[notice]Dylan Martin is a walking miracle. His story of making an amazing comeback from a car accident that left him with traumatic brain injury and in a coma for two weeks is told in a double book written by himself (Highway To Hell) and his mother (It’s All About Eternity). Dylan and his family who supported him with prayer, therapy, emotional support and faith in God, exhibited the book at the SA Book Fair in Cape Town at the weekend and are currently on a ‘victory lap’ road trip to promote the book in Durban, Winterton, Bergville, Johannesburg and Bloemfontein. While the accident dashed his dreams of a lucrative career as a commercial pilot, Dylan thanks God for showing His hand and giving him a new purpose in life and a message of faith and hope to share.
Win an autographed copy of the book!
Gateway News will be giving away three, autographed copies of the book to the first three readers who answer the following question: Who are the co-authors of Highway To Heaven / It’s All About Eternity? Please email your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also order the book directly from Colleen at 083 656 7828.
The article below about Dylan’s remarkable recovery was written by Karen Herman and was originally published in ShowMe East London.[/notice]
From ‘good life’ of selfish ambition to mission to share faith and hope
Three and a half years ago, whilst living in Kidd’s Beach, I heard about a terrible car accident involving the friend of a family I knew there. I remember the incident clearly but, as I moved to Johannesburg shortly afterwards, I didn’t hear anything further. Although I had never met him, I thought of the young man involved in the accident from time to time after that but feared the worst, as I hadn’t heard or seen news of him since.
This week, through the twists and turns of life, I found myself sitting with the same young man and his mother in their home, listening to their story. And I am humbled by this opportunity to share their journey…
For Dylan Martin, life was good. He lived fully in the present moment, with a passion for ultimate pleasure at every moment, whether competing in kart racing, flying aeroplanes or racing exotic sports cars. An adrenalin junkie, he lived his life as though he was invincible. He did well academically and, after being a student at a private boarding school, was accepted at a few different universities in South Africa, eventually choosing one close to home. For Dylan, life was all about having the best time he possibly could and he strove for many selfish desires, wanting to become rich enough in order to live a life of ease for the rest of his days.
Dylan decided upon an Accounting degree at university but eventually realised that he had made a big mistake when choosing his career path, that he had no interest in a future as an Accountant. Although he was despondent to be leaving university and the place he had called home for the past 18 months, Dylan was positive about his life.
Top student pilot
His next step was choosing an alternative career path and, after discussing it at length with his father, Colin, he decided upon flying. He had experienced flying before and thought that it would make a great hobby once he had completed University, but as his life had taken a different direction, he decided upon flying as a profession. In six short months, Dylan became the flight school’s top student pilot, both academically and practically and even received a few awards. Driven by the relative ease in which he passed his exams, Dylan was positive that being a pilot was his way to the top, that he would attain wealth and success through his new career choice.
Determined to complete all the Commercial Pilots Licence exams by the end of 2010, Dylan began logging the flying hours also required, making successful trips all over South Africa and neighbouring countries.
On 27th December 2010, with only a handful of flying hours left to log, Dylan flew his mother, Colleen, down to Port Alfred for the day. Colin drove and met them there later and, after a lovely day with perfect flying conditions, Dylan flew back to East London.
This is the last thing that Dylan Martin remembers.
On 28th December 2010, Dylan set out for Kidd’s Beach, planning to stay with friends there and then head on to Port Alfred and then Bathhurst. Travelling alone in his car, Dylan had just passed the East London airport when he drove into a huge downpour. The road between the airport and Kidd’s Beach can be hazardous in wet weather, if you are not aware of where the trouble points are. Not being fully aware of such danger points but still driving with caution and under the speed limit, Dylan came up behind a lady driving quite a bit below the speed limit due to the bad weather. After ensuring that the road ahead was clear, Dylan overtook the lady in front of him.
The lady Dylan overtook explained how Dylan’s car went into a violent spin. The back wheels left the road and pulled the vehicle off the road into the wild vegetation. Miraculously his rear left wheel dug into the mud on the edge of a hidden culvert, pulling his vehicle straight and catapulting it over the culvert before going into a slide, taking out a lightening stricken dead tree and only coming to a halt when it skidded into another tree – this time living. The impact with the trees crushed the passenger side of the vehicle causing the passenger headrest to collide violently with Dylan’s head – but also stopped the vehicle from rolling into a ditch which would surely have crushed him to death.
Dylan writes in his book, Highway to Hades: “Surely, only the hand of God could have orchestrated this?”
Immediately after the accident, the lady in the car Dylan had overtaken stopped and phoned an ambulance, all the while talking to Dylan to keep him from losing consciousness. As fate would have it, the mother of the friend he had been on his way to visit in Kidd’s Beach, spotted Dylan’s car in the veld as she was driving into East London. She called Colleen, Dylan’s mother, who followed the ambulances and joined Colin, Dylan’s father at the accident scene.
When Colleen first got the call to tell her that there had been an accident, she had no idea of it’s severity. She called her friend, the spiritual leader for their prayer ministry and simply asked her to start praying for Dylan. On arriving at the scene of the accident, nothing prepared her for the sight of her son, now unconscious.
Transferred to a hospital dealing with neurological injuries, Dylan’s prognosis was Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) described as a Diffused Axonal Injury (DAI). Unknown to Dylan’s parents at the time, the medical specialists did not expect Dylan to make it through the night – but he did. Contracting a double lung infection, he was again not expected to make it.
The five weeks that Dylan spent in ICU were touch and go. Colleen explained that every single step of the way, her and Colin requested specific prayers, prayers which were answered in many different ways. Leaning not on their own understanding and taking the counsel of men, Colleen and Colin put all their faith and their trust in God to save their son. God heard and answered the large network of people all over the country who were also holding Dylan up in prayer. As Dylan’s mother Colleen describes it: “…we stand firmly in the belief that the Most High heard the cries of our hearts and the prayers of thousands of righteous people across this land and around the world, and knitted Dylan back together.”
While Dylan was in his coma, his sister Shelley couldn’t find the right words to talk to him and felt more comfortable reading to him. The book she chose was ‘Flight to Heaven’ by Captain Dale Black, a story about an airline pilot who had miraculously survived a terrible plane accident. Much of what was done to support Dylan while he was in his coma was based on the Tomatis method, a programme specialising in auditory integration. Colleen having studied this method a few years before Dylan’s accident, believes strongly that hearing is the last of the senses to switch off when a person dies. Basing her actions learned from the Tomatis method, Colleen would play Mozart on a walkman and place headphones on Dylan’s ears. Mozart’s music, rich in high frequencies, is said to come close to mimicking a mother’s voice. Dylan’s father Colin read Psalm 91 aloud to him every single time he sat at Dylan’s bedside.
Out of coma
Dylan Martin opened his eyes and came out of his coma, against all odds, on 11th January, 2011.
Dylan spent eleven weeks in rehabilitation in Port Elizabeth. He has extensive scarring across his brain but his EEG is surprisingly normal. It has been said that the majority of people who have a Traumatic Brain Injury make little, if any, progress once they have been in a rehabilitation facility. Some patients have been known to regress and some have even been known to die. Dylan is not one of this majority.
Dylan’s long-term memory was still intact but his short-term memory had been wiped clean. He didn’t remember anything from the day of his accident, or even prior to that – his last memory being that of flying back to East London from Port Alfred.
During a session with his therapist while in rehabilitation, Dylan had his first recollection of the accident. Experiencing a flashback and with tears streaming down his face, he asked his mother what had happened. Since coming out of the coma, Dylan had believed he had had a plane crash.
Colleen explained that it had been a car crash, not a plane crash, and that thankfully, he had been alone in the car. His ‘belief’ that he had had a plane crash, linked closely to events described to him in the book read to him by his sister. Throughout Dylan’s recuperation, he also showed signs of recognising both the music of Mozart and Psalm 91, neither of which he was familiar with prior to his accident.
Dylan’s routine while in rehabilitation included occupational therapy, physio, speech therapy, rest, lunch, occupational therapy and hydrotheraphy, three afternoons a week. Dylan’s left spastic arm was stretch out twice daily where he experienced some of the worst pain he’d ever known. He was, however, given a slight reprieve from the pain in the form of his sessions with his speech therapist, which soon became Dylan’s favourite part of the day. His speech therapist read to him daily from the Bible and helped him to focus on how every part of his rehabilitation would eventually enable him to get back to leading a normal life.
After having lost over 20kgs in just two months, Dylan was able to gain some of the weight lost when he was able to swallow food again. Movement in his left hand also revealed that there was still nerve conduction and that his left arm may not be spastic permanently.
Unfortunately in life, our paths cross with people who might not always share in our optimism, who would rather look at the bad … instead of focus the possibilities & opportunities. Dylan’s psychologist sadly did not share his optimism. When Dylan indicated that he would like to get back to flying again, his psychologist shut him down immediately and harshly told him he to get realistic, that he would never fly again. Not one to be deterred even though he was wheel chair bound, Dylan believed that he would have a future in which he would lead a normal life – the wheelchair and the limitations were temporary challenges to be overcome.
Dylan went on to prove this person very wrong by exceeding all expectations, by first learning to stand unaided and then, by taking his first steps and practicing to walk once again. When Dylan asked his physiotherapist if he would ever walk again unassisted, she told him: “When you came in here, I thought that you would never leave a wheelchair. In all my years of adult-rehabilitation, I have never seen a recovery like yours! Yes, Dylan, you will walk again.”
And with that encouragement, his own determination, the support and prayers from his family and friends and of course his own faith in his awesome God, Dylan did defy the odds and he did walk again.
Throughout Dylan’s journey to walking again, he became completely in awe of the human body, aware of every single muscle he needed to carry out the small movements he was making. His greatest fear was that he would remain in a wheelchair longer than necessary. His parents bought him a reciprocating walker, something Dylan quickly labelled his ‘granny walker’ that he really disliked to use. His parents then helped him by holding his forearms and walking backwards while he put one foot in front of the other. During a trip to the mall with Colleen and desperate to ditch the ‘granny walker’, Dylan asked if he could take a look at the hiking sticks to see if he could use them to walk unaided. Weeks of assisted walking using the hiking sticks followed until one of his visits to his physiotherapist. As he walked in with his hiking stick, the physio asked him to hand it to her. After freezing momentarily, Dylan shuffled, unaided, towards her.
Dylan walked unaided and in public for the very first time on the first anniversary of the day of his accident. A Thanksgiving service was held at their friends home in Kidd’s Beach, the place he was travelling to when he had his accident. Dylan Martin arrived at his destination a year later than planned, but he arrived there nonetheless.
After discovering that, due to having been in a coma for more than seven days, he would never be allowed to return to flying as a career, Dylan found peace and realised that to be walking again was far more important than flying.
Dylan admits that he once questioned God’s existence and lived his life with poor regard to his body. His journey has taught him otherwise. No longer will he take the everyday miracles such as walking and talking, for granted. And Dylan knows that he was never alone, that he was always, and always will be, watched over.
For Dylan’s parents, giving up was never an option. Dylan’s neurologist, during his last visit there, said to them:
“Clearly you love your son very much because of all the time and money that you have invested in this rehabilitation. I used to think that you were wasting your resources and efforts, but you have proved me wrong. You refused to believe what you were told, and continued to do what you believed was best for your son.”
And by refusing to believe what they were told and instead trusting God in every area, Dylan is a walking miracle. Colleen doesn’t dwell on why it had to be this way, why they had to go through this. She rather focuses on the incredible outcome and the way in which God has used Dylan to have an impact on so many other lives.
Today, Dylan is not only walking completely unaided but he has also learnt to swim again and can even drive again, albeit not alone. This is a responsibility his parents Colleen and Colin have taken upon themselves and they will wait until he has had more practice with them, before sending him to driving school.
An amazing story of a family devastated by tragedy. A story of faith, of hope, of gratitude, of choosing to the see the revelation of God’s glory.