The Incident


The last thing I remember is my vision getting a little “funky.”

It felt like I was about to get a migraine.

(Years ago, when I frequently had migraines, I would see a light—one of those lights you see after staring into a light bulb—and then my vision would get “funky.”)

I remember thinking, I need to pull over and get some Ibuprofen when I take the exit, just in case I’m starting to get a migraine. 

I remember that line of thought, and I also remember I couldn’t focus on the audiobook I was listening to. And I had been waiting forever for this particular audiobook to come available. But I kept having to rewind it because I couldn’t focus, I kept losing track of the plot.

The next thing I know, I’m in a hospital bed.

Completely confused.

I have no idea where Tobin is. No idea if this is a dream or reality. And a police officer keeps asking me if I smoke marijuana. I’m outraged at the question—and more confusion. Everyone telling me to keep calm.

“The boy is alright,” they tell me.

I see Brian come into the room. He keeps telling me that this is not a dream. (He later tells me I kept asking him over and over if this is real or not.)

A few tests. A CT scan. And I’m released with a follow-up neurology appointment the following day to try and figure out what happened. 

I’m told I stopped my car in the middle of the highway.

And then I gassed it, running off the road and hitting fifteen metal guardrail poles.

When they found me, my eyes were closed, I was “foaming at the mouth,” and my foot was on the gas. 

I’m told people in cars behind me came to my car.

A woman three cars back named Jennifer came running to my car, along with a man no one can name. The man tried to shut my car off and asked Jennifer to hold my head up.

I’m told Jennifer got into the backseat to hold my head up—and that’s when she saw Tobin.

He was sitting there, so still and quiet, they hadn’t even noticed him until just that moment. My six-year-old nonverbal son, sitting there in his nighttime pull-up and pajama shirt. With no way to express what he is thinking and feeling. No way to communicate his name or his feelings or to let anyone know of his autism. Completely vulnerable.

One thing Tobin is an expert in is unlocking my iPhone. In fact, he has many people’s codes memorized on their phones, and one of his favorite things to do is to lock and unlock people’s phones. He likes to use other people’s fingers to unlock phones. He will do this over and over and over and over. He loves it.

On this day, somehow the man no one can name had Tobin unlock my iPhone so that the man could try and call people in my phone to get ahold of someone. He called the last three people on my call list and reached Brian.

Jennifer says this man was an older man in a polo-type shirt. He seemed to know exactly what to do. Brian says the same thing—he says when the man called him, he was very calm and knew exactly how to handle the situation. He even told Brian he knew Tobin had autism, when Brian began explaining about Tobin and the need to find his communication device.

But no one knows this man’s name.

I’m told that at some point, a semi truck started coming toward all of us. Jennifer says she just knew he wasn’t going to get over in time and would hit us all. But somehow, the truck pulled off to the side, and I think that man got out to help as well. I think Jennifer said this man was a retired paramedic, but I can’t remember if that was the semi driver or a man from another vehicle who came to help.

They work to try and get me conscious, and one of them started doing sternum rubs on me. They said I would open my eyes for a second and then close them again. Once I even crossed my arms.

Jennifer, the woman who began working with Tobin, is an Occupational Therapist at the hospital up the road. She has worked with many patients like Tobin. So she knew exactly how to care for him. She got him dressed. She held him. She sat with him on the side of the road. So calm. So quiet. Looking at cars on my phone. Jennifer let him chew her hair. And snuggle close. And she said, “He is the most amazing boy.”

They load me up in the ambulance. They load Tobin in the ambulance. They take us to the hospital.

Jennifer follows the ambulance to the hospital. She gets her supervisor and the two of them find my room and get Tobin and sit with him. Brian says when he walks in, Tobin is sitting next to these two women requesting “cracker” and “pudding” on his communication device. The ladies tell Brian to go see me and they are going to sit with Tobin.

When my mom gets to the hospital, she sees Tobin sitting with the two women, only he has a plate of food—a plate of crackers and pudding.

I have no recollection of any of this. All of this has been pieced together from reports and an emotional phone call when social media enabled me to connect with one of our heroes, Jennifer. 

Of course I would be wearing the only “gym humor” shirt I own, as I was headed to yoga after taking Tobin to school.

I had my follow-up appointment. The neurologist says I had a seizure.

I’ve never had a seizure before.

He’s put me on medicine and scheduled more testing next week to figure out what is going on.

But the kicker?

I’m not supposed to drive for six months.

This would be an adjustment for me regardless. But for our unique situation, it has giant affects. 

I’m the only mode of transportation for our son to go to his therapy center, which is two hours from our house. I take him there every single day, and it has been the lifeline for our family for the past four years. We’re left wrestling with so many questions: What does this mean for Tobin? How will I get him the support that has been so huge for him, for all of us?

We’ve spent the weekend doing the glorious mundane: laundry, tidying up the house, cuddling, watching movies, going to bed early, getting up early, meals together, visiting with family. 

A deep river of gratitude flowing through each moment together as we sit in the unknowns of what is to come.

Texts and phone calls, friends and family offering support and time and rides. Our cup is overflowing in complete gratitude as we get comfortable with uncertainty.

Because what we do know is that if any of the variables of our story had been different, the outcome would have been drastic:

There are two stoplights on that particular stretch of highway. Because I hit a red light at the stoplight, it enabled me to be at a slower speed when I had my seizure. However, if the incident had happened at the second stoplight instead of the first, I would have been going downhill, picking up speed.

We were almost to the interstate. If the incident would have happened on the interstate, I would have been at a much higher speed and had other lanes to swerve into. 

I could have pulled other people into our happening.

I could have hit on Tobin’s side.

The semi could have hit us.

Tobin could have run away. Or run into the highway.

I could go on and on with all the different scenarios that have played out in my mind.

But that’s not what happened.

Instead, we were protected. The right people showed up at the right time. Our vehicle hit at just the right spot for minimum damage. Tobin was protected and cared for. I was protected and cared for. No one else was injured.

And this is not lost on me.

The future is a little unclear right now.
I keep crying at the magnitude of the “could have beens” and also the “what will happen nexts,” but I have a deep peace knowing that I’m here. Tobin is here. The people around us are here.

It is a gift. 

The Good in the midst of the hard.



12 thoughts on “The Incident

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  1. Oh my gosh, Anna Marie. I haven’t really been following anything that’s been going on and didn’t realize you were in a wreck like this. Please know our house in STL is absolutely available to you and Tobin. We have a spare bedroom if it can be of any use to you.


  2. I was thinking of you this afternoon, A-M, and all the what-ifs that must be swirling in your head. Then the words to a Casting Crowns song started playing over and over in my head: “Your world’s not falling apart; it’s falling into place.” So many people are going to love your family through this until everything is in place. So many blessings and miracles in your story! Love ya. So proud of Tobin. Love your fam.


  3. 1 Peter 1:5-7 NLT , “And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see. So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold–though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”

    One of my patients said this to me the other day in a much abbreviated format.
    It has brought me a lot of comfort. And I thought about it again today when I read what happened. Maybe it will bring you some comfort as well. I will keep you in my prayers. I am so thankful to hear you are all well! God is so good.


  4. You have been on my mind, and in our prayers since your “incident”. Kept seeing you as a five yr. old, tending to your little classmates who needed a check-up! Look how long you have been caring for others. He sent the right people to care for you and Tobin, we mortals don’t know why we are chosen for these things to happen to us, but you are certainly on of the most sincere God loving persons, sweet wife, wonderful mother, and a joy to so many. Blessings come from these things ! You are an angel and if you need me to drive you and Tobin to STL anytime, I am more than happy to do it. ANYTIME! I am not just saying this, I mean it! Love and prayers to all of you! A


  5. When I read this it made me think of Psalm 91: “he for he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways and because he loves me, says the Lord, I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he and knowledge is my name.” This story makes me feel so much gratitude for your protection and life that I just started crying. I love you friend and trust the Lord has you and your family in the palm of his hand!


  6. A-M, as I read of your story tears flow. They flow because you and your precious boy are safe. They flow because God had His mighty hand on you both the entire time. They flow because I’ve been in a very similar situation and I know the fear, confusion, and worry you have. I’m so very thankful God sent the people you needed. He knew exactly what to do (is there even a doubt He had you? Nope!). I pray for your recovery. I pray you get much needed answers and treatment. I pray that there is a way Tobin can continue to get back and forth and that he can continue his routine. Keep your head up. You are an amazing woman. Just know “you got this”, and so many of us are praying. Sending love and hugs!!!


  7. I am so glad you guys are okay! This is a huge testimony to how Great our God is! Every part of your story sounds terrifying, until the Right People were sent to watch over you and Tobin. God will help you figure out Tobin’s therapy. He will carry you through this storm! Hugs and continued prayers for you all!


  8. Your openness is appreciated. I had no clue as to the ramifications of your accident. Praise God that each of you are safe and we’re held in his hands. Instantly my mind thought of The unknown man you talked about being an angel. I think of the lyrics that go like this : I know who goes before me I know who goes behind. The God of angel armies is always by my side. You have another person here who is very capable of driving to St. Louis or anywhere and it would be an honor to drive you anywhere you need to go. You have my number. Please don’t hesitate to call. Much love to each of you.


  9. Your openness is appreciated. I had no clue as to the ramifications of your accident. Praise God that each of you are safe and we’re held in his hands. Instantly my mind thought of The unknown man you talked about being an angel. I think of the lyrics that go like this : I know who goes before me I know who goes behind. The God of angel armies is always by my side. You have another person here who is very capable of driving to St. Louis or anywhere and it would be an honor to drive you anywhere you need to go. You have my number. Please don’t hesitate to call. Much love to each of you.


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