How a Near-Death Experience Tested My Faith

The patron saint day of the Guardian Angel is October 2. On that date, nine years ago when I was 24 years old, I was run over by an 18-wheel truck, which left me seriously wondering if my angels had decided to take the day off.

I stayed conscious during the entire accident. I felt the tires crush my body, and I laid there helplessly in unyielding pain, praying the Hail Mary and the Our Father until they intubated me. After 10 hours of emergency surgery, I woke up with all of my ribs broken, a fractured pelvis, and substantial organ damage—I felt like a completely different person from who I was only hours before. I spent the next two months of my life in the hospital, struggling to find my way back to the carefree girl I was before my accident.

I had always been a committed Catholic, and in the weeks after I had been admitted to the hospital, many people wanted to talk to me about my faith. They wanted to know if I felt stronger about God now that I had been “saved.” I said that I did—that I couldn’t believe how lucky I was that God had spared me.

That’s because I didn’t want them to know what was actually going on in my head.

I was afraid that God had forgotten me. The accident made me grapple with my faith, not gain it. The pain that I was in was unbearable, and it never stopped. It was like living in a pain hurricane—it hit me from all angles. I used to be able to run a mile in five minutes and eighteen seconds. Now I couldn’t even lift my legs. What kind of God would let that happen to a nice girl like me?

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I was so upset that I tried to go on a break from God for a few days. I decided to give Him the silent treatment. I got through the day just fine, but, like a needy girlfriend, I was still praying to Him every night. He was the only person I knew would be up, and even though I was mad at God for letting this happen to me, I was grateful to have someone to talk to about the things I didn’t want to say out loud. God offered me comfort even when I felt let down by Him. I couldn’t stop myself from praying.

I gave up on my futile attempt to ice out God, and I went back to praying all of the time. I worked incredibly hard on my physical recovery, and as I saw progress in my body, I felt my spirits lift and my hope grow in a way that I hadn’t thought was possible. I had seen true darkness, and now it felt like the light that was peeking in was so much brighter.

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Nine years later, I look almost the same physically as the girl I was before this accident, give or take a few things. But spiritually, I am a different person. I have more faith that I am loved, that I am here for a reason, and that God is with me and ready to give me strength when I am at my weakest.

Now, I don’t question where my guardian angels were on October 2. I know that they were right there with me, saving my life, and that they have been saving me every day since.

Katie McKenna chronicles her story in the new memoir “How to Get Run Over by a Truck.”