played quarterback for the now-defunct Louisville Fire Arena Football team when he was 39 years old.
Tyler’s goal since he was a kid was to play football through college, then coach like his father and grandfather. As a senior at Trinity, he sifted through four great offers to play college ball, choosing to play at Western Kentucky University in the fall.
He now appreciates everything—even the little things in life more than ever.
After seven surgeries, Tyler’s body is held together by titanium plates, rods and screws.
At 6-foot-5, he barely fits in a regular hospital bed. Training for football, he regularly bench pressed more than 400 pounds. During his hospital stay, he has lost 45 pounds, but looks forward to bulking up during recovery, getting stronger, faster and bigger.
“I’m used to playing through injuries and through pain,” Tyler said. “I’ll be back soon.”
Coaches at Western, who have visited Tyler in the hospital, will be involved in rehab.
Doctors believe he has two more surgeries in his future.
Tyler doesn’t see them as a big deal anymore.
He looks back on this accident as a temporary setback, and there’s no doubt in his mind that he’ll be back on the field soon.
Tyler says the wreck has completely changed his perspective on life.
“God took care of me. I’m closer to Him than ever before,” he said. “Being hurt is not a big deal. Being alive, now that’s a big deal.”