'Bring it on!' Tyson Ward's journey to recovery
Sept. 1, 2011 - Just over a year ago, Cathy Ward laid eyes on her husband in the trauma unit of a nearby hospital. She knew it was bad – and to make it incomprehensible – this same time her son was at another hospital in a trauma unit as well.
In June 2010 and her husband, Ed, and son, Tyson, had been scouting the best fishing holes on Percy Priest Lake for an upcoming tournament.
Something went horrifically wrong when they endured a head-on collision with another boat. It was a violent crash that left them fighting for their lives. Tyson was transported to Vanderbilt Medical Center and Ed to Baptist Hospital. It was around midnight that Thursday when Cathy, mother and wife, tried to wrap her head around the accident and the massive brain traumas her son and husband both suffered.
Cathy has spent nearly every day since the accident shuffling from the bedsides of her husband and son. She was also trying to keep their family floor repair business going.
The road to recovery for both Tyson and Ed has been long and arduous. In addition to the brain trauma they both suffered, Tyson received internal injuries and had multiple secondary surgeries.
Just over a year later, both are on their way to recovery. At the time of the accident, Tyson was heading to his senior year at UT Chattanooga with plans to be a dentist.
"He basically slept through that year," said Cathy.
Just a few weeks ago, he moved in with his sister, Camille, to an apartment near the university and is a full-time student. His mother said it was God's miracle and that only through prayer and strength did her son survive and recover enough to return to his studies. Ed also is at home and continues to improve day-by-day. He recently passed his driving test with flying colors.
When looking back on her husband’s and son's journeys the past year, Cathy said many people ask her how she can be so strong seeing half her family debilitated in mere minutes.
"I need to stress that Cathy is not a strong person," she said. "Cathy would not be able to handle it. The reason I could was because of that first night."
She said when she first laid eyes on Ed in the trauma ward, she realized how bad it was.
"I felt a very warm flow of air from the top of my head to my toes," she said. "I realized this looks terrible, but knew it would be OK. It was the Holy Spirit that filled me in that second, and I've never felt afraid. I knew what I needed to do every time I was approached about surgeries and decisions. I never felt stressed; the answers just came from the Holy Spirit to me."
'Bring it on'
Ed now helps run the business side of their company. Tyson is hunkered at UT Chattanooga learning the lay of the land. His mantra ever since he was able to speak again has been, "Bring it on."
He said he was "nervous" about his new environment, but he was very excited.
"I'm looking forward to it," he said recently. "I've been ready to get back. It's certainly going to be a little different."
He plans to complete his senior year with a chemistry degree and "see what doors open."
He now can walk without a walker, but has "wobbly legs" sometimes, said his mother.
And while his right side doesn't work as well as the other, he was still able to fix up his room in the apartment with his dad. He exercises everyday to build muscle and strength. And when he talks, his voice is a little different than it was before the accident.
His girlfriend, Jenna, has been by his side the entire time. She also attends UT Chattanooga.
"She is unbelievably positive and is a strong influence," said Cathy.
Cathy said during the ordeal she took "advantage of the Holy Spirit."
"Every morning I wake up, I say in my mind, 'OK, Holy Spirit, show me what you can do.' This is available to everyone."
It was only this past July 3 when Cathy and her daughter Camille actually sat across from each other to talk about the accident.
"We came to a conclusion," she said. "As horrible as it was, we would not miss the experience for anything. This is because we experienced so many blessings. Some [people] changed for God, some strengthened their relationships. We had a massive amount of support and so many people reached out to us."
As far as hope for the future, Cathy smiled and said she "could not picture a better outcome."
"With brain injuries, it can take two years to heal, so we have one more year of improvement," she said. "That would be icing on cake. This is incredible. I feel like I am an empty nester. I don't feel like it even happened, because it is so good where we are."
Managing Editor Laurie Everett can be reached at 754-6397 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org