Stefanie Reyer enjoyed her ice cream as she talked with a friend under the shade of the church’s awning. But then a “pop” followed by a collective gasp from the crowd forced her eyes to where her husband, Shane, had been elevated 20 feet in the air by a bucket truck.
The bucket no longer hovered high above the crowd. It was on the ground — and so was Shane.
Anything for Science
Members of Mays Memorial Baptist Church in north Alabama do not play around when it comes to Vacation Bible School (VBS). It’s a community-wide event area children look forward to all year long.
“It was opening night of VBS,” Shane remembered. “It’s something we’d been planning — something we were excited about. There were probably 150 kids there, not counting adults. There were people standing everywhere.”
Since the VBS theme focused on science, an egg drop seemed like a fun way to kick off the week. Participants were asked to construct a device that could keep a raw egg intact when dropped from an extreme height.
Over 30 families entered the competition.
Daryl Sammet, owner of a local tree-trimming business, brought his bucket truck to the event. The plan was to raise the bucket to 20 feet and drop the eggs. All unbroken eggs then moved to the next round.
Shane, the pastor of the church, agreed to join Daryl in the bucket and oversee the contest. With the first five entries in hand, Shane and Daryl hopped in and began their ascent.
“When we started going up in the bucket truck, the power lines were at eye level,” Shane said. “Daryl said we could go higher if I wanted. I told him, ‘No, thank you. I’m good where we are.’ I don’t really like heights anyway.”
After dropping the eggs, Daryl and Shane headed back down to get the next five submissions.
That’s when things broke loose — literally.
Egg Drop Disaster
“I vividly remember hearing a noise,” Shane recalled. “I turned around to look at the boom. Then the next thing I remember, one of our church members was standing over me asking if I knew who he was.”
During the descent, a cable snapped, thrusting the bucket forward and dumping both Daryl and Shane onto the pavement of the church parking lot.
Realizing something was terribly wrong, Stefanie shoved her way through the crowd to get to Shane.
“I saw Shane lying on the ground with blood under his head,” Stefanie said. “I didn’t know what to do. I looked over at Daryl, and he was bleeding profusely. I remember thinking, ‘I need to help Daryl.’ I couldn’t make myself go over to Shane. I wanted to keep being the preacher’s wife. I wanted to be helpful and keep assisting. Then I thought, oh no — this is me. This is us.”
Ordinarily, Shane and Stefanie are called upon to minister to hurting people. But this time, it was their family in the middle of a desperate situation.
Right People, Right Height
Standing among the numerous onlookers were two nurses and a local police officer who witnessed the fall. Springing into action, the nurses tended to the wounded men while the police officer called an ambulance.
Unsure of the extent of Shane’s injuries, EMTs summoned Med Flight. Within minutes, the helicopter arrived and whisked Shane to a nearby emergency room.
“I remember snippets,” Shane said. “I remember the ambulance coming. I heard them say they were going to call Med Flight. At that point it hit me, ‘This is bad.’ You hear about Med Flight landing all the time, but you never expect them to come for you.”
At the hospital, doctors diagnosed Shane with a severe concussion. Although he required eight stitches to close the wound on his head, medical staff marveled that no bones were broken.
“The doctor told me that from the height I fell and the way I landed, I shouldn’t have walked away,” Shane recalled. “He told me I shouldn’t even be talking right now. He said he had seen smaller falls kill people. I thought right then, ‘The Lord isn’t finished with me yet.’”
“I was beyond relieved that Shane was OK,” Stefanie said. “We got our miracle for sure. But sometimes miracles are messy on the back end. I was still worried about him, my kids were panicking, and I was stressing over how to pay the bills. It was a lot on us all at once. And the worst part is for a little while, I didn’t get to have my husband. He was my patient.”
In the weeks and months following the fall, Shane couldn’t stay home alone. His balance greatly effected, he fell into walls and door frames if he tried to walk unassisted. Post concussion syndrome left Shane with severe headaches, extreme sensitivity to light and bouts of nausea and vomiting.
A bivocational pastor, Shane had recently started a new job. Unable to go to work for an extended period of time left Shane and Stefanie concerned in regards to making ends meet.
“Our biggest issue during my recovery was the financial part,” Shane remembered. “I went two months without being able to work. I was fairly new at my job. I had no leave and no sick time. In fact, I didn’t have enough sick leave to make sure my insurance was paid by salary. We had to pay that out of pocket. We were worried about how we were going to make it.”
But God knew their needs and put people in place to help.
Friends, family and church members stepped in to assist Shane during the day so Stefanie could return to work and not worry about leaving him alone.
Catching wind of what the Reyer family was going through financially, a church member walked up to Stefanie one Sunday, handed her a check and said, “That’s to cover your insurance.”
“We had to depend on God to get us through,” Shane said. “And He did. Every time we turned around, He was blessing us in some way — helping us get through.”
Shane and Stefanie agree God used the accident to show His goodness through the kindness of His people. Both old and new friends came along to encourage and help their family, proving they weren’t alone in their battles.
All residual symptoms of the concussion are gone. However, one thing remains as a reminder of Shane’s fall.
“Now, just the scar hangs around,” Shane said. “I think I’m thankful for it. Not for what it put my family through, but for what God has done through it. You don’t realize how many people care about you. After all that happened, it showed us we are never fighting alone. God is always there. But there are also people there who are for you, too.”