Two years ago, Wheaton College volleyball player Jess Foggy broke her neck at a remote sports camp in Greece. Miraculously healed, she’s now back in college after this life-changing experience–with a renewed perspective on life.
Jess Foggy heard the bones crackle as all of her weight landed on the top of the vertebra in her neck. Jess had been attempting to imitate her gymnastically inclined friend’s back flips on the trampoline at a sports camp in Greece.
The staff members crowded around her to try to decide if she needed to go the hospital. Initially, she didn’t want to go to the hospital because they would have to take a boat and make a long car ride to the hospital. “I hate making a big deal out of things that aren’t a big deal,” Jess said
Upon arriving at the hospital, nurses bombarded her with questions about the WMBA. At 6’1,’’ the staff assumed she was a professional basketball star from the United States. After her consistent attempts to draw the attention away from her height and to the pain in her neck, she received medical attention. Although, the attention not helpful. The doctor’s diagnosis of the x-ray was faulty, and she was told that there was nothing wrong with her.
For the first two days back, she lay on the floor of her tent, in too much pain to get up and move. Confused as to why she was still in pain, but wanting to take full advantage of being in Greece, Jess decided to Towards the end of the week, she realized she couldn’t continue to “waste” her time there. Following the carpe diem mantra of her father, Foggy decided to make the most of the time that she had in Greece.
Jess had reached a point where she felt, “I couldn’t keep complaining about it. I didn’t know what was wrong. I was really scared internally because I didn’t know if it would be like this forever.”
Jess engaged in all of the daily activities to the best of her ability. “I would wake up in the morning hurting so much. I’d take some Advil and then I’d pray…I would probably take about three Advil every two hours.” Despite the tremendous amount of pain that she in, while there she continued to play volleyball, dive, run, hike, waterski, and teach archery. She’d tell herself, “I just need to suck it up. I’m only in Greece once, nothing is wrong with me. I have to take advantage of all this.”
When the month was up, she returned back to the states eager to start up volleyball at College. However, after going to a physical, the doctor’s informed her that she needed surgery immediately. They were astonished that with the state that the nerves and vertebrae were and that she wasn’t paralyzed.
“My vertebras had broken apart and the shredded part was just dangling on top of the other skin. I severed the vertebrae, and the veins were lying on top of the nerves. Instead of hardening or completely broken, mine had laid on the [nerves] all summer” recounted Jess.
There were so many times that she could have been more severely injured. Foggy had a Greek physical therapist look at her and move the neck all around, which looking back that was really not good for it. She had driven in crazy swerving cars, hiked in mountains, and slept in a tent for eight weeks. That alone was grounds for a worse prognosis.
The neurosurgeon informed her that 85-90% of the patients that he’s seen in the same condition would have been paralyzed from the neck down.
I was really nervous going into the surgery because the doctor said that he doesn’t do this surgery for people who aren’t paralyzed, [but] I felt like if the Lord had preserved me so far, he wasn’t going to paralyze me on the operation table.”
Throughout the process of surgery and recovery, Jess described encountering a new understanding of God’s presence and control. “When you experience things like that in your life, you know that the Lord is working and His spirit gives you His peace. There’s no way that any of this happened without Him being in control.”
Knowing that Jess could have easily become paralyzed, her healing caused her to trust God’s faithfulness and purpose even more. “I will never doubt the Lord’s control. That was something I really struggled with before. I like to be in control…I struggled with anxiety, and I think through the whole process I learned that resting and sitting in that uncertainty is ok, because we’re not living for the here and now, we are made for eternity.”
The irony of the story is that Jess headed to Greece thinking that “I knew missions. I’d done it before and I knew what it was like.” Yet, her prayer life grew exponentially as she learned to pray for bigger things.
“I see prayer as a process in which we’re learning to trust…we learn how to be honest. We are releasing control. The Greek people there would present prayer requests like ‘we need this amount of money,’ and then it’d happen!”
Jess believes Christians in the United States need more faith to pray for bigger things. I think in our church today, and in modern culture we don’t see prayer as a really cool privilege. It’s almost as if we have everything we need so we don’t need to prayer. We have transportation, we have clothing…we don’t actually beg and plead with the Lord…We don’t ask enough big things because we don’t think it works.”
Jess is now healed, and attributes it all to the grace of God. It took hardship and suffering in her life so switch her perspective. Suffering is one of those tools that God uses to teach us, explained Jess. “We’re so sinful that everything that we want is wrong. In order to be broken of that, something has to change.”
Whether that change be suffering through the pain of an injury, the death of a loved one, losing a job, God is using these things to teach us. Although Jess would never want to relive the experience, she does feel “thankful for the way he made that change in me. And he will continue to. I’m not there yet. I’ll still face hard things. If everything is fine, it’s hard to see the grace of God.”
To hear Jess Foggy’s beliefs on praying honestly and asking God for big things, listen to this clip:
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