LIGHT NIGHT 2019: Terri Kern provides a light in the world

By Qwynn Watts

Light Night was held on Jan. 13 in the Performing Arts Center. Students invited a special woman in their life for a casual and fun evening. Starting off the night, mothers and daughters enjoyed sweet treats, raffles and conversation. Soon they filed into the PAC to watch show choir perform their routine followed by Terri Kern who came all the way from Kansas City to share her life story in a presentation called “Discovering Joy through Suffering.”

Kern was the oldest of four growing up in Utah as a Catholic. Faith wasn’t mentioned much in her household other than the establishment that they were Catholic. When she became a mother, she wanted to set a different example of faith in her house. She wanted religion to become a vital part of her family’s daily life by implementing a “faith cabinet” where you journal about your struggles or triumphs and offer them up to God by putting it in the cabinet. She prayed that her mom would convert to Catholicism for 20 years.

On Feb. 14, 2008 she journaled about her journey with her husband Mike within the past year after he fragmented a disc in his back. She emphasized how much she believed that God had helped them through this time of recovery. She noted in this entry that their journey was nowhere near over. This foreshadowed April 28, 2008, when everything changed. 

 The morning was just a regular Monday. he took her kids to school, had her prayer time and was making her way across the four lane street she drove on every day. Moments later she was struck by an SUV and flew 35 feet across the road.

A witness called 911 immediately, and she was rushed to the hospital. She surprisingly was able to talk to the emergency care team and went into total mom mode wondering “Who will pick Halley up from school?” or “Who will take John to baseball practice?” when the only thing she should have been worrying about was her own well-being. She fortunately didn’t have any broken bones, but she did have major brain injuries as she had a stroke shortly after arriving at the hospital. She fell into a coma, and her family was flown to Kansas City to support her.

By the looks of her condition, there seemed to be no hope for her survival, but there was a light at the end of the tunnel. “God puts people in your path if you’re able to see them,” Kern said. That light was Dr. Thompson. He is an ENT at Overland Park Regional Hospital.  He recommended for her to be rushed to St. Lukes Hospital with Neurosurgeon Dr. Paul Camarata. This was a big risk given the state she was in, but she believed that the Holy Spirit carried her the entire way to the hospital. Her husband had to decide whether or not to go through with it because if something went wrong, it could be fatal. This decision is the reason why she is alive today. Another tough decision fell upon him when he found out that to give her brain the maximum amount of blood flow they had to thin her blood. He asked Dr. Camarata what he would do if this was his wife, and he responded that he would want to save her brain first and then deal with the other injuries. So they went through with it, and in the end, it was successful. From then on things began to look up for Kern. She remembers mostly everything, including when her mother told her while she was under that if she survived this, she would start taking classes to become Catholic. 

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She survived. She then was moved to a rehab facility about two miles away from home. At this point she had to relearn everything: how to walk, how to eat, how to talk, etc. This was the part she struggled with the most, realizing how much people take everyday things like this for granted. As her journey continued, her mom began to take classes to become Catholic. Kern was discharged in June 2008. This was a scary thought for her, taking into account that she was one of the most able people in this facility and that the roles would be reversed in the real world. She finally gained enough courage to tackle the next challenge in her life and was discharged to live with her family. She initially had a lot of difficulty connecting with her family because she had no filter and would laugh and cry at inappropriate times. As she started to become more accustomed to her surroundings, things slowly became better, especially when her mom became baptized, received communion and was confirmed all at the same time. All 13 grandkids came to the service wearing matching shirts with Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose,” on them, her favorite Bible verse.

The last challenge she wanted to conquer was meeting the driver that caused this trauma. “My memory loss is a blessing; I have no memory of what happened, but the driver re-lives this pain every day, and I wanted to lift that off of his shoulder,” Kern said. She didn’t want to sue him or confront him about what happened, all she wanted to do was forgive. They met at the courthouse, and they both broke down in tears and talked about the accident. All had been forgiven, and they both were finally at peace. 

Kern continues to inspire people with her story of one faith-filled woman’s will to live and her family’s journey from suffering to joy. This is displayed in her book “Moving Mountains,” written by her family members about their experiences through this trauma, it is available on Amazon. “I am convinced that God does not send the equipped, he equips them as they go,” Kern said. 

Light Night ended on a high note leaving everyone’s hearts filled with love and joy. Kern sent the women off with the inspiring message about discovering joy through suffering to reflect on and implement throughout their lives. 

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