Rev. Sara Galindo reaches up and gently runs her hand through her hair. The gesture exposes an 18-inch scar in her scalp, a reminder of the recent trauma that drastically changed her life.
Sara, 56, a minister at Drake Avenue Christian Church in Centerville, Iowa, was en route to ministry training on
Jan. 28 when she was critically injured in a car accident near Knoxville, Iowa. The early morning dense fog obscured Sara’s vision and her Ford Focus sharply hit a curb and rolled over.
Another driver reached the accident scene first. The man happened to be a first responder and quickly assessed Sara’s critical injuries. Noticing Sara’s clergy ID badge clipped to the car’s visor, the man urged her to stay strong. “You know we have a higher power working here with us, Sara,” he said reassuringly. Emergency crew spent more than an hour freeing her from the wreckage.
Sara spent 40 days in critical care at Iowa Methodist Hospital in Des Moines. Her injuries were extensive – damaged lower spine, broken ribs, collapsed lung, a bruised kidney. Worst of all was the gash in Sara’s head causing a traumatic brain injury.
Sara, a pastor for 20 years, who routinely ministered to others, now had people around the world praying for her life. “We almost lost her numerous times,” said her sister, Juanita, who flew from Pullman, Wa., to be at Sara’s side.
The brain injury caused Sara to be confused and agitated. She endured a medically induced coma, two brain surgeries and procedures to relieve edema that swelled her body with 80 liters of extra fluid.
“My prayer was to give her strength to recover or peace to let her go,” said Juanita. Gradually Sara’s condition improved and she transferred to Madonna on March 14.
During Sara’s first day, a hematoma that had been silently building near her head wound hemorrhaged. After emergency surgery at a local hospital and a brief stay, she returned to Madonna. “It was a wild ride, but I was ready to start healing,” said Sara. Her therapists got Sara up and walking the first day with a plastic clamshell support device clamped around her waist for support. “I looked like a turtle and did some pretty fancy dancing!”
Three weeks of therapy rebuilt Sara’s core strength, endurance and her cognitive skills. In physical therapy, she gradually moved from taking steps to more challenging technology like the hand bike and Proprio 4000. Sara’s eye/hand coordination was restored through everyday living tasks, such as showering and folding laundry. Her speech therapists used creative scenarios to help Sara recover higher level executive thinking and multitasking. “They all knew my limits, pushed, but didn’t overwhelm me,” said Sara.
As a minister, Sara said sustaining her injury during the season of Lent gave it a whole new meaning. “What I experienced was very visceral; it wasn’t an accident I survived,” said Sara, who is blessed by the grace of the many prayers of support from friends and her church family. She is grateful for the unconditional love from Juanita, who offered continual support. “She was the driving force behind Sara’s recovery,” said Lisa Blecha, case manager.
The accident has changed the direction of Sara’s ministry. She said perhaps her call will be to work with first responders or in a rehabilitation hospital. “I survived and now my job is to figure out God’s next plan for me.”