Growing up, many of us create an image of what our lives will be like when we are older. We imagine the type of career we will have, who our spouse will be, what hobbies we will pursue, etc.
We have dreams, and we set future goals to achieve them. If we haven’t become believers in Christ when we are setting up our plans for the future, we haven’t yet realized that no matter what dreams and goals we have for ourselves, God ultimately has the perfect plan for our lives. When we turn our lives over to God, and trust him with our entire being, our lives turn into something completely different from what we had originally mapped out for ourselves.
For 31-year-old Glenn West of Plantation, Florida, thoughts of what life would be like as he grew up and the reality of how life has turned out for him are two completely different stories. After hearing his testimony, many realize that God’s plan for our lives can be more peaceful, rewarding and hopeful than anything we could have come up with on our own.
A Look Back
In 1998, if you crossed paths with West, what you saw was a healthy, athletic male who had recently graduated from high school. Blessed with good looks, a solid family system, and surrounded by an abundance of friends, West was the type of person that people noticed.
Considering career options, he tested to get into the Naval Nuclear Program. He was filled with excitement about the journey he was about to embark on with the military. Everything was going well in his life: things seemed quite perfect.
West’s picture of perfection was about to be shaken up. It would be an event that would change every aspect of his life forever, and would cause an evaluation of everything about him as a person. After enjoying a night out with his friends, he hopped into his best friends SUV, to head home, not knowing that a horrific accident was about to take place, leaving him a quadraplegic.
Still struggling to remember the entire accident, West is forthcoming with the details that he does recollect. “The last thing I remember was me and my two best friends driving through an intersection. I was in the back seat alone, laying down. Some kids [going] in the other direction blew through the red light and hit the Blazer that we were in. Our SUV rolled three-and-a-half times, and we landed upside down. I blacked out at that point,” he recalls. The rest of the details were filled in for West afterwards. Paramedics used the Jaws of Life to get him out of the SUV, and he was then transported to Broward General Hospital’s Trauma Center by helicopter, to begin what ultimately would be a fight for his life.
Battling pneumonia, collapsed lungs, and a major spinal cord injury at vertebra levels C5 and C6, West spent his days in a coma-like state, hooked up to chest tubes and breathing via ventilator, unaware that the accident had caused him to become a quadriplegic.
When he thinks back to his time spent in the hospital and rehab, West distinctly remembers not being bitter or angry about the accident. Instead, he had many questions as to why it happened in the first place. “I just remember thinking about the kids that ran the red light. Over and over in my head, I asked myself why they would do such a thing. What was the reason for all of this? I felt that maybe my two other friends might not have been able to handle getting injured as badly as I was, and I felt like even though the accident was a horrible thing to have happen, I was very glad that I took the brunt of it, instead of one of them,” states West.
West was allowed to leave rehab and return home on Christmas Eve. The next several months took a toll on his family, as they all had to make adjustments and get used to a new life. Believing that things would finally take an upswing, West was handed another blow. “My stepfather took off, leaving me and my mother to fend for ourselves. He couldn’t deal with the stress of the situation. I felt at the time that it was a cowardly move, because married people take vows to stick together through better or worse,” says West. To top things off, West’s girlfriend of three years broke up with him shortly after his stepfather left. “I just remember how hard it was for my mom, having to deal with everything all at once. We had both basically lost our lives as we knew them,” he adds.
A New Beginning
Though the situation looked bleak, West refused to give in. He says that his mother, Linda, was “the rock, who has sacrificed everything, and in dark times continued to encourage me and help me keep my focus.” With her help, West was back to work and attending college just a year after coming home from rehab. Over the next few years, he bought a home, graduated with honors with a Bachelor’s degree in Finance, and held a job at Morgan Stanley.
Even with all his achievements, West felt as though something was still missing. “I really never went to church growing up, and even though I can’t tell you why exactly, I just started having this desire to go to different churches. I wanted some answers,” explains West. “I would ask different pastors to explain Christianity to me, how this accident fit into my life, and how I could find out what God’s plan was for me.”
In the summer of 2006, West found what he was looking for. “A friend of mine from college took me to this small Christian church near my home, and I remember just falling in love. When the pastor would speak about Jesus and the different principles of the Bible, I remember hanging on every word. I couldn’t get enough,” he recalls. “One of the most amazing days of my life was getting baptized in my pool on June 9, 2007.”
When asked now about how he feels this accident fits into his life, West says, “Being a Christian and knowing the promises of God is so peaceful. I know that this life is temporary, and that’s why I don’t mind being in this wheelchair. I know that bad things do and will happen in this world. It’s how you react to them that molds you and builds your character. I know that when I die, by the promise, mercy and sacrifice of Jesus, that there is a better life waiting for me. It’s his promise that keeps me happy and peaceful.”
As difficult as it may be for some of those who knew West before the accident, to see him wheelchair-bound, West shares words of encouragement with them about his feelings on the accident, calling it “A blessing, because without it, who knows if I ever would of accepted Jesus into my life?”
A Plan and a Purpose
West decided to go back to school for an accounting degree and is now about to sit for his C.P.A. exam. He realized firsthand the impact his story had on people when Sue Krinsky, one of his rehab nurse from HealthSouth, asked him if he would like to come and speak to some spinal-cord injury patients. After speaking to the patients on Nov. 15, 2007, West, Krinsky and several of the patients decided to start a spinal cord injury group for people in South Florida.
The South Florida Spinal Cord Injury Support Group, now a not-for-profit organization, went from five members to over 200 within one year. They have monthly meetings that provide resources for new patients, and they also schedule events, such as bowling, rowing and fishing that provide exercise and fellowship. This year, the group is holding its first major annual event, a golf tournament at Inverrary Country Club, in May.
Looking back on how far he has come over the years, West shares some words of wisdom for those who currently find themselves in the situation he was in many years ago. “I am proof that life isn’t over if you become paralyzed. Instead of being able to do 100 percent, like you might have been able to do in the past, now you might be able to do 90 percent. The important part is not to focus on the 10 percent you lost, but on all that you can actually do,” he states.
Spending his free time working on his support group and helping others who are dealing with the life changes that occur after becoming paralyzed, West continues to start every day with the Lord. “I wake up every morning with God, read a few chapters, and I pray. It sets up my day and makes it serene. I pray that God lights up the people that he wants me to talk to, and shows me the right things to say. He puts the right circumstances in front of me, and allows Christ to be revealed in my relationships, and my conversations with people,” says West. “My desire, whether I am in this wheelchair for life or until tomorrow, is that, whatever I do, it is pleasing in His eyes, and that I don’t take anything for granted, or take him for granted.”
With his hands on his Bible, West adds his final thoughts. “For those that aren’t believers right now, I am telling you that the Bible is the good news of Christ. I want everyone to find out that God has a plan and purpose for your life. I know that until you have your own personal experience, all I say to you is just words. But I can tell you, with every fiber of my being, that Jesus has touched my life, and from my experience, I know that He is real, He is truth, He is love, and that He is God.”
For more information about the South Florida Spinal Cord Injury Support Group, or to volunteer or donate items, please visit, www.sflscisg.org.