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Mom Rescued Seconds Before Car Explodes

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June 22, 2011, Madera County, California. A head on collision involving a 4x4 truck and passenger car stops traffic on highway 41. Several motorists run to give aid. One of them was then 62-year-old Vietnam War vet, Bob Anthony, who ran to the car. “I found a rock and broke the windows, and I could see there was people in there,” he said.

In the back seat were a four-year-old girl and an infant still strapped in a car seat. The driver, 28-year-old Brittany Gilchrist, was pinned under the dashboard, unconscious; smoke was filling the car. Bob said, “I was yelling at everybody, 'we got to get them out of here,' because when I got a whiff of that smoke and it knocked me off my feet, I, you know, I didn't want her to die.” 

A couple of men got the children out, while Bob and others pulled Brittany from the wreckage. Seconds later, the car burst into flames. Motorist, Brenda Harris, was sitting in the gridlocked traffic, just a few cars away. She said, “I could see, you know, in, in the distance there, you know, the, the fire. And I could see obviously it was a bad wreck. I need to start praying cause that's what I do when I see a wreck, turn off the radio and start praying, 'Lord God, I just want to intercede for these people in this accident. I pray you save them, protect them and give them life.'” 

When EMS took over, they determined Brittany was bleeding internally, had multiple fractures, and in critical condition. Her daughters, with non-life-threatening injuries were taken to a nearby hospital. The driver of the truck was uninjured. Meanwhile, Skylife arrived to take Brittany to Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno. In flight, she coded twice. 

Brittany’s husband, Marc, arrived about the same time the chopper landed. He saw his wife of 5 years hooked up to a ventilator before she was taken to emergency surgery. “She wasn't really conscious. She was moving around a bit but didn’t know what was happening,” Marc said. “Seeing her like that, it really just says like, oh my gosh, she might die. This is real. So, it was just overwhelming. And then I went back in the room, and I just broke down. I think at that moment I do remember praying and I was just...said, 'please, just please don't take her. Just whatever has to happen, just please don't take her.'”

Brittany would need two surgeries to repair her legs that were broken in several places. Their main concern though, was the massive neck trauma she’d sustained and whether she’d broken her spinal cord. Marc said, “But there was so much left uncertain that we, we couldn't be sure of anything. So, it was a matter of like, yes, she's out of being in the extremely critical situation where she might die at any moment, to then the surgery, to then, you know, is her spine in it? Is she going to walk again?” 

As for their daughters, they had been taken to Valley Children’s Hospital. Four-year-old, Cambria, had two broken arms and would stay in the hospital for two months. 5-week-old, Shaelin, had only a few cuts and was sent home with relatives. 

Meanwhile, people began to pray for Brittany. Among them was the motorist, Brenda, who had never stopped. “And then two days later when I went to work, I heard it was Brittany, the nurse I work with," recalled Brenda. “I put her on prayer lists at our church, but then I also have a group of friends in Bible study and ask them to pray because she was very close to death.” 

Finally, an MRI confirmed there was no spinal fracture, and her neck would heal in time. Still doctors were unsure she’d walk again. In and out of consciousness Brittany was taken off the vent. Brittany said, “I knew how severe it was. I knew that we were here for a reason, that God spared our lives. And actually, that's my first, like, thought or memory, not necessarily of like a place, but was feeling...was that God had us, that we were alive for a reason and that He was going to take care of us. And that's really where that peace, you know, came from.”

Over the course of more than a year, Brittany had two more surgeries and continued rehab. She finally walked on her own, returned to her nursing career and today continues to see healing. “There are days that it's rough, you know, where I’ll do a few things and then you have to pay for it a couple days afterwards. But there's been improvement. The Lord has given strength in it. So, you know, not every bit has been healed, but He has in chunks, you know, as He heals and as He, you know, what He has for us, you know, we're like, 'okay, Lord, whatever you have, Your will be done.' And He's done that,” said Brittany. 

Bob Anthony and two others were later honored with the American Red Cross Real Hero Award for their efforts. He and the family are grateful God’s hands were on them all that day and for the prayers that has sustained them. Bob said, “With the grace of God, we were all there and we were, we were able to help.” 

“I’m thankful I was there that day too,” said Brenda. “It was just amazing.” 

Marc said, “I looked back on it and I said, 'God was there.'”

“And they said, I wouldn't walk again. I wouldn't be a nurse, you know, but although they said the accident was unsurvivable too, so, and we're here. So, you know, with God, all things are possible,” said Brittany. 

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