Miracle recovery spurs farmer to share message of hope, power of prayer
STUDLEY, Va. — Four years after a horrific car accident, miracle survival and recovery, it doesn’t happen as often, but Grayson Kirby still gets stopped by strangers whom his story has impacted.
Invariably the conversation starts out the same: “You don’t know me but I followed your story and it changed my life.” In one case it was a man reading about Grayson that led him to get baptized. In another it was a person contemplating suicide but following Grayson’s recovery gave him hope.
Grayson, who farms about 2,800 acres or grain and hay crops in eight Virginia counties with his father Wayne, said he relishes the opportunity to meet someone he’s helped and spread his message of hope, belief and the power of prayer.
“I look at it as a way to inspire,” Grayson said, sitting with his father and mother Karen in the in the office of his family’s Creamfield Farm. “I can’t deny the gift I was given and I feel like it’s part of my calling to make sure that I deliver the message and share with anybody.”
A two-percent chance
On June 7, 2014, Grayson and friend were driving around a field after a motorsport event and the vehicle flipped over, throwing Grayson from the car to the bottom of a hill. It was dark, it took friends several minutes to find Grayson and the event’s volunteer medical staff had already left.
His injuries were extensive; collapsed lungs, severe head trauma, punctured liver, fractures in his neck, back, nine ribs, collarbone and shoulder. Upon arrival at University of Virginia Medical Center, doctors gave him a two percent chance of living.
Facing such a bleak outlook for their son, Wayne and Karen, said it was relying on their Christian faith and the prayers and support of so many who latched on to Grayson’s story that got them through the ordeal and helped Grayson make a near-full recovery.
“I really do believe the power of prayer played a major, major role in this because within 24 hours there were people all over the world praying,” Karen said.
“People would show up at UVA with prayer blankets and food and say ‘you don’t know me but I’ve been following this story and we’re very inspired and we’re praying’ and they would bring things to us.”
‘People took over our lives’
Back at the Kirby’s farm in Hanover County, friends and fellow farmers came to the rescue, too, harvesting the Kirby’s wheat, planting their soybeans along with many other tasks while Wayne and Karen kept a non-stop six-week vigil in the hospital waiting room and at Grayson’s bedside.
“People took over our lives at the time,” Karen said. “They fed our dogs, they fed my chickens at the time, they cut our grass, they weeded our flowerbeds they watered my flowers they got our mail and paper. It was all different people doing different things.”
The outpouring of support grew so fast, Grayson’s brother, Graham, created a Facebook page called GWKStrong, to help streamline updates on Grayson’s condition. Every day for a year, either Graham or Karen updated the page with Grayson’s progress to what grew to be more than 9,000 followers.
“If we didn’t post people would just freak out the next morning because they wouldn’t go to bed until they saw something,” Karen recalled.
Grayson said he believes the family’s positive outlook and reliance on their faith in the posts helped attract so many followers.
“It was always, ‘God’s will be done,’ ‘We’re not in control, He’s the Master Healer,’ Grayson said of the nature of the posts. “This stuff goes on everyday, prayers needed, prayers needed,” he added. “If you don’t know them directly, if it doesn’t impact directly you just say ‘well I hope they get better.’ On this particular thing they’d stop, That’s what’s fascinating to me about it.”
With treatment options between slim and none, doctors put Grayson on extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation or ECMO, a machine that puts oxygen into the blood and circulates it throughout the body. It had been rarely done in trauma situations, if at all, and success in non-trauma patients was about 50 percent. If Grayson survived the laborious process, doctors anticipated severe brain damage to remain.
The Kirbys, huddled in the trauma center’s waiting area, put their prayers into overdrive, and put the matter in God’s hands as the “Master Physician,” Karen said.
A few days after Father’s Day, and 11 days after the accident, Grayson started to move and mouthed the words “I love you” to Wayne.
Recovery wasn’t easy; he had to learn to walk again and regain his strength from laying two weeks in a bed but after two months of rehabilitation, Grayson was cleared to go home. By October that year, he was back in the field driving the combine.
Physically, the lasting effects of Grayson’s accident are the loss of sight in his left eye and loss of feeling in his left leg from the knee down. A brace on his leg makes it able for hime to climb steps and a customized clutch pedal from Agrability allows him to drive trucks. On follow-up visits to the hospital and meeting with doctors that weren’t involved in saving Grayson, Karen said medical staff have been astonished at how well Grayson has recovered.
“They didn’t think there would be anything there or that he’d be normal again and we’re just so thankful,” she said. “Every day is a blessing.”
‘If I was asked I would go.’
News of Grayson’s harrowing story caught national attention with appearances on “The Steve Harvey Show” and “700 Club,” along with news coverage throughout Virginia. From the start of that exposure, and now still, Grayson said he looks at each interview as a chance to share his message and help people.
He has spoken to more than 25 groups about the experience in churches, schools and conferences.
“I couldn’t deny them. If I was asked I would go,” Grayson said. “My take on it is God saved someone with a connection to a lot of people to use me to reach out. It’s a message of persistence and hope, spirituality.”
The speaking engagements left people in awe, Wayne said, especially the young people in the crowd who could relate to Grayson, now 34.
“The young people were listening to every word he said and you would expect a different reaction than from a real young person than a mature Christian adult,” Wayne said.
More important purpose
Years after Grayson’s recovery, the GWKStrong Facebook page lives on as a digital prayer chain, with followers offering their own prayer requests and praises.
At Mechanicsville Church of Christ, where Grayson is a lifelong member, the pastor told him his story became a turning point for the church.
“He said he saw people change he saw things happening and what they were striving to do for growth started happening. It brought everybody together.”
Personally, Grayson said the accident changed his perspective on life as well.
“It really honed me in on trying to be somebody and have a purpose and do something for God, for my family, the friends that supported me and for myself,” he said. “It really transitioned my focus into being more driven, more success driven.”
Along with farming, he operates GWK Trucking with four over-the-road trucks criss-crossing the country.
He no longer has the need for speed that he chased with power boats, ATVs and other motorsports.
He recently bought a street rod pickup but doesn’t go near the drag strip, preferring to drive it into town or to church now and then.
“That edge is gone,” he said. “I always pushed it because I never found the limit. Well, I found the limit. And I’ve backed it down to a safe range.”
He’s also driven now by a calling that has no limit.
“I know that my purpose here is a lot more important than going fast and the fixation on filling the need for whatever that might be,” he said. “I’ll always use the opportunities to share my story with people.”
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