A Gift of Life

Fore note: The story below was written by Lenoir City High School students Tori Jenkins and David Ball, members of the school newspaper The Panther Press. The story was rejected by the paper's editor and sponsor due to its "religious content." The students revised the original story to remove any mention of a Christian God except when quoting others, but the story was again rejected for even more frivolous reasons.
The story needs to be told, and I am more than happy to share their story here. I am heartened that we have young people in our community who still hold to Christian beliefs. But  I am even more disheartened that we have adults in positions of authority who fail to acknowledge the importance of those beliefs and deny others the right to freely express them. 

Sequoyah Smith started the new school year like all her classmates at Crossroads Christian Academy. Nothing remarkable, except for the fact that just two months earlier, Sequoyah was in a coma at UT Medical Center, clinging to life.

At about 10:30 p.m. on May 17, Sequoyah left a Bible study in her Volkswagen Passat and headed toward home in a rainstorm. Moments later her car hydroplaned on a curve, left the road, and wrapped itself around a telephone poll.

Barry Smith, Sequoyah’s father, knew something was wrong when the power in his house went off at about the time Sequoyah was expected home. Unable to reach Sequoyah on her cell phone, he went out looking for her. Smith arrived to the scene of his daughter’s accident just as emergency responders were trying to free Sequoyah from the tangled wreckage. It was only when he got close enough to see the license plate that he realized it was Sequoyah.

It took rescue workers more than an hour to free Sequoyah. With Lifestar unable to land during the storm, they rushed her by ambulance to UT.  It was quickly apparent that Sequoyah’s injuries were life threatening. She had several broken ribs, a punctured lung, and a broken pelvis.

Kelly Smith, Sequoyah’s mother was in Michigan helping her son, Josh, move back to Tennessee when she learned of the accident. She returned immediately, arriving at UT the next morning. There, she found some 150 people in the waiting room for Sequoyah.

Looking back, she expressed her amazement at the sight. “You don’t realize how much people love until you see something like that,” she says.

This was just the beginning of an outpouring of love and support for Sequoyah. Her friends were not there for just a short while; they stayed throughout the whole ordeal.

Sequoyah’s injuries were so great that doctors kept her in an induced coma. Though unaware of all that was going on around her, Sequoyah’s friends and family continued to gather. Soon they had organized a 24-hour prayer vigil. Little did they know how long it would last. “Some of these kids gave up their whole summer to sit in the hospital.” Kelly says.

In time, this group of young teens started to call themselves the “Green Team,” named for Sequoyah’s favorite color. Several LCHS students were among them.

After almost losing Sequoyah several times, Kelly says that it was prayer that kept her alive, “When we would pray, she would come back,” she says. Sequoyah spent a total of 71 days at UT, much of that time in a coma and on a respirator. “The whole time, Sequoyah was sleeping, and God used that time to heal her,” Kelly says.

Sequoyah awoke from her coma, and one week later, August 1, she walked out of the hospital, on her own.

Recently, when asked about the accident, Sequoyah said she doesn’t remember any of it. “I remember my legs getting stuck and I thought I was dreaming my friends were there. When I woke up and figured out what they had done, it made me cry.”

Sequoyah is now on the road to a full recovery, and the lives she touched are forever changed. Members of the Green Team still go to the hospital every Tuesday to pray with patients.

LCHS Green Team members say the experience was nothing short of life-changing. Junior Drew Marable said, “It was amazing being part of the Green Team…to be part of a group of people that after many weeks of worshiping and praying for Sequoyah grew closer together as well as to God. It was an awesome recovery to witness.

Senior Logan Hendrix recalled, “My experience with the Green Team was mind-boggling and life-changing. It is amazing what God does to put us back in place and on track.”

Mazie Perky, a junior, also tells how being a part of the Green Team affected her life. “It was an amazing thing to just sit back and watch. It was also amazing to see students from Lenoir City and CCA come together as a family and pray so faithfully for Sequoyah. We prayed for her from the night of her accident to the day of her full recovery. I feel blessed to be a part of the Green Team.”

Sequoyah’s gift of life touched the lives of countless others. Facebook and Myspace groups dedicated to Sequoyah now promote prayer for her and others. Sequoyah’s story spread across the nation, airing on CNN and elsewhere.

Corey Howell, a sophomore at LCHS, summed up Sequoyah’s recovery and the Green Team story this way: “It was a great experience. I feel blessed and proud. All I have to say, bottom line, God is good.” 

Click Here For CNN Video 'Green team' helps comatose teen* (It loads a little slow)