On December 16, 2021 after graduating from college, my daughter Kayli violently rolled her car on her way home for Christmas. Although we’re convinced that it just wasn’t her time to go, I’m sharing her story as it unfolds to explore my working theory that while some things are not within our control, we can experience the best possible outcomes when we practice rare faith:
- keeping calm
- seeking the good in every adversity, and
- looking forward to happy resolutions
It can be scary to hope for the best, and dare to believe everything is going to be okay when facing grim possibilities. But I do hope and believe we access more of God’s strength, provision, and blessings when we turn off the fear. Come what may, this is something my daughter has been helping us do.
The accident: Thursday, December 16
Prayers for my daughter Kayli Householder. She’s in good spirits but sore.
Kayli was in the left lane passing a truck/trailer on the freeway and a wind gust caused her to sway, she couldn’t get straightened out and ultimately her left wheel caught some snow and stuck, whipping her car to the left. She slid sideways 30-40 feet and then launched, spinning in the air, bouncing, spinning, bouncing, landing and rolling to the upside down position. A nearby driver who saw it all said it was fast and violent.
He pulled over and ran to her, sure she was probably dead. There was snow packed around the driver’s window which was broken out. He started digging and saw her fingers moving. She had been digging and calling for help but blanked out a couple times.
Her head and arm were out the window, but her head was laying on a thick fleece blanket that had been in the car with her. In the image above, it’s hard to see, but it’s off-white with some light blue trim. The darker blanket belonged to the man who ran to her to help.
I remember having a family prayer for safe travels before we parted ways. I did feel a moment of fear, wondering if we should try to caravan, but Kayli’s confidence and desire to be independent gave me the courage to take a deep breath and choose to believe everything would be okay. Before leaving, her Dad noticed she had a mirror behind her head and suggested that she let us carry that for her in case she got in an accident.
We left Rexburg separately so we weren’t traveling together. The plan was to meet up 240 miles away in Riverton UT later that day at 3pm. We thought she was far behind us.
But because we stopped in Pocatello briefly to pick up Nick Householder’s things from the mission office (since he shipped out to Barbados last week), we were delayed just enough to be there for her at the perfect time.
We got the phone call about 30 seconds before we happened onto the scene. We were still on the phone with the stranger telling us about our daughter when we saw her up ahead, turned over. I’m grateful that we heard about it moments before we saw it, because the brief notice helped soften the blow because we were able to hear the words: “Your daughter was in an accident, she’s okay…” before noticing her upside down car in the median.
Pulled over right away and were there before the cop or ambulance arrived. In the van was me, Trevan, Nathan, and Jacob. So grateful for the timing of our paths crossing so unexpectedly.
She was given a priesthood blessing while we waited for the emergency services to arrive. As we were hanging out in Malad at the hospital while we see what they say, I was so grateful for my local Malad friend Stephanie Francom who dropped everything to come support us. ❤ We live two states apart, but she was by our side within minutes, bringing us dinner from her relative who owns a restaurant nearby.
It’s on days like these that I am especially grateful for my friends everywhere.
People keep asking: Why all the smiles?
When we got to her, she was cracking jokes. She couldn’t feel the extent of her injuries yet. TLDR: Broken neck, and the only thing pinned under the car was her hair. Our smiles were from laughing at her jokes and from sheer relief and joy that she was still with us, and even cheerful. She is an amazing young woman. Her buoyancy helped all of us, including the team working on her, to calm down and just do what needed to be done. They said they are more accustomed to seeing panic, and getting yelled and sweared at. Kayli was at peace. We felt at peace. It was a great blessing.
Miraculous Peace of Mind
She had mud/dirt in her hair, but there was none where she landed, which means she must have hit the ground through her broken window on one of the bounces. The boys went to retrieve her things while we traveled in the ambulance to the 2nd hospital.
They found a pile of knives in the driver’s seat, see pics below. This was after the car was later turned right side up, which means they were in with her as she spun and bounced. We see the Lord’s hand of protection over her, I’m sure angels have been attending her and our family through this.
The only blood shed was from her lip. No cuts – correction, one small cut on her arm and a few on her knuckles – no internal bleeding detected aside from bruises on her arm.
It was about 1pm, and we were worried about how we were going to get Trevan another 90 miles to the SLC airport by 4pm, so the boys were getting ready to drive him down and come back after, but just then Jacob’s friend Bryson Davis from Rexburg pulled up to the hospital.
He said he saw the post on Facebook just as he was passing through town, was able to take Trevan to the airport 1.5 hours away for us, so the boys could go get her things from the wrecking yard before dark.
She will be in a neck brace for about 6 weeks. If no surgery, she will be here a day or 2. If they decide after the MRI that they should go forward with surgery she will be here through the weekend.
We were able to Face time with Elder Nick Householder in Barbados. He just left his temporary Pocatello assignment the week before and said he has some families he could call on to help us out if needed. We are feeling very supported and grateful for the miracle that she is in as good of shape as she is. Those knives though… 😳
Checking bones in radiology now.
Additional Updates as they unfolded:
Thursday, 12/16/21 3:47pm MT: She has a broken scapula, sternum, and four C (neck) vertebrae so they wanted to life flight her to a larger facility but due to weather that was a no go. Transporting by ambulance now to Pocatello. Surgery tonight.
Thursday, 12/16/21 5:55pm MT: neurosurgeon determined surgery not necessary! Things appear more stable than originally thought. Next, getting CT scan and MRI to look more closely at the blood vessels. Feeling grateful.
(He turned out to be wrong, but we didn’t know it yet. Blissful ignorance – though precarious – at least allowed us to enjoy a peaceful Christmas together… more about that soon.)
Thursday, 12/16/21 8:29pm MT: She is in the ICU waiting for MRI results. Pain is a thing, they are doing what they can to make her comfortable. Clarification about the knives, they were all still in their block during the accident but fell out after she was extracted and the car was turned back over. Things could have been so much worse.
Friday, 12/17/21 11:00am MT: Kayli said she felt like she got some good rest last night. Meds helping a lot. Doctor confirmed, no surgery necessary. Looks like her neck, scapula, rib, and sternum will all heal on their own. They expect to release her tomorrow in a neck brace. Said she would be okay to drive home, even drive herself if she wanted to, except that her car is totaled. We are relieved and grateful for all the prayers and support, it has certainly been felt. ❤
Friday, 12/17/21 3:21pm MT: they have moved her out of ICU and into a regular room. She’s moving about a bit and feeling very encouraged. Passed out on one of her first attempts to walk but has been doing better since then. Anyone traveling from Pocatello to Arizona with extra space in their car? Some of Kayli’s things will be looking for a ride home for Christmas. 🙂
Friday, 12/17/21 4:21pm MT: She’s napping. I’ve gone back through the pictures and added captions to the Facebook post to help explain things more. People want to know why there is so much smiling. Short version is: Kayli kept cracking jokes and we were all just relieved and super grateful that things weren’t worse. Planning to get a Uhaul trailer to help bring her things back home to AZ.
Saturday, 12/18/21 8:48am MT: Here is video footage showing the bounce path up close. We have since pieced things together a little more, and think that she flipped and bounced a couple times before sliding to a stop upside down.
Saturday, 12/18/21 8:33am MT: The hope is that she will be released today. But the reality is that it will all depend on when the trauma team does their rounds and whether she passes their occupational therapy tests, ie. can she do everything on her own that she will need to be able to do. Continued prayers appreciated, we are eager to get her home.
Saturday, 12/18/21 10:59am MT: went to pick up the Uhaul trailer but our wiring had no juice for the tail light hookups. So, can’t do the Uhaul. Instead we will pack everything as best we can to get a far as Lehi, UT where a friend will take her things the rest of the way. This will give us the room we need to also grab her brother Jared from Provo on our way home. She passed her physical therapy tests and will be released now as soon as they can find her a better sling for her arm, and after we’ve cleared space for her and all of us in the van. Her other brother Jacob set up a link to help replace her favorite sweater (the one they had to cut off), her medical insurance deductible, and anything extra towards a replacement car. https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-with-kaylis-recovery or @JacobHouseholder venmo
Saturday, 12/18/21 12:31pm MT: She is cleared to go! The boys are working on preparing the van for passengers now and will pick us up from the hospital as soon as it’s ready. Kayli had me do what I could to fix her hair a little better for the ride home. New pics.
She was really rocking the messy bun but it was time to get the grass out. Jacob told me he could help drive if I got tired; I told him I’m a lousy passenger and will keep that in mind, but probably wouldn’t take him up on it. Life has a way with me though, because the pre-migraine blind spot growing in my vision now tells me that I may be giving him the wheel after all.
The Lehi resource may fall through so we have plans to get a far as SLC and add a rental car to the caravan for the rest of the way home, unless the boys inherited Trevan’s moving Tetris skills and find enough room for all of us without it. Jared’s friend has offered to take his stuff down from Provo so that’s a little less for us to haul. So many people have offered to help that I’ve started to lose track of what resources are available to us, we’re all juggling alot of info right now. Hey! My vision appears to be back.
Sunday, 12/19/21 9:49am MT: Last night we grabbed some Chick-fil-A and picked up Jared in Provo, dropped some of his things off for transport to his friend Casjen’s place in Orem and were on the road by 7pm. There was disagreement in the car about how far we would try to go. I was outnumbered, wanting to stop in St George to sleep. The others (including Kayli) wanted to drive through the night with drivers taking turns. The debate was settled when Jared said he wanted to see Spiderman before Monday.
We had had tickets for opening night the day of her accident and obviously missed it, and stopping in St George to let them see a late show was a perfect excuse to get a hotel room and a good night’s sleep. Nathan and Jared opted for the movie. Jacob, Kayli and I opted for the extra rest.
We picked a hotel within walking distance of the theater so we could drop them off before the pre-show ads wrapped up, and get the hotel figured out after. We had tried to reserve the room en route, but accidentally reserved a non-refundable, non cancellable room (best rate) for the wrong days. Sitting on hold with their customer service was less productive than pleading our case with the on site manager. Gratefully they were willing to help us switch the date and give us keys.
I managed to dig out my suitcase for a change of clothes and Kayli had her first shower since the accident. We learned how to change her soaked neck brace pads without compromising her broken neck. A little nerve wracking but we got er done. New pictures. Found a church to stop at for the sacrament just down the road from the hotel plan to be on our way again by 11.
Sunday, 12/19/21 12:30pm MT: stopped at a 10:30am ward and waited in the foyer for the sacrament. But when we heard them start the second prayer, realized it was not going to be brought out to the foyer after all. No worries, there are other churches nearby. Found an 11am meeting down the road and thought we’d better sit in the back (overflow) instead to make sure we didn’t miss the sacrament again. Plain clothes pic taken before meeting began. That’s when we realized this would be the Christmas service (Christmas is this week??) decided to stay for the whole meeting. Pretty sure the Lord is ok with sweats and jeans today.
Monday, 12/20/21 9:22am MT: We got home last night about 7:30pm. Trevan had the place beautifully warm and clean, with a spread of amazing food for dinner. It’s good to be home. Sad we missed the extended family Christmas party Saturday night, but grateful for our safe travels Sunday. This week has helped me keep things in perspective about what really matters. I have loved how it has felt like some of the world stopped turning so I could focus on getting my kids home. It really didn’t stop though… There are a lot of things waiting for me today that I need to catch up on, and life goes on. Still processing though.
I forgot to mention that Nicholas’ Mission leader in Barbados has been so supportive, allowing him to Face time us on Thursday in Idaho and also his sister(s) and Dad in Arizona. Barbados held a mission-wide prayer for her Friday. One newspaper did a piece about her accident. Two other news outlets are waiting on us to give them more info.
Thank you everyone who has contributed a little or a lot to helping Kayli through this. Every little bit continues to be so appreciated. Kayli was able to have another shower and we switched out her neck brace pads more easily and confidently this time. She’s been sleeping. The medication is helping her muscles stay relaxed and the pain under control. She needs to see a neurosurgeon in the next two weeks. Her dental appointment previously scheduled for Tuesday was given to her brother, since it would be hard to keep her mouth open for a checkup in the neck brace.
Monday, 12/20/21 12:48pm MT: New details keep emerging to help us appreciate the miracle this was. When they found her, her head and arm were out the window, and while I’ve been saying that (gratefully) she wasn’t pinned, her hair WAS trapped under the car. It dawned on Trevan today that with her hair stuck under the car, she was kept from moving until help arrived – a good thing, because she didn’t yet know her neck was broken. It has been sobering to imagine how her hair got under there. The car could have easily rolled or slid a few more inches and done a lot more damage. We keep counting the blessings.
Weds, 12/22/21 8:40pm MT: Deep gratitude to everyone who has helped Kayli this week. Every little bit makes a big difference. She’s been up and around, managing pretty well. However, she’s fighting some cold symptoms so our prayers are that she can head it off and kick it early. Coughing with a broken neck I’m sure would not be fun.
We’re feeling a little nervous because she’ll soon be out of prescription pain meds and doesn’t know how hard or easy that will be. She has a neurosurgeon follow-up appointment scheduled for Monday. We’re spending time together as a family this week and will also get to spend an evening with extended family Christmas day to make up for the party we missed Saturday. Sounds like they are going to re-do the annual family hay ride for us, too, and that will be wonderful.
12/27/21 4:10pm – Followed-up with a local AZ neurosurgeon today. He reviewed her first images and was visibly alarmed so he sent us immediately back to the ER. He’s concerned her neck injury may not be stable, so we’re here for more tests. (He didn’t get to see the second set of images which had her second trauma team feeling less alarmed, so we’re eager to see what this third set has to say.)
12/28/21 12:43am – MRI (soft tissue and spinal cord) looks good. CT scan (for the bone images) expected in a few hours. Getting admitted now.
12/28/21 11:26am – CT scan done at about 3am. By 4am she was given a bed, and I was sent home. Trevan and I are back at the hospital now and she is sleeping. We await the neurosurgeon’s assessment and plan.
12/28/21 4:13pm – Neurosurgeon talked to us about her CT scan results. Surgery is definitely needed. Spinal cord is in good shape now but her C5 vertebrae is unstable, needs to be fused to prevent slipping. Occipital bone slightly rotated over C1, something they will monitor, hoping it will heal on its own. They will let us know tonight when her surgery will be. Thank you for your continued prayers and support. ♥️
We are grateful that she did not experience further injury while she was up and around without the fusion she’s needed. It allowed us to enjoy a warm and peaceful, grateful, Christmas with family at home. (Although she probably shouldn’t have worn her stilettos to church that next week!)
Wake up call:
12/28/21 6:47pm – New update. Surgeon originally told us that they were only going to fuse her at C5, and that the displacement at C1 at her occipital joint (base of head) would be something they would watch, but came back and said she consulted with the other neurosurgeons (because she was questioning herself about leaving C1 alone). Normally surgeons will fuse C1 because the patient with this injury is already paralyzed, and that’s what they have to do to stabilize it so the patient can begin rehab. They don’t typically see this injury on people who aren’t dead or paralyzed.
The other surgeons apprised of the injury responded, “…and she’s still walking?” Her surgeon peers agree that the risk is too significant and recommend that she be fused at C1 as well. This means she will no longer be able to turn her head or bend her neck. It stinks, but the surgeon emphasized how fortunate we are to even be having this conversation. Without fusing it, if she were to trip or fall she could die. You just can’t live life avoiding all falls. They aren’t even letting her leave the bed to use the restroom anymore until this is fixed.
Kayli was quick to say, “Okay let’s do it,” but she’s also processing the sadness and wanted some time alone. She says she feels like all this is happening for a reason but I’m sure that courage and optimism will cycle in waves between worry and grief. It’s a mix of all that, plus gratitude for all that has worked out to protect her as much as she has been protected. Thank you for your continued prayers and love. Kayli has felt so boosted with each message, prayer, and contribution to her recovery fund, which is now more than halfway to the goal! We’re amazed and grateful for the outpouring we have felt from friends, family, and strangers. https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-with-kaylis-recovery
12/28/21 9:01pm – Surgeon just called with another idea. She couldn’t get it out of her mind that Kayli is so young… wasn’t there another way to stabilize her without fusing C1? Long story short, they are going to see if the C5 fusion has a positive impact on the C1 position before fusing it to her occipital bone. Surgery at 8:30am tomorrow. Will fuse C5 and then get more images before going forward with the C1 fusion. Here’s hoping for the best possible outcome. Thank you for your continued prayers.
12/29/21 11:23am – Kayli went into surgery at 8:30 and was in for about 2 hours. The doctor called us around 10:30 to say the C5/6 fusion went well. She put a graft and a plate in, which easily fixed the forward angulation of the neck. She was sent to recovery and will get another CT and x-rays of the occipital joint (C1) both upright and laying down with the new brace on. If it looks stable enough, she will go home tomorrow and wear the brace with frequent checkups in clinic for a few months. If it does not look stable enough, they will discuss with us again about fusing the rest. Got a call from the recovery nurse, saying she was awake and all vitals look fantastic, not requiring oxygen, pain under control”. I asked, “Do you think she will be up for playing card games with her brothers today?” and the nurse replied, “Yes, she has already said that she is going to beat them while on drugs, so tell them good luck.”
12/29/21 9:45pm – Doctor says she looks stable enough without the second surgery so they plan to release her tomorrow. She will continue in the neck brace for several months with checkups every 2 weeks or so, just to be sure. We’re all very grateful, happy and relieved. After the frightening news yesterday, this is a very, very welcome update. 🙂
12/30/21 8:24pm – Kayli was released this afternoon. It was a long ride home for all the stops we had to make along the way… picking up equipment and medications to help with her recovery. Yesterday’s joy and relief has been a little bit replaced with exhaustion and some discouragement with the work that is ahead of her, although, we are trying to keep in perspective how fortunate she is and has been over the last 2 weeks.
This morning’s conversation with the surgeon shed some new light on the status of her C1/occipital joint subluxation. We thought yesterday’s good news about the C5 fusion meant the C1 subluxation fixed itself, however we learned this morning that the good news was NOT that it fixed itself, but that the C5 fusion stabilized her entire neck vertebrae enough that the emergency C1 fusion was not necessary. The fact though that it’s still partially displaced means that it will probably fuse itself over time. That doesn’t sound like good news to us, but the surgeon helped us understand that the primary goal has been to protect her artery and spinal cord while she heals. If they HAD done a C1 fusion, her head/neck would lose ALL ability to turn side/side and look up/down. But by NOT fusing it via surgery, her head/neck may only lose about 40% mobility after it fuses itself. “Only 40%”? 🙁 Well, a lot can happen in the months to come, so we still hope that by some miracle she will be able to keep her full occipital joint range of motion. But if not… we’re still grateful for the hope that it won’t have to be fully fused.
Also, we finally had an opportunity to SEE the image of her C2 fracture, something we had been hearing only very little about. C2 has a small tunnel through which a main artery runs, and hers had a keystone shaped bone fragment floating above the artery. We now understand why the first ER doctor was so worried about keeping her still during transport to the 2nd hospital. It’s fortunate that the fragment didn’t tear the artery or cause a blood clot.
This story is ongoing.
Thank you for your love, prayers, and support. We have definitely felt it, as it has sustained our family through this difficult time. Hug your loved ones tonight with extra love and gratitude for all of the ways the Lord has been protecting your paths, whether you’re aware of how He has been, or not. Believe that He does, and start counting the blessings as you recognize them. ❤️
We believe Kayli has been experiencing true miracles through this ordeal. I have a working theory about miracles: that a primary factor in participating in miracles is the absence of fear. Kayli has been so fearless through this, and I believe that has made a positive difference in her outcome so far. Please join us in praying for her continued peace of mind. It’s really helping. We understand that miracles don’t always mean things go the way we want them to. But we do hope to always maintain a faith and trust that whatever happens is for our best and highest good.
Why I believe it’s so important to stay calm:
- You can’t worry about a problem enough to solve it.
- When you worry and “…the bad thing happens, you’ve lived it twice…” (Amos Tversky)
- We are commanded to “fear not” – Scripture admonishes us on this point often. Click here for a few such reminders.
- God is all-powerful, and He abides by law – “For if there be no faith among the children of men God can do no miracle among them…” (Ether 12:12). In other words, He can do all things, except perform a miracle where there is not some faith.
- God is also merciful, and does not require a LOT of faith – Thankfully, the permission we give Him to intervene in our lives is activated by only a small amount of faith, as illustrated in this verse: “And Jesus said unto them … verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.” (Matthew 17:20).
- Laws are connected to blessings – This is a reminder that “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated” (Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21).
- Absence of doubt is key – It seems to me that the critical factor is not how large or intense our faith is, but whether or not doubt is absent. In short, we can stay in the miracle zone by merely keeping calm.
- Peace, be still – We were taught how to keep calm when Jesus rebuked the storm with those words. He also admonished the ancient Israelites when He said, “Be still, and know that I am God.” So, taking a breath and calming down is actually an act of obedience to God’s law and a demonstration of faith, which (by law) allows Him to intervene if it is His will. This is why my mantra has become: Keep Calm and Watch What Happens. Watching includes having optimistic anticipation of a happy resolution.
- Trust – It is an act of faith to believe that His will (whatever it may be) will ultimately bring us the greatest joys and happiness possible, even if the outcome isn’t what we wanted. We must exercise trust that whatever happens IS the best thing that could have happened.
- A desire for faith can be enough – When we struggle to have faith, permission to intervene can still be activated by our mere desire or request to be given more faith (see Mark 9:24-25).
- Getting out of the way – We exercise our faith, not to make things happen, but simply to ensure we are not the limiting factor in what God can make happen for us. The slogan “Rare Faith: Making Things Happen” refers to us exercising the kind of faith that causes things to happen, and allowing God to do His will in our lives for our highest good and the best possible outcomes.