By Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
Tim and Jen Huston of Sauk Centre left for home in separate cars from a Bible study at their church, Grace Alive in Albany, on a calm late fall evening in November 2009. Neither of them made it home that night.
Jen left about five to 10 minutes before Tim. “All I remember is seeing a deer,” she said.
As Tim left the church, he could see an accident on the interstate about three-fourths of a mile west of the Albany exit on I-94 and had already started praying for that person. When he got closer, he thought it might be Jen’s car, but it was pretty well demolished, and he couldn’t be sure.
“I stopped and asked the officer there if the car belonged to Jen Huston, and he said it did and that she had just been taken to Albany Hospital,” Tim said.
Jen was not able to wear a seat belt. Because of her short stature, the seat was all the way forward so she could reach the pedals. With the size of her eight-months-pregnant belly, the belt wouldn’t reach around her to buckle. The car had rolled a number of times, and she had been thrown from the vehicle.
Just as Tim pulled up to the Albany Hospital, he saw a helicopter landing. He saw Jen and asked to ride with her, but was told there wasn’t room, so he headed to the St. Cloud Hospital with Pastor Joe and Pam Williquette following in their car.
“I did a lot of praying; I think I was on auto-pilot,” said Tim. “I called Joe to talk me through directions to the hospital, and he prayed with me.”
When Tim got to the emergency room in St. Cloud, Jen was just coming down the hall, but was not coherent. She was taken to emergency surgery.
“The doctor came to me and said that he had delivered the baby, but that he didn’t make it,” Tim said.
Jen’s spleen had exploded, her liver was lacerated and she had a lot of internal bleeding and bruising. X-rays showed that she had a broken clavicle, multiple broken ribs and a broken pelvic bone, all on her left side.
She was taken to the intensive care unit (ICU) and then to surgery multiple times during the night to stop internal bleeding.
“One time the doctor let me know that he wasn’t sure if she was going to make it,” Tim said. “Joe and I prayed over her.”
Doctors induced a coma to keep Jen immobile for the next two weeks. There were three more surgeries during that time and multiple blood transfusions.
When Jen was allowed to wake up, she thought she was still pregnant.
“I had to tell her three times about the baby before she would accept it,” Tim said.
A photographer had taken photos of little Elijah, and Tim and Jen received casts of his footprint and handprint, a stuffed sheep and his first outfit.
Tim never spent a night away from the hospital during Jen’s entire stay. “People all over the world were praying for us,” he said. “There was such an abundance of love.”
He had not contemplated a funeral for Elijah until after Jen was able to attend. The day after Jen went home from the hospital, about five weeks after the accident, Elijah’s funeral was held for family and friends.
They look back on the accident and the time that followed and see miracles everywhere.
“Someone following Jen on the highway called 911 and rescue was dispatched within a minute and a half,” Tim said. “The Albany emergency medical technicians (EMTs) were all in a meeting at the Albany ambulance garage and were on the scene in less than five minutes.”
The helicopter that flew Jen to St. Cloud had been en route to another accident. The crew was told not to go to that call, and almost immediately they were diverted to pick up Jen in Albany.
“The whole thing was a miracle,” Tim said. “The doctors on duty in the emergency room that night were an internal medicine specialist and an obstetrical surgeon.”
A nurse who helped Tim some months later after surgery in Melrose told them, “We didn’t think Jen was going to make it.”
“Knowing that God was in control is what got us through,” Tim and Jen agree. “The faith that he gave so many other people through our trials was amazing.”
“I would have been a puddle of mud by the side of the road without God’s strength,” Tim said. “Knowing God had a plan, no matter what was happening, gave me strength.”
“Any day I didn’t want to get out of bed, or to walk laps or go up and down stairs,” Jen said, “I thought of Joshua 1:9 — ‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.’”
“We realized that God is always in control,” Tim and Jen said. “Amid the pain and emotional hurt, our strength came through our faith in Jesus.”