James Pence concludes the miraculous story of Nate Lytle. Hope you’ll check out his novel, More God
Welcome back, James!
The doctors called Nate Lytle’s injury “non-survivable”.
Nate Lytle, a 24-year-old surfer from Victoria, Texas sustained a severe head injury in a fall from a ten-foot ladder. When the doctors did a CAT scan, they discovered the extent of his injuries:
· He had a softball-sized hole in the left side of his skull.
· The impact of falling off a ten-foot ladder drove skull fragments deep into his brain.
· In emergency surgery, the neurosurgeon removed three massive hematomas. When he removed the third, the left side of Nate’s brain collapsed.
· The CAT scan showed early herniation of the brain stem, a potentially life-threatening complication.
· The scan also showed a midline shift (the impact caused the brain to shift off-center). The ER physician said that a shift of one or two millimeters was considered “grave.” Nate’s brain shifted 1.7 centimeters off center.
The doctors did not hold out much hope for Nate’s survival. If he did manage to survive, they gave even less hope for his potential quality of life. The areas of Nate’s brain that had been damaged were the parts that control movement, speech and communication. The neurosurgeon said even if Nate were to survive, he would never walk or talk or even communicate again.
Surrounded by family and friends from their church, the only thing Billy and Tammy knew to do was pray. And pray they did.
Tammy knew that Nate could cope with living in a wheelchair, but it would absolutely kill him if he couldn’t communicate. Nate was a strong Christian with a passion for sharing his faith, and she knew that he would rather die than be unable to communicate. So she asked her pastor to pray that Nate would recover, and if he couldn’t recover, that God would take him home.
Nate survived the first night.
The ICU team had its hands full, trying to manage Nate’s fever. And there were some scares when it appeared that he had a blood infection. But day by day, Nate slowly stabilized. He was in a full coma for two weeks and semi-comatose for four weeks after that.
When it appeared that Nate was going to survive, the neurosurgeon suggested that Tammy and Billy tried to get him into rehab. He still didn’t expect Nate to ever be able to communicate, but suggested that rehab might at least help him have some quality of life.
When Tammy asked the neurosurgeon what would be the best facility for Nate to do rehab, he told her TIRR Memorial Hermann in Houston, Texas (The same place where Gabrielle Giffords would do her rehab a few years later). But because Nate had no health insurance and lived out of county, it was very unlikely that he would be able to go there.
Tammy, Billy and the Church began to pray again and within a few short weeks. Nate was admitted to TIRR Memorial Hermann.
Two weeks after he arrived at TIRR Nate woke up from his coma. He was able to walk and, although he stuttered badly, he could talk.
Nate’s road to recovery was long and challenging. After he was discharged from TIRR, he went on to do three months of inpatient rehab at TLC (Transitional Learning Center) in Galveston, Texas. Then more outpatient rehab and speech therapy once he was back home in Victoria.
Although his recovery was nearly total, Nate still bears some after-effects of his TBI. He has problems with short-term memory. At times—particularly when he’s tired—he struggles with aphasia and apraxia (speech disabilities where he knows what he wants to say but has difficulty finding the words and saying them), and he has to stay on seizure medicine.
Amazingly, though, Nate has no physical disabilities other than his shattered his left wrist. (Because of the severity of his head injury, the doctors weren’t able to repair his wrist right away and it healed incorrectly.) But despite massive trauma to the left side of his brain, Nate has no paralysis whatever on the right side of his body. In fact, one year to the day after his injury, Nate began surfing again. It was challenging at first, mostly because of the restricted movement in his left wrist, but before long he was surfing as if nothing had ever happened.
Nate now conducts surf camps for blind, disabled, and autistic children and adults. He also speaks to TBI survivors and their families. His amazing story is told in full in the book I co-wrote with him: More God: Seeing the Blessings through the Pain
Nate’s infectious, optimistic personality is often reflected in his unique quotes, called “Nateisms” by his friends. My favorite, which inspired the title for this post, is: “Every day’s a good day when you’re not in a coma.”
James H. (Jim) Pence is a man of many talents. He’s a performance chalk artist, singer, speaker, published author, editor, collaborator, and in his spare time he teaches karate to homeschoolers. Jim has been called a “Renaissance man,” but he prefers to be known simply as a follower of Jesus Christ and a storyteller. Jim has been published in both fiction and nonfiction. Recently, Thomas Nelson published “The Encounter,” a novella that Jim wrote in collaboration with bestselling author Stephen Arterburn. Jim’s newest book, More God: Seeing the Blessings through the Pain, is available in hardcover, softcover, and e-book format.
Photos courtesy of Alan Lindholm, G. Scott Imaging, and Danny Vivian