• Madeline Delp

The Story of How I was Injured

Updated: Feb 16, 2021

Every so often a brave soul wanders up to me and asks, “Why do you use a wheelchair?” I am often tempted to concoct a heroic story that includes something along the lines of saving a child from a man-eating beast in the savannah, parachuting out of a spiraling plane with an unconscious passenger, or climbing into a burning building to save a stranger’s dog. But the truth is, I did not enter that night as a hero, and I definitely didn’t foresee facing a dangerous situation that would change my life forever. Sometimes in life we unexpectedly fall right into the lion’s den, and as much as we think we would be the hero of the story, the chances of rescue seem bleak, and the curse of victimhood quickly overtakes us. That is a lesson that I came to learn all too well...

While the actual night of the accident happened on a cold, snowy Friday at the end of February, our story begins exactly one week earlier. I was spending the night at my dad’s house, a customary routine that I performed every other weekend, and my sister and I committed to staying up as long as we possibly could to watch movies on the Disney Channel. Long after my little sister had fallen asleep, I was still holding out strong on the late-night, movie-marathon extravaganza. Around midnight, my blurry eyes started to give out, and the grasp of sleep had almost taken ahold of me...until a new movie caught my attention. It wasn’t like any movie I

had ever seen before. While many children faced interesting and sometimes comical challenges on the kid shows I frequently watched, none had ever had the challenge that the little boy in this movie encountered.

The child in this movie used a wheelchair.

I vividly remember flashes of this boy being in the hospital, using a bedpan, and having to get used to a new mode of transportation that seemed so foreign to him. Up until this point, I had never thought about what it would be like to have a disability, let alone how it would feel to use a wheelchair. Even in my sleepy state, my mind went into a flurry. “How awful that must be!” I thought, “I can’t imagine ever having to use one of those all the time.”

The movie affected me so much, that I decided to turn it off halfway in. I didn’t want to think

about it anymore. It was simply too disturbing.

Little did that young girl know how often she would think about that movie in the coming years,

let alone how truly prophetic it would come to be.

(Side note, the movie was called Miracle on Lane 2!)

On a glistening Friday morning one week later, I woke up to a white bed of snow outside my bedroom window. In North Carolina, we only get a few good snows each winter, and this one was the best one yet of the season. Knowing without a doubt that school would be canceled, I leapt out of bed and twirled around the room over and over again. In a moment of what I can now only call a mix of divine inspiration and sardonic humor, I whispered to myself, “Today is going to be the best day of my life.” I had never told myself that before, so I was somewhat surprised at the intensity that I felt behind the sentiment.

Soon after, my mom and I braved the snow and packed into our little Honda Civic with spirits

and heat set on high. I was used to heading out on home-health nursing assignments with her

on days that I was off from school and loved being her little partner in crime.

When our busy day came to an end, it came time for us to undertake our second job – singing


My mother is an extremely talented singer. Having seen her record two CD’s before the age of eight, I learned to appreciate music at an early age. Every morning on our way to school, we would sing duets in the car to whatever country song was playing on the radio. This grew to a semi-regular performance schedule in the church circuit of mother-daughter duets. That night in particular, we were practicing a duet for our own church at the time, and were excited to perform a brand-new song.

The memories I have from practice that night come in flashes. Mom congratulating me on hitting a higher than normal note, standing still with a cold microphone in my hand as I looked out at the empty seats, and soon after, suddenly bursting out into tears. My mother was very worried at my emotional outburst and pressed me as to what was wrong. I simply stated that I had no idea why I was crying – I just felt like something was about to happen.

Minutes later, my intuition was put to the test as we bundled back in to our little car. For most of my life I had sat in only one seat in our Honda Civic: the seat immediately behind the driver’s seat. On the night of February 27 th , 2004 however, I had a chill down my spine as I tried to sit in my regular seat. I thought to myself, “Let’s mix it up tonight and sit in the middle.”

It’s amazing how sometimes the smallest decisions can make such monumental impacts on our

lives. Life-saving ones in fact.

Only minutes later, I would be face-down on the floorboard of the car with blood streaming

down my head.

I would later to come to find out that a truck had hit us on the driver’s side of our car on the way home; that the back of the car collapsed on top of me and that the glass shattered on my head; that the emergency response team had to use a manual device to help me breathe for more than ten minutes while they cut me out of the car...that if I had been sitting on the left side of the car, I would have died immediately.

For over a week I laid in a hospital bed unresponsive – one week of a dream-like, Alice in Wonderland state, where blips of memories came in and out, and I didn’t know if I could trust any of them to be reality or simply figments of my imagination.

Unfamiliar man entering hospital room with a gift – TRUE.

(I would later come to find out that this was the man who hit our car.)

Running in a field of lilies with my sister – FALSE.

Hearing my mother cry by my bedside. TRUE.

Doctor’s in white coats staring down at me with harsh eyes and telling me that I had been paralyzed in a car accident; that a seatbelt had put enormous pressure on my spine and caused a T-10 spinal cord injury... and that I would never walk again. FALSE, FALSE, FALSE!!

I refused to believe this memory for months. The natural steps followed: being transferred to a

rehabilitation facility, receiving a used child-size wheelchair, going to physical and occupational

therapy - but I still could not come to terms with the reality that was being presented to me. I

truly believed that I was caught in a nightmare, one of the many that I had had while being

asleep for weeks in a hospital bed.

The moment my mother and I returned to the front steps of our house brought everything into crystal clear focus. Months earlier on a cold February morning I had twirled down the front steps and jumped into a car full of memories and promise. It was now May, that car was destroyed, and the little girl who was entering the house on that spring day was very different from the one who had left it in winter.

That moment felt like my life had just come to an end – but the reality was, my story was just beginning. The challenges I would soon face would be monumental and they would test me to my very core. But the interesting thing about this journey is that it would show me the truth

about what a hero really is...

A hero isn’t just someone who races into a difficult situation with courage, a hero is someone

who can come out of a difficult situation, however slowly or painfully, with a courage that was

won against all odds. It is the courage to come out of the lion’s den when you know that no one

is coming to rescue you, because you realize it is a journey you have to make on your own.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of my story and the interesting situations that followed after coming home. The next blog will cover my journey of falling in the pattern of being a victim, and what it took to attain the courage to stand up for my life.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post! Remember to be the hero of your life story and

that you can summon courage and the strength to get out of any difficult situation.

Much love,


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