The Accident

August 14th, 2015 tragedy struck at a wedding rehearsal dinner near Jamestown, New York. The groom and one of his groomsmen were riding on a four-wheeler while everyone else was enjoying the stories and laughter that often come when old friends reunite. As the four-wheeler started down a decline, the driver noticed a sharp curve at the bottom of the hill. He decided to veer off the trail and coast through some tall weeds thinking that the four-wheeler would glide safely to a full-stop.

Behind the weeds though, was a sheer 10-foot drop off into a dry creek bed. The four-wheeler barreled over the overhang and tragically, Harrison Waldron, the passenger, sustained a traumatic brain injury in the fall. Almost instantly, the wedding photographer, who was both a family friend and a veteran paramedic and fire fighter, along with many others from the wedding party were on the scene to assist. Within 45-minutes a rescue helicopter was rushing Harrison to Erie Pennsylvania, to the UPMC Hamot Trauma Center.

Within minutes of arriving, Harrison was brought into the operating room where surgeons spent the next three hours trying to save his life. The front portion of his skull was removed to relieve the pressure from the massive swelling of his brain. Although initially thought to be in a coma, Harrison would later state that he remembers being awake and hearing conversations around his hospital bed in the Trauma Center in Erie only a day or two after the accident. The Trauma Team said that they weren’t sure if he would live or die.

A Servant From The Start

Both Harrison and Hayley are Christians. Not just your average Sunday morning church attenders but full blown servants of Christ. They have been in love with Jesus all of their lives, going back to childhood. Harrison grew up in México as the son of missionary parents until he was 11-years-old when his family moved back to the US. Then, when he was 16 he was the inspiration for his parents and youngest sister to once again go to the mission field; this time to Honduras to live and work with the poor people in the western region of the country. Harrison is the one that insisted that the family, “go back to the mission field now”, while he was still at home. This meant giving up his newly acquired car and license because in Honduras, teenagers cannot drive until they are eighteen. Harrison knew this and pushed to go because he wanted to do one more mission before leaving home for University in the States. These childhood experiences had a tremendous impact on shaping Harrison into a grown man of faith.

He was always the servant-leader type though. One incident in his life while he was still at home and living in Honduras serves as an example of the character and integrity that Harrison has. There was a young teenager just a little younger than Harrison named Freddy. Freddy was mentally challenged and even though he had a home with his father, who was single, Freddy spent most of his time on the street. He smelled of urine and was always filthy.

Harrison made friends with Freddy and invited him to participate in the youth group at the church where Harrison and his family attended. Freddy began attending youth group and after he had been coming for some time Harrison invited him to accompany the youth group to a youth conference in the Capital city of Tegucigalpa, which was an 8-hour bus ride away from Santa Rosa de Copán where Harrison and his family lived. None of the other teenagers wanted anything to do with Freddy. In their minds, he was odd and smelled awful, all of the time. Harrison brought extra clothes so that when Freddy urinated on himself during the long bus ride, Harrison could help Freddy clean himself up and put on clean, dry clothes. It was almost like Harrison was looking after an infant…someone completely dependent on someone else. But Harrison did it. And the other teenagers noticed; and were deeply moved by his actions.

Soulmates

After a breakup in his Freshman year at Harding University, Harrison told his mom that he was not going to date anyone until his junior year. Soon after that conversation however, he met Hayley. During their Spring semester, while they were little more than friends, they traveled to East Texas to see a friend and fellow Harding student who was in the Hospital after he had been hit by a car on the Interstate. Sadly, their friend passed away. They spent some long hours traveling to and from Harding to East Texas, and even more crying out to God together; first for the life of their friend and then for his family and all of their friends who were also grieving his tragic loss. Little did they know that this first trial that they faced together was the beginning of a life of intimate, deep dependence on God. A spiritual discipline that has given them the strength to overcome tragedy and hardship with perseverance and grace.

Soon after their trip, Harrison and Hayley started dating and were married in the Summer between their Junior and Senior year. They graduated in May of the following year and were both scheduled to begin Masters programs in Nashville, TN. Just prior to school starting in August, the couple traveled to Jamestown, New York for the wedding of some friends that they had known in college. It was a fun trip and some of the last words that Harrison spoke, that were recorded on video by Hayley, show him being the energetic, zany, comedian that he was known to be. Neither of the two had any inkling of the impending misfortune that was about to fall on them. Nor did they have any idea of what difficult struggles they both would be called to face. Each of them were to be drawn into the same vortex of tragedy, although experiencing it from opposite perspectives.

Unconditional Love

Hayley, a young bride of just over one-year, and only 22 years old at the time; was faced with a challenge that few people, let alone a young woman of 22 years of age, could handle. Too often you read or hear about stories of tragedy when the young wife or young husband just can’t handle the sudden incapacitation of their spouse; and they leave.

Hayley didn’t leave, she “doubled-down.” She loves Harrison more now than she did when they first fell in love and were married back in May of 2014. Thanks to several months of brain injury rehabilitation that Harrison received at Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Georgia; Harrison has an iPad that he can use to communicate with Hayley and others. It is difficult for him to get a complete message across because he has so little control over his arms and hands but he is improving each day. And, with assistance at his elbow and left index finger he has been able to communicate a lot.

Harrison lives with his wife and her family. Every day he has to be bathed, fed, and cared for by others. Every day, he receives several hours of physical therapy from Hayley and her Mom. Hayley and her family work together as a unit and have become veritable experts in Traumatic Brain Injuries and how to navigate the system of insurance and medical providers in order to provide the very best care and therapy possible to facilitate Harrison’s recovery.

The Road to Recovery

The real story here is the story of unconditional love between Harrison and Hayley that is being played out every day with his recovery. After the accident, while alive, Harrison was left completely dependent on his new wife, Hayley, and others. He has only just now, three years after the accident, been able to produce a delicate smile on his face while Hayley talks or jokes with him.

Harrison has a long road to recovery ahead of him. He has been accepted into the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab, a prestigious rehabilitation institute in Chicago. They specialize in the most severe conditions in brain and spinal cord injury as well as amputation and cancer-related impairment. This hospital only accepts a handful of cases a year so his being accepted into the program, is a victory in itself. Receiving this treatment however, comes at a cost. On top of the hefty medical bills, Harrison and Hayley will have to relocate to Chicago for the duration of his treatment. Right now our goal is to raise $70,000 in order to cover all expenses involved in three weeks of treatment.

We don’t know what story God is telling with Harrison. We do have full faith however, that God uses us to do His will. Including the doctors, the donors, and most evidently, Hayley. We ask you to partner with us in Harrison’s road to recovery. Allow God to work through you by helping this incredible couple through the financial insecurity of this journey. Donate now to make an impact in Harrison’s future. Help Harrison today.

HelpHarrison.org is a benevolent work of the Tusculum Church of Christ and all donated funds are administered by the Eldership. Contact us at [email protected] for more information.

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