On April 24, 2008, at a Christian rock concert by the band Starfield, the floor incollapsed, toppling a light tower and dropping several people into the basement. The most seriously injured was Debbie Helsloot . A youth sponsor from Promontory Community Church in Chilliwack, she had brought a group of young people to the concert, including her daughter Melissa. A year later, on Sunday, April 26, she walked back into Central Heights to talk about her experience.
GOD, in His infinite wisdom, has decided I don’t need to remember the accident itself. What I do remember is seeing the band coming on stage and then saying, “That looks like a hole. What is that doing there?”
My next memory is of sirens and then waking up at the Abbotsford Hospital. A family friend was saying, “Everything is okay.” Then I blacked out again. When I came back, there was my husband with my daughter saying, “Melissa’s fine. Everything’s fine.” I thought, “Great. But what’s going on?”
My next memory is waking up in the Intensive Care Unit at Vancouver General Hospital chewing on my intubation tube and seeing old friends. I thought, “If they’re here, it must be something serious.”
In God’s hands
But I wasn’t afraid. It is almost indescribable, the peace I felt with God. It was the most calming feeling I have ever experienced in my life. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but I knew I was going to be okay and God had everything in His hands.
I was six-and-a-half weeks at Vancouver General Hospital and then 11-and-a-half weeks at G.F. Strong Rehabilitation Centre.
My first thought when I was able to put some thoughts together and get off some of the medications was: “How are they going to know I’m a Christian? How are they going to see Jesus in me?”
People say, “You must have been depressed.” Not really. It was one of those God things, where His peace and joy shone through.
Doctors and social workers were taking my husband aside saying, “In our years of experience, people do not recover from injuries of your wife’s nature. You need to make her understand that she will not walk again.”
I said, “No, I am going to walk again.”
They thought I was crazy. They would take him aside and say “She’s not coping well. She needs to see the X-rays.”
I said, “Look, my toe is moving. The other toe is moving.”
They said, “No, it’s just reflexes.”
For God’s glory
They didn’t understand that I knew God was going to heal me, that He was going to take this and make it a powerful testimony for His glory. It was almost as if God put plugs in my ears. I didn’t hear the doctors.
When you are away from your family, of course you are going to miss them. But God puts people in our path to provide friendship and comfort. There were a couple of girls in the hospital that I probably never would have been friends with outside of these circumstances. We clicked and started having fun, as odd as that sounds.
It comes back to the peace of God in your life. When you don’t have anything to worry about, you don’t worry.
I don’t have a lot of family in the area, but the people in my church stepped in amazingly. We had purchased a house before the accident. It closed while I was in the hospital, and we had to move. So the ladies came in and packed up the house and then the men unpacked the house. They brought meals to my family.
Prayer and love
I was blessed by my church, and by the cards and prayers from people around the world. Central Heights Church also upheld me regularly in their prayers. I got through this through the love of Christians.
I got a lot of questions such as, “Are you mad at God?”
But what makes me think I would be immune from anything in life? Of course, I’m not mad at God. It was an accident, something completely unplanned and unexpected. But God allows things to happen in our lives, to stretch and grow us, and to show His power through our lives.
I never asked, “Why me?” Why not me? We would all love to see a Bible verse that says, “Life is easy.” None of us is immune from the hardships of life, but God’s grace and power enable us to grow and learn as we go through them. It’s amazing what we can do if we allow God to penetrate our lives.
Asking “What if” becomes a trap because it keeps us from dealing with what happened.
My biggest “what if” was: “What if the girls hadn’t moved?” The five girls were sitting beside me and wanted to take pictures of the band, so I said, “Move out into the aisle.” That way, they could move closer to the stage. If they had stayed there, they would have been injured. I praise God that they listened to me and moved.
What if I had moved? That’s silly. What if I stopped complaining about my circumstances and just allowed God’s glory to shine through in this situation?
There were some verses that were anchors for me. One was Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” The other was Isaiah 40:31: “They who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint.” Lincoln Brewster sings that as a song.
‘You will walk’
I was given an iPod by Starfield, and as I was sitting in the wheelchair, God kept speaking to me through this song. I kept hearing God saying, “You will walk.”
Of course, the down days were there. For me, they came when my youngest was home from school sick. I was thinking, “I’m his mom, and I need to be there.” The other hard time was when the kids got out of school for the summer and I felt “I have to be with my kids.” But I kept hearing God telling me, “It may be tough right now, but if you keep leaning on Me, you will be okay.”
It’s amazing the lessons you learn when you have to rely 100 percent on God. Now I don’t worry about things. I don’t worry about finances. I don’t stress about what’s coming around the corner. I know I need to be accountable for my life and what I do. But I know God will provide. I have complete peace, knowing He is in complete control.
God is real. I am a walking testimony of that, literally. Doctors look at me and shake their heads. They cannot understand why I am walking because science has told them that with my injuries, that doesn’t happen. I was rated one level below Christopher Reeves as far as my level of injuries. For me to be doing what I am today is a true miracle.
I still have a little way to go as far as recovery, and I ‘m not sure what God has in store for me, but I am excited for the future.