Heart racing and adrenaline pumping, Kim Drake cleared an electric fence and didn’t even feel the rocks under her bare feet as she ran through the pasture toward the accident.
Kim saw the ATV roll on top of her daughter, Hope. But Hope’s calm demeanor hid the fact that the accident was much worse than it appeared.
Life was about to change for the Drake family.
Before she even started grade school, Hope respectfully informed the veterinarian in her small town she intended to grow up and take his business. While other preschoolers stressed over learning the alphabet and writing their names, Hope planned her career. She was determined to become a large and small animal veterinarian.
She still is.
Now a high school graduate, Hope never once deviated from her course of study — even when that ATV accident threatened to steal her dream.
Flat Out, Freak Accident
Having spent her entire life on the farm driving anything with wheels, Hope took the ATV out for a spin with her younger brother, Cole, one Saturday. She grabbed the handle bars like an old pro and headed out on a trail she’d ridden hundreds of times. Cole sat on the seat behind her.
“It was flat ground,” Kim said. “She wasn’t going too fast. She didn’t do anything crazy. It was nothing like that.”
During the ride, Hope felt Cole shift in the seat. Fearing he was falling, Hope reached behind her to steady Cole. The jerking motion caused the handlebars to turn too quickly, flipping the ATV. Cole landed in the field, but the ATV landed on top of Hope.
Seeing the accident from the yard, Kim and her husband ran to their children. As they approached, Hope insisted her parents check on Cole first.
With only light scratches, Cole jumped to his feet. However, Hope knew something was terribly wrong.
“When I got to Hope, she told me, ‘Mama, I can’t feel my legs,’” Kim remembered. “Panic mode set it. I raised Hope’s shirt and saw knots on her back. I knew it was broken. I called 911.”
When Mom Can’t Help
Hope was airlifted to a hospital in Nashville, Tennessee. There, doctors confirmed Kim and Daniel’s worst fears. Not only was Hope’s back broken, but she was also paralyzed from the waist down.
“When they told me that, I almost hit the floor,” Kim said. “Daniel had to catch me. I was totally in shock.”
After surgery, Hope spent four weeks at an in-patient rehab center in Atlanta, Georgia and began learning how to navigate her new normal.
“While she was in rehab, Hope had to learn to live her life as if it were just her,” Kim recalled. “I couldn’t help her at all. That was hard, but she did it.”
As Hope gained strength and got better at managing her wheelchair, she eased back into everyday activities. Actually, in true Hope fashion, she dove back in.
Hope learned to drive using special hand controls on her vehicle. Her senior year, Hope won the election for student body president and gave the first speech at her high school commencement. She even got a job as cashier at a local supermarket.
While racking up one accomplishment after another, Hope never gave up on her desire to be a veterinarian — even though it meant going to college four hours away from her family.
“When Hope told me she still wanted to go to vet school and she had decided to apply at Mississippi State, fear and anxiety took over,” Kim admitted. “My nerves almost got the best of me. I couldn’t stand the thought of her going that far away — of being so far away that I couldn’t be right there to help her if she needed me.”
After many heart-wrenching conversations with her husband and with God, Kim knew she couldn’t stop Hope. She overcame every obstacle up to that point, and Kim did not want to hold her back.
“I had to pray about it,” Kim said. “I told the Lord, ‘If this is what Hope wants, and this is Your will for her, this is going to happen.’ I couldn’t stop it. If this was God’s will, everything would fall into place.”
And it did.
No Stopping Hope
Gary and Mari Linfoot of American Mobility Project — an organization aimed at enhancing independent living for those with disabilities — visited Hope’s hometown to participate in a Civitan event. After hearing Hope’s story from a mutual friend, they reached out to her and set up a time to meet.
Gary felt an immediate connection with Hope. A helicopter crash during his time in the military left Gary confined to a wheelchair as well. Except Gary didn’t have a wheelchair — he had the iBOT Enhanced Mobility Device.
“The inventor of the Segway invented this iBOT,” Kim said. “It’s amazing. I knew it could help Hope navigate campus. It could even help her when she does become a vet because it will go anywhere. So if she had to go off into a field to check on an animal, she could.”
While Kim and Daniel brainstormed fundraising ideas to help with the cost of the iBOT, Gary and Mari secretly worked behind the scenes to make it a reality for Hope.
In April of 2020, Hope and her family received an invitation to meet with Gary, Mari and the board of American Mobility Project via Zoom. During the call, they surprised Hope with the news that several supporters and corporate donors stepped up to provide financing for the iBOT. All she had to do was fly to New Hampshire to get it — an expense also covered by American Mobility Project.
“This makes me feel better about her going to Mississippi State,” Kim confessed. “She’s got this iBOT now. She can zoom right across campus. That thing is fast. And it raises her up to eye level. People will no longer be looking down on her. This is a total gift from God.”
Kim and her family don’t allow themselves to question why all this happened to Hope in the first place. They choose to see all the ways He has provided for them and how He has walked Hope through every step of this trial.
“I’ll be a hot mess when I leave her at college for the first time,” Kim said. “But I’ve got to let her spread her wings and fly. I’ve given it to God. He has seen us through this far.”
With the tools she needs to succeed, a life-long dream in her heart and God directing her path, there’s no stopping Hope.