Lauren Worley’s knack for bringing people together is apparent, even as she recovers from the severe injuries she received when the vehicle she and her boyfriend, Micah Underwood, were traveling in when it was struck head-on.
Lauren’s dad, Chris Worley, said the family would not have made it through the ordeal that began on December 16 without the support of the community and their friends.
“My wife and I, and my whole family, we are lucky that we have so many friends and immediate family that’s offered prayers of support, and we’ve had hundreds of visitors,” he said.
So far Lauren has had five surgeries to treat her injuries, including a cranioplasty for her cracked frontal lobe injury, a craniectomy to control her brain swelling, femur surgery, and on January 2, jaw surgery. All of the surgeries were successful.
“She is a miracle,” Worley said. Lauren is now “out of the critical phases, and she’s getting ready to start the rehab phases.”
He explained that Lauren is still on her pain medications, and will not leave the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) until she is completely weaned off of them. He speculates that will be 5 to 7 days.
“At that time, once she’s off,” they’ll “be able to let her go down to the PCU (Progressive Care Unit) or step-down unit somewhere in the hospital,” he said.
Also on January 3, Lauren’s physical and occupational therapists started meeting with her, and she is expected to start rehabilitation soon.
Lauren has come a long way since the night of the accident which Worley described the incident as every parent’s worst nightmare.
“It was a scene out of a horror movie,” he said, adding that a location app, Life 360, used by the family, led him and his wife, Mandy to the scene.
“I actually helped lift the roof of the car because when the Jaws of Life stopped working, we had to use a Sawzall to get the roof off. I helped the firefighters lift the roof off,” Worley said.
The couple’s other two daughters were also on the scene. Kendra Worley, his 15-year-old, was with Mandy, and Natalie, the 11-year-old, was with him, though she didn’t get out of the vehicle.
“Kendra’s seen everything, and she’s handling it well. Both of our children have been staying with Mandy’s sister, Dawn, and Mike Gregory, and they’ve been trying to help them lead as close to a normal life as they can, obviously,” he said.
Worley said Kendra and Natalie both play basketball and go to their practices, games and such to “let them lead as normal life as possible. They are coming up and staying with me and Mandy on the weekends.”
Worley said he and Mandy slept in the hospital’s waiting room for the first eight days.
“Then when the brain swelling started to subside, we started, we are starting to sleep at the Ronald McDonald House a couple of blocks from the hospital,” he said.
The two took a break after 18 days, briefly leaving the Roanoke hospital on Jan. 3 to visit their home and attend Kendra’s game.
Worley said the family is forever indebted to the hospital, the Ronald McDonald House, all the doctors, nurses, and first responders.
“It was a blessing they were able to get her out of the car so fast and get her to the hospital so fast. It saved her life,” he said, adding that the trauma doctor told him that in his seven years “of being up here, he’s never seen” anyone with an injury similar to Lauren’s live to get to the hospital.
“They’re always, unfortunately, DOA (Dead on Arrival) when they get to the hospital,” Worley said. “So, she is a miracle.”
While he was told that every brain injury is different, Worley said every neurotrauma doctor and nurse at Roanoke Memorial told him that young brains heal, “and young brains can mend and repair nerves and get those neurons firing, but they’re all different.
“So, we don’t know how long her road to recovery will be. It could be a few months, could be a year, we just don’t know, it’s too early to tell that,” he said.
Continued prayers and community support are what the family most needs now, Worley said.
“Lauren is a miracle, and regardless of how religious you are, our faith is what got us through this as parents. The prayers have been answered. Our prayers have been answered,” he said.
Like any parent, Worley said he and Mandy were begging and pleading with God the night of the accident to not take their daughter.
“She’s still here, and we’re going to be able to take her home one day, which it’s a miracle,” he said.
During the accident, Worley said Lauren was sitting with her legs crisscrossed in the seat of her car.
“All the metal from the engine that was pushed back was pushed into the seat of her car. If her legs had been in the floorboard, it would have severed her legs, and she would have bled out. She would not have made it,” he said.
Worley said it’s little things like this that happened that are all little miracles that allowed Lauren to make it to the hospital.
He added the first responders who responded to his daughter’s accident have his utmost respect.
“Our county is so blessed to have first responders, volunteer responders, that were able to do this and save lives. It’s remarkable, I can’t say enough about them,” he said.
Worley said he and his family are so grateful for all the gifts, donations, T-shirt drives, and prayers they have received from people in the community, surrounding communities, and churches.
Worley said Grace Baptist Church Pastor Mark Elkin, his family’s pastor, told him his 10 p.m. prayer request reached 41,000 people – which shows the sheer amount of people that have been praying for his daughter and following her journey.
“We know she’s going to have a testimony to tell one day, me and Mandy will have a testimony on ourselves to tell, and that’s okay. We’re prepared to take her to anybody that wants to listen when she recovers,” he said.
Worley said all he and his family want to ask for is continued prayers for Lauren’s recovery process and her rehab.
“As far as gifts, you know, it’s going to take a small U-Haul to get all the stuff we got out of the Ronald McDonald House back to Woolwine. We’ve been showered with gifts, it’s just been unbelievable,” he said.
Worley said Underwood suffered a broken femur and a broken wrist. He was released from the hospital after being there for five days. Though he has been resting at home, Worley said Underwood texts him, Mandy, and Kendra several times a day.
“He is a faithful, devout Christian. He is praying every day for Lauren and her road to recovery. I think he understands the severity of her injuries now, he didn’t in the beginning,” Worley said. “We kind of just didn’t tell him while he was in the hospital how severe her injuries were just because we wanted him to try to focus on his injuries.”
A GoFundMe to help pay for Lauren’s medical expenses raised $40,182 as of Jan. 9, exceeding the goal of $25,000.
To donate, go to www.gofundme.com/f/lauren-worley-medical-expenses.