Seeing your Chef/Husband in Pain

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We all know chefs work long hours and come home exhausted.  There have been many nights when I’ve been woken up by something and been surprised that Tom was not home yet.  I usually call him to make sure he’s OK and then go back to sleep.  There have been a few later than normal nights this last week as he has worked 7 days straight with very long hours.  One of those nights I had some very vivid memories from a few years ago.  Ugh. . .

August 1, 2011 was one of those late nights.  I woke up around 4 am and realized that Tom was still not home.  I knew he was going to be late that night, but 4 am is no longer late . . . it’s early.  I called and he didn’t answer his phone right away.  My mind started racing about what could be wrong.  He finally answered his phone and said, “I’ve been in a car accident.  I know I got off the freeway, but I’m not sure where I am.  I’m OK.  I’ll call you right back.”

Then his phone dies.

Seriously?  We all hate it when our phone dies, but this has to be one of the worst times for this to happen.

When he doesn’t call back in 20 minutes, and doesn’t answer his phone, I walk down the hall to my friend from college who happens to be staying with us for 1 night and tell her what is going on and that I’m going to go out and look for Tom.  (Praise God she was at our home that night.  Waking up 3 small children and putting them in the car to go look for Daddy would have been a nightmare!)

After searching for a bit and not being able to locate him I finally called 911.  They said that someone had just called in an accident and asked me for the type of car.  They told me they thought it was my husband and that an officer would be calling me in a  few minutes.

Those few minutes were an eternity!!

After talking to the officer, I headed over the scene of the accident.  My husband was so tired that he had fallen asleep and driven off the side of the road and up a small embankment.  He was exhausted, sore, but not in too much pain, so we went home.  Looking back, this was definitely not the right thing to do.  I should have insisted he go to the ER to be checked over.  Live and learn!

The next morning, he could hardly move, his back hurt so much.  We left the girls with my friend and headed to Urgent Care where he was misdiagnosed with a compression fracture in his back, given a back brace and some pain meds and we went home.  The pain was so bad we ended up calling 911 the next day and ended up at the ER.  Once there, we found out he was misdiagnosed and actually had a burst fracture in his lower back.  The Dr. was amazed that he had even walked into the ER and said they he could have been paralyzed from all the moving around he had done.   So for a few days, he laid flat on his back in the hospital while a custom brace was being made for him.

Life came to a hault!  My husband, my protector, the strong man who could carry me and our 3 children out of a burning building all at the same time if he needed to, was not allowed to sit up, roll over or even move.  Even now, a few years later, tears come to my eyes as I remember sitting with him, wondering what the future held.

It’s hard to put into words how it felt for me to see my husband in pain like this.  It just broke my heart to see the look in his eyes, to talk with him about how he was feeling and to see him just lying there.  I felt so helpless.  Our parents were 19 hours away, feeling just as concerned as I was.  We were fairly new to our church and didn’t know many people very well.  I felt alone and scared.  Our lives would never be the same.  And while I knew that God had a plan to use this in our lives, I was scared about what that plan was.

What did this mean for our family, for his job?  He was a chef.  He didn’t sit down at a desk all day.  He stood on the line, managing a kitchen for hours and hours each night.  And to make things worse, he had only been at his current job for 5 weeks!  How in the world was he going to work?  He was our only income!

Time out . . . remember Philippians 4:6 – “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

OK., I’m calm again.

As I look back I am truly amazed at how God provided for us and took care of us during that time.  There are so many things that He had in place, knowing that we would need them.

  • First of all, my dear friend Sarah was at our house.  We never have people spend the night at our house.  In fact, I think she was one of the first overnight guests we’d had since we moved up here 3 years earlier.  She was here for 1 night, the night of Tom’s accident.
  • Tom walked away from the accident, was misdiagnosed and could have been paralyzed.  He wasn’t.  God protected his back while we were at home.
  • Third, he was only 5 weeks into a new job, great timing to call up the restaurant owners and tell them you broke your back and that you didn’t know what the future would hold.  The restaurant owners were amazing!  Paychecks never stopped.  Menu and website development and other jobs were found for him to do in bed and from home as he recovered.  They called to check in on him regurlarly, not to see when he was coming back, but to make sure he was taking it easy so he could heal.  Not all restaurant owners would have done that.  And through all of this, he even ended up with a promotion to a corporate chef position for the company.  God’s timing is always perfect.
  • Our church family took such great care of us.  People brought meals (which I’ve been told can be quite stressful to cook for a chef and his family), took the girls for playdates to get them out of the house since I had to stay with Tom 24/7 and men came and mowed our lawn since I wasn’t able to.  I think the thing that blessed me the most was a group of people showing up on Christmas Eve morning to rake all our leaves and haul them away.  With taking care of Tom full time, I hadn’t been able to get to them (and he obviously couldn’t do it with a broken back).  They noticed and took care of that need.  I will never forget that!

Recovery was long and painful as he wore his brace and then regained muscle strength after the brace was off.  I was exhausted as I took care of him and the girls.  It was very hard for them to see Daddy in pain and very hard for a 2 year old to understand why Daddy couldn’t hold her.  🙁  Not to mention how hard it was on Tom as well!  He was discouraged and frustrated as the days of recovery dragged on.

Tom will have issues with his back for the rest of his life.  Most days, he’s able to work without too much back pain, although the crazy busy holiday season this past December was horrible.  He didn’t mention it much or complain, but I could tell everything he did was painful by the time December was over!

Looking back, God was with us each step of the way, through the fear and pain, tears and sadness.  Since the accident there have been a few nights when he’s been late and I’ve woken up in a panic wondering where he is.  God is with me then too and I am so grateful for that.  Now I just need to remember Phil. 4:6 and pray before I start freaking out . . .


  1. Bryn Mathison

    Jen — thanks for sharing such an amazing story…this will always be part of your story. A true testament to God’s amazing ability to watch over us, take care of us and protect us.

    Keep up the writing. I love it.
    Love you!

    • Jennifer

      Thanks Bryn. So grateful that God is with us at every moment!

  2. Jenn

    I just wanted to say THANK YOU for writing this. My Chef has also had back problems and just recently in February had his second surgery and had a cage and rods installed. It helps to know we weren’t alone in having the feelings/thoughts/struggles during the healing process . Only his Boss would call to find out when he was coming back to work which made the situation so much harder. It’s not funny, but I jokingly state that he should just schedule his next surgery 5 years from now today. It’s amazing what this breed of man (Chefs) put themselves through for the love of what they do.

    • Jennifer

      Oh man! 2 surgeries? 🙁 It’s so crazy! My husband is recovering really well from his elbow surgery. We are so glad. It’s nice that he’s not in constant pain for that any more. Glad you found my blog! 🙂



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