At the age of 12, I was told to say goodbye to my mom because of an unthinkable tragedy. I witnessed first hand God working in my life, healing my mom and giving us a second chance.

Photos by Dani Jo Stevenson

Your life can change in an instant, but what we can learn from this is to overcome life’s tragedies and obstacles through the strength of our support system and a hard fight.


I could hear my pulse thudding in my ears. I could feel my heart pounding in my stomach. Everything was happening so fast, yet time seemed to come to a screeching halt.

Thirty seconds passed like a lifetime as my tunnel vision focused on one thing … my mom laying in a heap of broken bones on the ground.

I remember that day like it was yesterday. The day I almost lost my mom, and the day I realized how lucky I am.

I had always heard the saying, “suspended in time,” but never fully understood exactly what it could mean.

When I heard the EMT tell me to say goodbye to my mom because she wasn’t going to make it to the hospital, I suddenly understood.

The words seemed to echo in my head as I was unable to find firm footing amidst the swirling chaos. My mom was going to die.

I was only 12, how could I say goodbye to my mom? Did I really just witness the fatal accident that would take her life?

Let me back up. From the time I could walk, I was a highly intense equestrienne.  

Even though I was so young, I was being hired to train other people’s horses, with my mom being my biggest fan, always there to watch and support.

June 11, 2008, was no different. I was working with a horse in an arena about half a mile from the entrance of the Triple A Ranch, in Callahan, Florida.

I watched my mom’s car turn off the main road and onto the gravel street that led up to the entrance of the ranch where horses had gathered to meet her.

This was usually when my little sister, 9 years old at the time, would jump out and shoo the horses away while opening the gate for the car to enter.

That day, I could see my mom usher my sister back to the car and get out to do it herself, which was highly unusual.

In the process of moving the horses away from the entrance, a 16.3 hand (67 inches) hunter jumper, made of solid muscle, positioned his hind quarters to face my mom, and kicked.

My mom endured what you call a double barrel kick, meaning the horse hit her with the full weight of his body being propelled through both feet.

This horse weighed around 1,200 pounds and had steel shoes on both feet, amplifying the intensity of the kick.

It was a surreal moment watching my mother fly through the air, hit the ground and bounce several feet. In a flurry of motion, I had jumped onto my horse and headed for the entrance in complete disbelief.

She looked so fragile and small on the ground compared to the strong invincible woman who I had looked up to my whole life.

Minutes passed like hours as the ambulances finally arrived.

My mom suffered broken ribs and a lacerated liver, causing extreme internal bleeding. The EMTs did not think she would survive.

My mom and I with the horses years later cooling off in the ocean.

After telling my father to say his final goodbyes to his wife, the EMT loaded my mom into the ambulance and headed toward the UF Health Shands Hospital.

After arriving at the hospital, my mom, who had been clinging to her life, stopped breathing in the elevator. This, however, was just beginning of her story. After a firm slap from a nearby nurse, my mom decided to continue to fight.

The rest of the day flew by in a haze, wondering if my mom was going to be OK and feeling utterly helpless. I experienced a miracle first hand that day as the doctors came out and informed us that they had done the best they could and we simply had to wait and see if her liver would regenerate.

My mom, being the fighter that she is, fought through something that no human should ever survive.

Days later, doctors told us we were out of the woods and my mom was going to be OK, but the struggle was far from over.

If my mom is one thing, it’s tough. The road to recovery was a grueling process to witness.

She was bedridden for almost three months and was restricted to a Cream of Wheat diet for two months.

I watched her push through the most excruciating pain with nothing but a positive attitude because we all knew just how lucky we were that she was alive.

Every day since then, I wake up with a loving mother in my life, realizing just how fortunate we are to have been given a second chance.

From watching her fight for her life, to watching her climb back up into the saddle, God took one of the most horrific experiences and turned it into a beautiful lesson.

I had always heard about life-altering moments when you come face to face with the reality of how short life really is, but watching my mom fight for her life completely altered my own.

By Dani Stevenson

Dani Jo Stevenson is a staff journalist for MBU Timeline. Stevenson is majoring in communications studies with a minor in journalism. Stevenson is a member of the tennis team at MBU. After graduation, Stevenson will be pursuing a master’s degree in speech language pathology.