Warren’s Story

“Jesus.” The last word out of my mouth before impact in a head-on collision on Interstate 20 near Canton, Texas.

“Jesus.” The first word out of my mouth when I woke up after a 48-day coma following that accident.

Thanksgiving Day 2000, I was on my way to visit my Mom in Fort Worth. A light drizzle was bathing the surface of the highway and as best as I can remember, I had my cruise set at around 50.

Just as I went under an overpass my little pickup truck began to hydroplane, turning my truck at a 45 degree angle. When my tires came in contact with the dry pavement under the overpass, the cruise took over, sending me in the direction I was now aimed……across the median strip.

I missed the overpass supports and I missed the guard rails, but my path took me across the slick, grassy median (which is only about 50 feet across at that point) into the oncoming traffic. At 50 miles per hour, it doesn’t take long to cross 50 feet of grass. I know; I did it and by the grace of God, I lived.

There was no way to miss the van coming from the opposite direction. I looked at the van, at the driver, back at the van, and I spoke His name, Jesus. Not a scream. Not in panic. Just His name as a one word prayer….. then impact!

The pickup was on its side; my driver door was against the highway. The impact had split the gas tank open, the fumes ignited, and immediately flames billowed like clouds from beneath the dashboard. Flames engulfed my seatbelt and I could not reach down to release the lock. I was awake, trapped, and on fire!

Seemingly from nowhere, three men appeared – one kicked in the front windshield for an escape route; another one used his knife to cut the seat belt and free me; and the third one used his handheld fire extinguisher to try to put out the flames that were burning my clothes from the lower part of my body.

The men pulled me out over the top of the steering wheel and when they had carried me about 15-20 feet, one of them asked me, “Is there anyone else in the vehicle?” The second I told them no, the truck exploded. Ten seconds longer and my rescuers and I would have all blown up in the fiery explosion, but that was not God’s plan….. for them or for me either.

Nightmares filled almost all of the next 48 days and nights of my life in the coma. There was one time, however, that I vaguely recall two of my sons, Warren II and Crash, standing beside my bed. As best I could, I tried desperately to tell them about the nurses and others who I thought were part of the groups trying to kill me, or at least I thought I told them.

The massive medicines did wonders for me, but apparently did not help my thinking or my speech a lot. Even though I remember being very serious about what I was trying to tell them, neither son could make heads or tails from what I said.

Forty-eight days after the accident, January 9th of 2001, I opened my eyes and looked around. I remembered that I had been in the accident, but I thought it was the day before.

I was alive!

I did not know where I was (LSU Burn Unit in Shreveport, thank you, Lord!), but I knew the first thing I had to do was to praise God for saving my life. I didn’t have any idea how badly I was hurt and I couldn’t move any part of my body, but I knew my life was spared only by the grace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ. I needed somehow to praise God.

I tried to remember the 23rd Psalm, but could only think of the first line or two. Next I tried to think through the Lord’s Prayer, but again, could not remember much. Then I began to think about the name Jesus. Only Jesus. Not some formal, complicated, preachy prayer……simply the name above all names….. the only one worthy to be praised: Jesus.

As I mentioned, I couldn’t move any part of my body, so the hot tears just rolled down my cheeks….. tears of happiness and joy that partner with giving praise to Almighty God. Then I stopped for a moment. I recalled that during a weekly Bible study group about six months earlier, we had discussed the difference between thinking things to God and speaking to Him out loud.

Especially in the New Testament, I believe we are taught that we should speak our praise to God aloud, not just think it in our minds. Since Satan cannot read our minds, and I wanted Satan to know that I was lifting praise to God for what had happened, I began to speak the name of Jesus out loud.

One of my nurses then noticed I was awake. It may have been the tears or maybe the noise I was making in my praise. (I didn’t know it at the time, but I had tubes running into my lungs and my tongue was severely swollen from the coma.)

Whatever I was saying probably was not understandable to the human ear. Even if my nurse couldn’t understand my praise, my Father in Heaven surely could. He understands all languages….. known and unknown….. nothing misses His ears.

The doctors estimated that I would be hospitalized for about a year and in rehab for 2 years. Through God’s healing power, I was released from the hospital in about 2 months and was in rehab for only 6 months. What a miracle worker He still is!

I discovered later that the doctors had told my family and friends that I would probably die in the coma—that I would most likely never wake up. They told me that if they had thought I would survive, they would have amputated my left leg at the knee and my right foot because both were so damaged I would never walk again. God had different plans, though. Praise His name!

The “big wreck” as Mary Beth and I call it, was the second of three accidents that I was in during a five year period. The first had occurred in March of 1997, three years previous. I was walking across the loop in Tyler when a car hit me. My broken pelvis required many months of recovery and a change of profession, from customer rep (salesman) to being a college student in order to learn a new career: computers.

I began attending Tyler Junior College in the fall of 1997, learning how to work with computers. After a couple of years of classes, however, I began to teach some computer lab classes part time for the college. By the fall of 2000, I was on full time faculty, and then came the big wreck. But teaching at TJC fit nicely into God’s plans for my future as you will soon see.

The third wreck happened about 6 months after being released from rehab from the big wreck. I got hit by another vehicle. My car had stalled on the way home one Saturday night about 11:30. I was only about a mile from home, so I decided to walk, but stayed way over in the grass, about 10 feet off the pavement.

It was a good idea, but the wrong distance. Not quite far enough off the road. Probably 10 feet, 7 inches would have been far enough, but that was not to be.

I was still recovering from the big wreck, but had graduated to living at home and walking with a cane. My left leg was still in a cast. As I walked in the grass alongside the two lane road in Chapel Hill, the driver of a truck from behind me was blinded by oncoming headlights and came off the road, hitting my left side with the truck’s passenger mirror and sending me flying about 10 feet in the air into a grassy ditch.

As I watched the driver drive off into the night, once again I talked quickly to God. To the best of my knowledge, my side of the conversation went something like this: Lord, I know I’m hit really badly again. I’m ready to go, but I really want to stay. Please let me stay.

I saw the rear lights of the car suddenly brighten as the brakes were applied. The driver turned left into a driveway and turned around to come back. As the car approached, the only thing I could move was my left leg, the one still in the cast from the big wreck.

Since the grass was higher than my body, the driver didn’t see me. I prayed more as the car went up to the top of the hill and I heard it turn around. I used my leg to move the grass around me and somehow the driver saw the movement, and pulled over to where I lay. A couple more cars followed the driver into the grass. I then prayed no one would run over me since they could not see me because of the grass.

The people who stopped didn’t know our location, so I borrowed one of their cell phones and, as I lay in the ditch, I called 911. I knew exactly where we were. It was quite a shock to find out that I was connected to a 911 operator 300 miles away, near San Antonio. In fact, she did not even know where I was, even after I gave her the name of the town. She said I was ‘out of her area’, asked me to write down the 911 local number, and began to give me the number.

I firmly expressed my horrible condition and explained that I had been hit by a truck, that I was in a ditch, in the dark, had no pen or paper, and I needed an ambulance immediately. I asked her to please connect me to the Smith County 911. At this point, she thanked me for calling 911 and she hung up on me. I was not a really happy camper at that point.

I borrowed another cell phone, called 911, and got our Smith County office operator. The ambulance driver got lost on his way to pick me up. The highway patrolman did not, though, and he told the ambulance driver how to find us.

When asked why he came back, the driver of the truck that hit me told the highway patrolman that he thought he hit a deer and wanted to see what it looked like. Just between you and me, I know that God put that thought in his mind so he would come back to me.

You see, later I found out that the impact had exploded my spleen, broken my left ribs, and that I was in the process of bleeding to death internally……I just didn’t know it at the time. 18 mg of Coumadin will make blood run like mercury, and it was doing it to mine.

If the driver of the truck had not come back, I would have bled to death in the grass, over in the dark, on a Saturday night, out in the country. But that was not in God’s plans.

I was taken to ETMC Tyler in critical condition, again! The doctors helped save my life. They released me in 11 days, and I was walking again in about 2 weeks. God is still in the miracle working business……even though we certainly don’t deserve it!

Another year later, and another miracle was waiting to happen in my life: I was about to meet Mary Beth!

The miracles were not because God considered me a moral, righteous person, for I was not. The amazing things that God pulled me through were not some kind of reward for doing the right things. Along with really hearing and obeying God, I made a number of wrong choices, too. And of course He knew all of this.

The Bible tells us that His ways are not our ways. For reasons I do not understand, He once again spared my life.

I did not deserve it then; I still don’t. That’s why God calls it grace.

A little more information: In between the 1st accident and the crash-and-burn I-20 accident, Jean, my loving wife of 27 years was found to have cancer; the following year she passed away. She was a beautiful person who gave our family many years of love, devotion, and kindness. She is missed.

And one last thing: IF God were to take me back to Thanksgiving 2000, to the split second before impact on I-20, and offer me the choice of missing the van or crashing into it and burning, then I’d go through it all again…….. the coma, the nightmares, all the extended pain and getting hit the next year…….just to be able to know Him more and to experience His intense faithfulness, His overwhelming love, and His awesome grace all over again.

…………warren powell

Warren passed from this life in August of 2021. We are working on this website and the two books to honor his memory.