ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- I always feel the need to share my personal story of overcoming a brain injury, coma and broken bones about this time of the year because sometimes others benefit from hearing about miracles. March 15th marks the day I was hit by a speeding car while on my bicycle.
It was a sunny Sunday afternoon in Biloxi, Miss., and family from Texas, Florida and other parts of Mississippi and I had spent our spring break at my Great-aunt Ellen's Biloxi home.
We attended St. Paddy's parades, climbed trees, laughed and did many other fun things children in 1992 enjoyed doing. Our family wrapped up spring break with a final cookout before we all traveled back to our homes the Sunday afternoon that would turn into the most tragic for my family.
As the adults grilled out, my cousins and I played outside. I was a blonde, short-haired tomboy who didn't care a thing about dolls. Baseball, bicycles, GI Joes, racing, dirt and tree climbing is what I liked to do.
My cousin Curtis challenged me to a bicycle race. For the record, the bicycle I rode was not mine. It belonged to my cousin Matt, who allowed me to borrow it for the race. We took our places on Bilmarsan Drive and were going to race to the end where it stops at Iberville Drive.
Our cousins, who are all around my age, stood on the side and watched us race. As our 6-year-old and 7-year-old feet pedaled as fast as they could on the boys' bicycles, a red sports car was going 55 miles per hour down Iberville Drive. I was ahead; I was winning. The closer I got to the intersection, the closer the car got.
'Call 9-1-1! Call 9-1-1!'
I tried to stop but the brakes malfunctioned and I rode out in front of the car. It hit me and threw me 14 feet in the air. My head shattered the windshield and I plopped onto the cement in my red T-shirt and blue-jean shorts, covered in blood from my injured head and other injured parts. My mom was inside on the telephone talking to her mother. She heard voices screaming, "Call 9-1-1! Call 9-1-1!"
Mom ran outside to see what happened and recognized the child in the red T-shirt as her daughter. "Oh, God," she screamed. "God, no. Tell me my baby's not dead!" She cried and rushed over to me. Someone called 9-1-1 and neighbors gathered around me and someone wrapped me in a pink blanket and held me as the Biloxi ambulance rushed to my location. (Folks, I was in a coma I don't remember ANY of this day or anything before I was 7½ years old because of the massive brain injury. I'm telling this part of the experience as it has been told to me through the years by my family, who witnessed it).
The ambulance rushed me to Biloxi Medical Regional Center. From there, I was life-flighted to University of South Alabama. My parents sped over to Mobile in the car as other relatives from other parts of Mississippi rushed down to Mobile.
The doctors delivered devastating news to my parents when they arrived.
"Mr. and Mrs. Luckey, we're sorry to inform you of this but your daughter's brain is like Jell-O from the injury," a doctor said. "It's mush. There is a very slim chance that she's going to live and if she does she's going to be a vegetable for the rest of her life. She's in a coma."
Mom has always said when she and Dad were on their way to Mobile, the voice of God spoke to her. She heard a voice that said, "All is well. All is well." Like a mantra. She started repeating it aloud in the car. This instilled faith in her that no matter what, I was going to survive.
People from all over the nation prayed for me. I thank every person out there who said a prayer for me.
They talked about my accident on "Good Morning America," "The 700 Club" and another national news channel, as well as local news stations in Mississippi, Texas and Alabama. My story was in newspapers in a number of states. People prayed and prayed. Nuns, Mormons, missionaries, preachers and others from many faiths came to the hospital to pray for me.
I can't keep the tears back as I write this and think about all those people who gathered to pray for a 7-year-old girl with severe brain injury and in a coma. My heart is overwhelmed with gratitude.
Out of coma, in a body cast
On the sixth day of the coma, I awoke. "Mama," I whispered. I don't know what my mom said when I came to. I imagine she praised Jesus and probably cried tears of joy, as did my dad and other family members. I don't remember the moment I awoke from the coma.
I'd been placed in a blue body cast. My left leg was broken in several places and so was my collarbone. I've seen pictures of myself in the hospital and I was covered in bruises and scars and scabs. I'm amazed when I think that little 7-year-old child was me. God had to have been smiling down at me.
I don't remember anything from being in the hospital but my parents and relatives said a couple of days out of the coma I would preach God's word to people from my hospital bed. To the nurses, doctors, etc.
God works in mysterious ways. He used me to talk to people who needed to hear it, I guess.
I don't remember how much longer I was in the hospital. Maybe a month.
My memory started coming back after I was out of the hospital as I continued to recuperate in my body cast in a hospital bed at my Great-aunt Ellen's. I had a lot of toys to play with in my hospital bed. It's not like I could run and play as a child does, considering I was in a body cast.
I made the best of it and thanked God for his miraculous blessings. My mom would play checkers with me. A lot. And cards. And Chinese checkers. Troll dolls were popular in 1992, so I had some of those. I remember my favorite mini-troll had blue hair. I named him Jason. Jason was my favorite name at the time. That might have been because I had a head injury.
I also liked Elvis Presley's music and hair, Apple Jacks cereal, turkey sandwiches and salt-and-vinegar chips, and I was extremely sensitive because of the head injury. A lot of head-injury victims have been reported to like Elvis Presley for some reason. I think I saw that on Oprah once. Weird. I'd never been into the foods mentioned above either, but I had to have the Jacks for breakfast and the sandwich and chips for lunch.
And before the accident I was said to be laid back and not very sensitive. Afterward, I remember I'd have angry outbursts a lot, which is common in brain-injury victims. Managing my emotions was not possible.
I learned how to walk again, starting with crutches, after I got out of the body cast. Then I took physical therapy once or twice a week with a therapist I absolutely adored. Her name is Melissa. What I wouldn't give to be reunited with her someday. I had to re-learn some things but all in all, I came out of that as a miracle child.
Keep the faith
Those doctors said I'd be a vegetable for the rest of my life. God and faith proved them wrong.
At 31 years old, I am thankful for so much. Thankful for the many opportunities I've had in this life, especially since at the time of the accident some people thought there was no bright future for Skyla.
But I guess more people thought differently -- I would have a bright future. I've worked as a TV/radio broadcaster, multimedia journalist, actor and 9-1-1 operator. I've served in the military, traveled to Europe and done so many other things that at one time some people didn't think I'd live to do. Thank YOU, God!
So if you're going through hard times right now, whether that be recovering and living with a brain injury, (I have a little bit of permanent brain damage) or just having hard times with anything, just keep the faith. You'll come out of whatever you're going through if you keep trying, praying and keeping the faith. God bless.