“The next thing I knew I woke up in this awful car accident, with glass everywhere and people screaming. I remember looking around and thinking to myself, ‘Man, this is obviously not what Heaven looks like.’” 

Photo by Guy Shaw Photography


“You won’t always feel everything, you may not always ‘feel’ connected with the Lord. You may not always be on an emotional high, but that doesn’t mean He’s any weaker than He was yesterday, and that doesn’t mean that He won’t be there for you today and tomorrow.”

Emily Rice, 24, a senior theatre major at Missouri Baptist University who hopes to pursue a career in theatrical set design, also has a passion for dance, painting and leading worship.

Rice is student director of Spirit Wing, a worship ministry group that her parents were members of at MBU 30 years ago.

Many words can be used to describe Rice: daughter, sister, friend, Christian, performer, artist, musician, but most importantly, survivor.

Four years ago, Nov. 15, 2012, Rice was involved in a serious car accident near her home in House Springs, Missouri. Little did she know this accident would change her life forever.  

After being told that her parents and brother would be leaving for a choir trip in New York City, Rice was asked to take her youngest brother to school.

“I drove home, picked him up and dropped him off at school and for some reason that whole morning I felt the need to tell him, ‘Do you know how much I love you?’”  

Rice said this is uncommon behavior for her family, “We don’t really talk about that stuff,” so her brother “looked at me like I was crazy.”

After dropping him off, Rice explained, “I was supposed to be singing in Chapel that morning and left my choir dress on the kitchen table, so I was headed back home and that’s when I was in the accident.”

A man driving a Ford F-150 came flying down a two-lane back road and crossed the centerline, smashing her Kia Rio head on, crushing the vehicle so severely the jaws of life would be needed to extract Rice from her car.

“We didn’t see each other because we met at the top of a hill, so it just crushed my little Kia Rio.”

“The next thing I knew I woke up in this awful car accident, with glass everywhere and people screaming. I remember looking around and thinking to myself, ‘Man, this is obviously not what Heaven looks like.’”  

Adding to her confusion, Rice heard the man who was driving the truck that hit her, screaming, “Oh my God, I killed her, I killed her, I killed her.”  

Rice said, “There was glass everywhere, the engine of the car landed in my lap and the first thought that came to my mind was, oh my goodness, where are my legs?”

“I remember thinking, well maybe if I wiggle my toes, then I’ll be fine. So I started wiggling my toes and I thought, oh this is great. Everything’s going to be fine.”

She suddenly realized there was a woman in the car with her. A woman driving by the scene got out of her car and climbed into the car with Rice. “She later told me that when she got into my car that my heart was not beating and there was no sign of life.”

Soon the ambulance arrived and emergency workers employed the piston-driven hydraulic jaws of life to cut her out of the gnarled, tangled sheet metal mess.

“And I started singing worship music at the top of my lungs because that was the only thing that would come to mind. I sang Jesus music in the ambulance the entire way to the hospital, and the EMT that was holding my hand said, ‘Oh so you’re a Christian?’ and I said sarcastically, ‘Yeah, I guess a little bit.’ I continued to sing, and kept singing and singing and singing because it calmed me down.”

Once they arrived at the emergency room of Mercy Hospital, “I was told that I was pronounced dead at the scene and randomly woke up,” Rice said. “I didn’t remember my name, I didn’t remember anything.”

It took some time but Rice explains that she later remembered her Social Security number, her mom’s name and her own name, in that order.

“To fast forward, when I was in the hospital they broke the news to me that I was broken in 14 places, and that my hip was absolutely shattered.”

After hearing the news, “My very first thought was, ‘but I wiggled my toes, I should be fine.’ I didn’t understand what was going on.”

During surgery, “They put 16 pins in my hip, and I flat lined three more times on the table.”

Throughout the next few days the doctor informed Rice that she would probably be walking with canes the rest of her life, if she ever made it out of a wheelchair at all. “I said, but I wiggled my toes, I was fine, I don’t understand.”

Rice said the doctor told her, “You will be in the hospital for at least nine months.”

Rice responded, “No, I have a musical in three months, you don’t understand.”

Whispering to the nurse the doctor said, “Oh, she just doesn’t get it,” to which an overhearing Rice replied emphatically, “No sir, you don’t get it, I have a musical in three months.”

The odds were against her but Rice was determined.

“Through a lot of struggle and depression, I mean it wasn’t always easy, but I was dancing three months later like nothing ever happened.”

“I was only in the hospital for one month, and the doctors said, ‘You’re going to be in this rehab facility for five or six months at least.’”

But Rice was out of the rehab facility, in a week. “I was in a walker and a wheelchair, and it would take some time to get up and sit down and go through my healing process.”

When it came time to start attending classes at MBU again, Rice said, “I came back to school pretty much prepared to be in a wheelchair, prepared to have to work through everything, but God just came in and said, ‘This is my plan for you, and the doctors may have one, but I have another.’”

Three months after being released from the rehab facility, March 21, 2013, Rice was dancing in an MBU musical, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

“I’m not going to say it was always easy, it wasn’t — oh everything’s going to be fine just take the medicine and you’ll get better — but it was always OK at the end of the day,” Rice recalled. “I have had clinical depression since I was 15, so when you go through something traumatic like that it definitely sparks a lot of demons that you don’t ever expect to face.”

Being a Christian, Rice understands how important it is to trust in the Lord. When asked how the car accident affected her faith, Rice explained, “God has showed me what it means to rely on your family, what it means to have real friendships, what it means to really just have your faith.”

“There’s a verse that my mom always sent me when I was struggling, and it’s always been something I go back to when times get hard, or I wake up in pain or if I struggle that day,” Rice said. Jeremiah 29:11 reads, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

“God has continued to show me how faithful he is and how His strength is what’s important,” Rice said.

The accident was a horrific event in Rice’s life but she has turned a terrible situation into a way to share her story and inspire others.

“I travel around and get to give my testimony to these people and, though my memory is still coming back four years later, it continues to continually show me God’s faithfulness.”

Find your passion and never stop pursuing it, because as Rice says, “You may not always have time tomorrow to do something you love.”

By Danielle Dirks

Danielle Dirks is a staff journalist for MBU Timeline, majoring in public relations. She transferred to MBU in the fall of 2016, from St.Charles Community College. After graduation, Dirks hopes to pursue a career as an event coordinator.