Not a Victim: Kevin and Melissa Valentine
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Kevin Valentine’s nightmare began when he was hit along a highway, changing a tire. Kevin found God’s goodness in the hard and determined he’s not a victim.
Not a Victim: Kevin and Melissa Valentine
Kevin: I walked to the back of the minivan. I opened the back; I’m leaning in to lower the spare down so we can we get it from under the car. This girl, driving down the road, going 50 miles an hour, changing radio stations—doesn’t see the cars on the side of the road or anything—hits the back of the minivan, at 50 miles an hour, and never hits her brakes, with me standing behind the minivan.
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on the FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.
Dave: So I’m excited today.
Ann: I am too.
Dave: We have in the studio somebody who’s known us so long: they knew us when I had hair.
Ann: I’m not sure that’s true.
Dave: That is true.
Ann: Is it?
Dave: We have our good friends in the studio, who actually live in Orlando, Kevin and Melissa Valentine. Welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Melissa: Thank you.
Dave: You guys just drove over from your house.
Dave: Are you excited to be here?
Kevin: Yes, it’s cool. It’s a cool place, man.
Dave: Well, here’s what people don’t know: Kevin started, really, our campus for Kensington Church down here in Orlando; in fact, it was sort of your idea.
Kevin: It kind of was. It’s—I don’t even know what year it was—but I’m driving home after a youth ministry party at Christmas time, up in Michigan—and I’m driving past a bank.
Ann: —because you’re the youth leader, by the way.
Kevin: I’m the youth pastor of a church. I drive past a sign that’s one of those temperature signs on a bank—and it has a “1” on it—it’s 1 degree outside. It was one of those painful nights; you just hate living in a place like that. My next thought was, “I’m going to call Steve Andrews,”—he’s the senior pastor of Kensington—“I’m going to call him and see if he wants to do a campus in Orlando, because that sounds fun.” [Laughter]
I don’t even know where the thought came from; I’m just like, “This will be fun to call Steve and see what he says.” It’s 10:30 at night, and he picks up the phone. I don’t even say, “Hi”; I’m just like, “When you’re ready to launch a campus in Orlando, you give me a call.” He’s just silent on the other end of the phone for two heartbeats—and he’s never quiet—he’s a loud, boisterous guy.
Dave: Oh, yes.
Kevin: Two heartbeats; and he’s like, “We want to launch a campus in Orlando. You go home right now, and you promise me you and Melissa will pray about it.” I’m like, “What are you talking about?” He’s like, “Our dream is five national campuses. Orlando is the first one. We’ve been waiting for six months since we have had the idea, and we don’t have anybody to lead it. You promise me, right now, you’ll go home; and you pray with Melissa.”
I’m like, “You’re serious; aren’t you?” [Laughter] He’s like, “I’m dead serious.” He’s just really amped up; and I’m like, “Okay, fine. I’ll pray. Fine; I’ll go home and pray.” I go home; I tell Melissa.
Ann: Melissa, what did you think?
Melissa: I said, “We’ve vacationed in Orlando for probably the past five years”; I said, “Why not? Let’s pray about it.”
Melissa: Yes, that was my first response.
Dave: That’s a quick response from a wife, saying, “I’m in.”
Kevin: I’m thinking I’ll tell her, “I had this crazy conversation with Steve Andrews.” I’m thinking she’s going to go, “Ha, ha; that’s stupid!” But she goes, “Well, I guess we should pray.”
Ann: We’ve been wanting to have you on because you guys have a pretty unique story. You’ve endured some things/you’ve gone through some things that are really hard. Every couple that’s been married for a while can say, “Yes, we identify. We’ve gone through some hard things.” But yours was a little bit different, and we just thought our listeners would benefit by hearing your story.
Kevin: We met in college, and dated for four or five years, and then we get married in April of 1997. I had just finished a really great college golf career at Oakland University, and I wanted to go play professionally. God just really let us know that He had different plans for me and for her, and so we kind of jumped into ministry. But always, still in the background, I said, “I still want to give it a shot.” I’m a youth pastor at a church.
Ann: How old were you guys?
Kevin: Twenty-three and twenty-two.
Kevin: Roll to the end of that year—it’s December 15, 1997—and I am at our youth ministry Christmas party. It ends—and there’s this one kid—and his mom just hasn’t picked him up yet; we’re just waiting there.
Ann: As the youth leader, you’re the last one.
Kevin: Yes, I just want to go home; I just finished the party. A half hour goes
by/45 minutes go by. Well, she comes, walking up to our facility. She comes in and she’s like, “We need to call AAA®; I have a flat tire.” In the back of my mind, I start going, “AAA is so slow,”—no offense, AAA—[Laughter]—"They’re so slow; I don’t want us to wait two hours for this tire to be changed.”
Ann: And she had walked from her car.
Kevin: She had walked miles—it was two or three miles to our office—and it is like
10 degrees outside; it’s not like a warm night.
Dave: It’s Michigan.
Kevin: Yes; and so I just/in the back of my mind, I’m going, “I don’t want to wait for this; I want to get home.” So I said, “You know what? It’s ten minutes to change a flat tire. I’ll change it.”
We go out to her van—and it’s 10:30 at night—and it’s not a well-lit road. I park my car so the headlights are on the car, so we can see what we’re doing. I say, “Hey, Ryan,”—he’s an eighth grader—“why don’t you head to the back of the minivan and lower the spare tire down? I’ll go up to the front and start getting it ready to jack up the car.”
As he’s walking over there, he/I realize, “Oh, that’s really complicated for him, so I’ll just go do it.” I say, “Hey, Ryan, why don’t you come back over here? I’ll go back there.” I walked to the back of the minivan. I opened the back; I’m leaning in to lower the spare down so we can we get it from under the car. This girl, driving down the road, going
50 miles an hour, changing radio stations—doesn’t see the cars on the side of the road or anything—hits the back of the minivan, at 50 miles an hour, and never hits her brakes, with me standing behind the minivan.
For me, the lights just go out. The van was moved 30 feet from being parked. Her car completely totaled. They found my two shoes stuffed up inside of her engine compartment of her car. I have one vague/vague memory of laying on the ground—I can still see it when I close my eyes—laying on the ground, headlights in my eyes, and asking about my legs; but that’s it.
Dave: And then you’re out.
Kevin: I’m out, and the story moves to what I’ve been told; that is, the lady that I was helping—she was a nurse, which is cool—she runs over to me. I am not breathing; she gets me breathing again. Then, they call an ambulance; and the ambulance picks me up, takes me to the hospital. I do not remember any of the ambulance ride. I don’t remember anything, actually, for ten days—I’m in a coma—and don’t know anything that’s happened.
So now, we shift over to her part of the story, of going—they’re taking me to the hospital—and they actually call her.
Ann: So Melissa, it’s late at night. You get a call from whom?
Melissa: I had been at the party as well; and so I was at home, getting impatient, honestly, like, “Where is he? He needs to be home.” It was pretty late; we lived quite a distance from where the church was. The phone rings, and I’m pretty sure it’s Kevin. It’s not Kevin; it was a dispatcher, and she said, “Hi; I’m a dispatcher. I’m calling from the AMR. They’ve taken your husband in…” They used all this code language. I didn’t even know what they were talking about, but they said they’d taken him to POH.
I said, “I’m sorry; I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She said, “Oh, I’m sorry. They’ve taken him in an ambulance to the hospital.” I said, “Oh, okay. What happened?” She said it was a pedestrian accident. It’s freezing; it’s winter; I’m like, “Why was he walking? Where was he?”
Ann: What did you feel? That’s every person’s—
Melissa: I didn’t feel anything.
Ann: —because you didn’t know anything.
Melissa: It was just—yes—it was just like, “This is crazy; this is really weird.” She talked to me for maybe a minute longer. I hung up, and I immediately called my dad. That’s when it hit—when I had to tell my dad—[emotion in voice] I was like, “Dad, I just got this phone call. They’re taking Kevin in an ambulance to the hospital.” He said, “Where?” and I told him. It was about a half-hour away, and I didn’t really know how to get there. He said, “I’ll come pick you up.” My dad lived about 20 minutes from where I lived, and then it was another half hour to get to where we needed to go. That was a pretty excruciating wait, honestly.
Dave: —because you don’t know anything, really.
Melissa: Yes; I’m like, “He could…”; in my mind, I didn’t think it was that serious; I don’t know why. I just: “He’s going to be fine. I’m going to get there, and it’s going to be okay.”
Ann: I’m thinking: “pedestrian”—if a vehicle is involved, you think, “Oh, that could be catastrophic; but was Kevin walking?”
Melissa: Right; right. So my dad came and picked me up. I remember him driving very, very slowly to the hospital, just thinking, “Dad, this is—let’s go!”
Dave: Was he really driving slowly or did it just feel that way?
Melissa: I doubt it; I doubt it. And then, when we got there, I don’t remember exactly what happened; but I remember being relieved to get there. I remember me walking in and them telling me: “Yes, they’ve taken him upstairs; and they’re looking at him. They might be bringing him down in an elevator in a little bit, and you can see him.” I said, “Okay.”
At this time, I was getting more emotional now. I was kind of realizing: “This is kind of serious.” And then, I remember them calling me over: “Come, come; he’s coming. It's going to be a quick little transition. We’re taking him from one place to another.” When I saw him, he was not able to talk, or awake; but he was on a bed, and they had him covered up. They were like, “We’re going to take him to surgery and try and find out what’s happening.”
People started coming to the hospital: my mom came, and family and friends from the church. I started to get doctors’ reports about what was happening, and I don’t remember very much about what order things happened in.
Ann: But I’m just thinking, “Here you are, this 22-year-old, young bride. You’ve only been married how many months?”
Ann: Seven months; you’re living something that is a nightmare.
Melissa: Yes, yes.
Ann: But you have all these friends surrounding you.
Dave: At some point, did they say he was smashed between a car, going 50 miles an hour, with no brakes?
Ann: I don’t remember ever being told that; I’m sure I was. I just remember being in the hospital, and starting to pray with people, and think about things. Initially, I just wanted him to be 100 percent on the other side of it. I remember praying and thinking, “Okay; I just want him to be okay. I want him to be fully-present, mentally, and not be a different person.” And then I remember kind of shifting my prayers, like, “It doesn’t matter; I just want him to be around.”
Ann: “Just save him.”
Melissa: Yes; they started to talk to me about how serious it was and what was happening. More doctors would come out; and it was really a blur, though. It was pretty—
Ann: I’m sure you were in shock.
Melissa: Yes, yes; for sure.
Kevin: During the time she’s out in the waiting room, I’m on a back board. They start checking my legs/my feet, and they find out that I don’t have pulse in either foot. They can’t find a pulse; they rush me to operate on them. They were able to kind of set my right leg, and get a pulse, and get it kind of worked out. But my left leg was so bad that they immediately went to major surgery to try and repair the veins going down to the bones. I’ve seen the x-rays of my legs, both of them, and the left one is just—it’s shocking—
Ann: Was it just shattered?
Kevin: —that I’m even here. Oh, there’s just shards everywhere—it’s just like a glass breaking—it just looks like that. So they get to work on my legs.
And this is really cool—the stories that I heard afterwards—because we had so many people come visit us, after I made it through this, and was in the hospital. They had these two doctors that came in—who were the vein guys—to try and reconnect the veins. They were both Christian guys, and they had Christian music playing on the radio in the operating room. This is where God kind of starts showing up: while one would be working, the other would pray; and they would swap. Because it was so tedious, they needed to kind of spell each other off; for 12 hours they worked on me.
Ann: These two doctors working on you, and just praying.
Kevin: Yes; one’s praying; the other one is working; and then, they would just swap places. So just these really cool moments—where they tried, for 12 hours, to save my left leg below the knee—it was the most damaged. They actually got the veins fixed twice; and then, they would pull the leg to set the bones; and the veins would fail, so they’d have to kind of go back in.
They ended up losing me twice on the operating table. I went into some condition—you doctors out there will know—it was called DIC back then. Your blood basically turns to Kool Aid® and stops clotting. At the time, when you hit that condition—from what the doctors told me—it was 50 percent of the time fatal; they couldn’t get you back. I had it twice; they got me back both times.
And then, in the middle of that, they have to call Melissa for permission to amputate my leg.
Ann: Oh, Melissa!
Melissa: Yes; I had gone home—actually, to sleep or to try and rest—and just be away from people, I think. I got a phone call from the doctor, and he basically made the decision very easy—he said—“It’s his leg or his life. Do you give me permission to do this?” I was like, “Absolutely.” I’m so thankful that God made that decision that easy, from day one/from moment one. He said, “Do you give permission?”; I was like, “Absolutely.”
From that moment, until he woke up, I questioned that decision; but it was still something that—
Ann: You said you were in a coma for ten days, Kevin?
Kevin: Yes; so they finally amputated my left leg about three inches below the knee; and then, they fixed up my right leg: 20 hours of surgery and 24 units of blood is what they told me.
Dave: —all in one long surgery?
Kevin: For 20 hours, I was in surgery; so you can see why she might have gone home. She’s like, “Okay, this is taking a while.”
But they, then, put me in a coma for the next seven days, drug-induced, because they just said my body needed to heal. At this time, I still don’t know anything has happened. I literally have no—
Dave: You were asleep.
Kevin: Yes, I’m just asleep.
Ann: And yet, Melissa is questioning [her] decision. What’s going through your head, Melissa?
Melissa: I was questioning my decision, but there was also still a fight for his life. They were concerned about infection. He had gotten a lot of debris within his body from being on the road, so we were watching his numbers really close.
Just being in the hospital—visiting with him, even though he wasn’t fully there—he was actually on pretty good pain medication, and was present, so he would think crazy things were happening in the room. He was able to talk, and he was there; but he wasn’t necessarily fully himself.
Kevin: Yes; I think, for seven days, I was in deep; but then, they started letting me out of the coma, and I was just more on more morphine than the stuff that makes you sleep.
Ann: So you’re hallucinating.
Kevin: So I’m just seeing the craziest stuff, you know; and I have no idea what’s going on. I remember, early on, I would wake up; and there were just little kids in the room, all the time, and I could never see their faces. All I could see was the tops of their heads around the bed. Every time, I would try and see them, they would not be there; but I would, yet, see them all the time. That was just kind of a constant thing that I would see.
There was another time—and these are funny stories—I mean, this was so real to me. I woke up one morning—in the three days I was awake on the morphine; it’s two weeks of time in my brain—I can tell you what room I was in and what happened for two weeks of time. It was only three days, but that’s just the way the mind works on morphine. I wake up, and I’m in this little hospital up north, and they ran out of beds; so I’m lying on a washer and dryer.
Ann: It’s amazing you can still remember this hallucination. [Laughter]
Kevin: Yes, and I was getting angry; because they kept using the washer and dryer. [Laughter] I’m sitting there, and I feel like I’m just being jostled around. I finally get mad enough and I think—were you in the room or was it your mom?—it was your mom or your dad; and I’m just like, “Can you please fix the washing machine?” She was like, “What?” Because the washing machine—one of the legs was screwed in too tight, so it was wobbling back and forth like this—I’m like, “Can you fix the washing machine?” She was like, “What? What washing machine?”
I’m like, “The washing/can you just fix the washing machine!” She’s like, “What are you talking about?” “THE WASHING MACHINE I’M LAYING ON; CAN YOU JUST FIX IT?!” She’s like, “What do you need me to do?” I’m like, “Just fix the legs; the legs are off.” She starts playing along. She bends down, and she doesn’t do anything; but when she comes up, she’s like, “Is that better?” I’m like, “Thank you.” [Laughter]
Another time, this nurse—I’m lying on my back—and this nurse comes over, behind my bed, and she’s doing something. Again, I’m on morphine; but she was so beautiful. I’m like, “Wow!” I’m sitting there, and I’m like, “Wow! How old are you?” [Laughter] She says, “I’m 35.” I’m like, “You look good for 35.” And my mother-in-law is standing at the end of my bed. [Laughter] It was so funny.
Ann: You remember all of this?
Melissa: Yes, yes.
Ann: What were you thinking?
Melissa: I was trying to figure out if I should play along or if I should bring him back to reality and try to tell him what was really happening.
Melissa: I think, after a while, I just realized, “Just play along.”
Melissa: “Just play along.”
Ann: What were your prayers like in those ten days? What was going on?
Melissa: I prayed a lot to know the right thing to do. I just wanted to know what God wanted from me during that time. I was really thankful he was still here; I was trying to focus on that kind of stuff—and all the numbers and the things that were coming back from the nurses and doctors that he was getting better—trying to be thankful for that.
But I think, as somebody who is kind of private and kind of quiet, it was hard to have so many people around. I felt like I really needed to be there for the people, who were coming to visit Kevin, and let everyone know that I was okay. I think I just leaned on God a lot. In hindsight, people were trying to be there for me; but I think I felt like I needed to be there for them.
Ann: Yes, that’s interesting. And you probably/you process alone.
Ann: So to have that many people around you, it was probably hard even to process all that was happening.
Melissa: Yes, yes.
Dave: So take us to waking up.
Kevin: It’s the first thing I remember that’s real. Melissa and the doctor are talking about this guy, who had lost his leg. I’m listening to them talk, and I am starting to feel really sorry for this guy; because it’s just a sad story. She’s asking a lot of questions, and I cannot figure out why she keeps asking so many questions. Why does she care about this guy so much?
As I’m listening to them, I start kind of—it’s just like you see in the movies—all of a sudden, I realize, “I’m in a hospital. How did I get in a hospital? I don’t remember coming to a hospital.” Two seconds go by, and I’m like, “I’m in a hospital bed. How did I get in a hospital bed?” And it hits me that I think they’re talking about me.
I just stop them in the middle of their conversation—because they thought I knew—because I had been lucid enough that they’re assuming that I know. I just stop; and I’m like, “Hey, are you guys talking about me?” The look on their face—they didn’t say a word—just the look, and I just knew.
I looked down at the bed. Where my right foot is, there’s a lump; and where my left foot is supposed to be, it is undisturbed. It just hit me: “I’m the guy.” I just start bawling—like legit, can’t stop crying—Melissa is looking at me; and she’s just/tears rolling down her face. What’s interesting is we were crying for very different reasons. For me, I’m a two-sport athlete in college—and I was looking at going professional—and now, I don’t even know if I’m going to walk again. It just felt like loss.
For her, you were crying for a very different reason.
Melissa: I knew you were back; I knew he was Kevin still. The part that made him Kevin was still there, and so I was happy; but I was also nervous for his reaction: “He’s still here, but how is he going to deal with this? Is he going to be mad at me? Is he going to become a victim for the rest of his life? How was this going to play out? This is a pretty big change.”
Ann: You guys are 22 and 23.
Ann: You just got married; and now, life is going to look really different.
Kevin: I don’t know if I’m exaggerating, but I think we cried for a couple of hours. I couldn’t stop; I just couldn’t stop.
Shelby: You’re listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Melissa and Kevin Valentine on FamilyLife Today. We’ll hear how they’re able to, not be bitter, but actually thankful for their trials in just a minute.
But first, speaking of thankful: “Happy Thanksgiving.” You know, today is an important day; but tomorrow, we immediately start thinking about the Christmas season. Well, we, at FamilyLife, have made Christmas shopping this year easier than ever by creating a list of our 12 favorite gift ideas.
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Okay; here’s Kevin and how he’s able to be thankful, even for his trials.
Kevin: Some of the bonding of this experience for Melissa and I are—they’re so strong—the experience that we had together. I would wait—I cried every day for two months—at some point, I would break down. What ended up happening is she would go home at night, and I would hold in all of the tears until she came. Literally, the moment she would step in the door, we would cry together. It was like that for about two months, because I just/we just grieved together. That was just—
Ann: And you needed each other?
Kevin: Oh, yes. I held on, because I didn’t want to be—I didn’t know what to do with the feelings—but when we were together, and we would cry together, I wasn’t alone; and we were kind of going through it together. Those were like—it’s crazy—some of our best memories are of those two or three months, where we were completely dependent on each other. We just worked through the hardest parts as a team.
Ann: Did you feel that closeness, Melissa?
Melissa: Oh, absolutely. I think that was the hardest part of the first ten days—was when something that traumatic happens to you, and your best friend isn’t around—I kept waiting for Kevin to come to the hospital: “Why isn’t Kevin here to help me through this?” He was the one who was hurt, obviously—he couldn’t be there—but you realize that you need each other and that you want to be there for each other.
Shelby: Now, coming up tomorrow on FamilyLife Today, Dave and Ann Wilson continue the story with Kevin and Melissa Valentine on how Kevin found strength and created a new dream. That’s tomorrow.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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