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Welcome Home, Paylon!

Family shares amazing journey of recovery

BY LEANN DILBECK

A true living and walking testament to the tremendous power of prayer that brought forth nothing less than a miraculous healing by God, 2-year old Paylon Grace Sage, returned home Friday, April 20, exactly 40 days after the tragic accident that claimed the life of her mother, Courtney McCormack and Dakota Atkinson.

A Polk County police escort led Paylon and her family through the center of town with both sides of Hwy 71 lined with supporters, prayer warriors, and well wishers holding signs welcoming her home. Businesses and churches throughout Mena posted “Welcome Home, Paylon” as an entire community joined together in prayer for the healing of this little angel that had lost so much on that fateful day.

“No one that meets Paylon is ever the same,” said Jeff McCormack, Paylon’s maternal grandfather.

“Because, this child has stood in the presence of God.” Both Jeff and Paylon’s paternal grandmother, Deborah Shands, shared their deeply personal journey of pain, loss, and hope.

Jeff reflected on March 11, the day of the accident, and said both Courtney and Paylon had been at his house just an hour before, “we got the call…the call that every parent fears.” His wife, Kim, called Deborah, and all arrived at the accident scene while emergency personnel worked to cut Courtney and Paylon from the mangled 1998 Nissan Altima. Jeff remembers seeing Courtney’s hand hanging lifeless…”We thought we had lost both of them,” until they heard one of the emergency personnel say, “I think I saw a breath…” referring to Paylon.

Welcome-Home-Paylon
Arguably one of the most gratifying moments in an EMT’s life, a crew from South West EMS joined well wishers along Hwy 71 holding signs to welcome Paylon home. Audrey McNeal [FAR RIGHT] responded to the accident that day even though she was off-duty and has maintained contact with the family, even visiting Paylon at ACH. “There aren’t words to describe the feeling to see Paylon smile, awake, and aware after that accident…God saved Paylon. Her story shows the power of prayer.” She’s joined by her fellow EMTs Larry Slinkard, Terry Freeman, Eric Engelke and Judy Sickler.
Paylon was spared by God, says Jeff, and knows that for the 18 minutes from the time of the accident until Paylon drew that breath, that she stood in the presence of God with her mother, Courtney. A belief later confirmed by Deborah and a friend who both had the same vision. A vision of a very beautiful Courtney asking the Lord to spare her daughter.

Jeff and Deborah said that they were pulled aside and told at the local ER that “we cannot give you any reason to hope.” At that time, Deborah said Air Evac had not yet been called. She said she asked the doctor if he was a Christian, which he confirmed, and said I told him, “You may not be able to give me any reason to hope but I believe in the Giver of hope so you go back in there and do everything you can to save her life and you pray the entire time you are doing it.” Deborah said they were successful in getting an adult tracheotomy to assist Paylon to breath. Deborah remembers the EMT who stood on the car holding Paylon’s head to keep her airway open while the crew worked to cut her body free. Deborah said Air Evac later arrived and Paylon was transported to world renowned Arkansas Children’s Hospital, where upon her initial arrival, were also told the grim news that Paylon would probably not survive the night.

The scripture from God’s word, Psalm 30:5 “…in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning,” has new profound meaning to grandmother Deborah, “because when the sun came up the next morning and Paylon had survived the night, I knew…I KNEW, she was going to be alright.”  Paylon had coded three times following the accident but the sunrise brought new life for Paylon.

Jeff spoke of Deborah’s faith and said she never left Paylon’s side, “She read God’s word over Paylon, she prayed over Paylon, and she didn’t accept anything the doctors told us…she told them what Paylon was going to do.”

Deborah said, “We serve a God who can raise the dead, who can cause the lame to walk, the blind to see, and the deaf to hear.”

Paylon Defies Doctors Predicitions…Repeatedly

Jeff said they were told that Paylon would be in ICU for at least 30 days, “she was out in nine.” They told us she would be in the hospital for at least six to eight months, “she walked out in 40 days…in 40 days, Paylon was tested and found to be worthy.” Jeff referenced the significance of the 40 days used throughout the Bible during periods of testing…Noah, Elijah, Moses, and even Jesus and many, many other Bible stories center around 40 days.  Deborah believes it is no coincidence either and believes that the Lord found Paylon to be faithful and is using her story to show His magnificent power and grace.  Both Jeff and Deborah know that the Lord will use Paylon and shared that she is already testifying in song herself.  Paylon sang “Jesus Loves Me” in her church, Hatfield Assembly of God, the Sunday of the accident and again this past Sunday, her first Sunday home.  She sang it through the halls of ACH but Paylon’s version is just a bit different…

”Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.  Little ones…He is strong.”  A tremendous testimony from a tiny girl who doctors predicted would have to learn to speak again with months of therapy was singing clearly only weeks later.

“God can cause the blind to see…”

Jeff, who led his own daughter’s funeral service, said God showed his power through it when at 12:59 p.m. he led a prayer at the funeral, specific for Paylon.  As the hundreds in attendance joined in that prayer, almost 3 hours away, Paylon opened her eyes for the very first time since the accident…at exactly 12:59 p.m.

Paylon had to endure only one surgery to reconstruct the right side of her face.  Jeff said every bone in her face was broken or fractured.  The surgery by a team of seven doctors took seven hours to reconstruct using cadaver bone and titanium.

The doctors said that Paylon’s optic nerve for her right eye had been severed but as thousands of prayers continued to uplift her, Paylon now sees…not just shadows and outlines but Deborah said she sees colors at 22 feet.

“God can cause the lame to walk…”

Due to massive head trauma Paylon sustained, doctors also predicted that many of her motor skills would be adversely affected and would require months of physical therapy for Paylon to learn to walk again unassisted but as her very proud PaPa Jeff said, “she walked out of ACH completely unassisted and is getting stronger and faster everyday.”

“God can cause the deaf to hear…”

With the extensive reconstruction Paylon underwent, doctors were unable to save her inner left ear.  Paylon is on a transplant list to receive that in the near future but the resounding faith of her grandmother Deborah remains and believes that God will also restore her hearing.

Paylon does have difficulty swallowing due to injuries to the frontal lobe in her brain and is on a special diet.  Doctors said the damage is not permanent and is an issue that will correct itself in more time.  Deborah said, “but by now, the doctors won’t even predict how long because of how fast Paylon proves them wrong!”  With that being her only remaining issue, ACH had no choice but to discharge Paylon.

Her physical scars are healing and emotionally, Paylon is all smiles.  Jeff said she asked for her mother the first time she woke up from the coma.  They sedated her that night because she became so upset.  Deborah said counselors worked with her in explaining to Paylon what had happened and stressed the importance of explaining it with finality.  Kim said that Paylon was very much a “momma’s girl” always asking for her when she was gone but has not asked anymore.  Jeff said he believes Paylon knows where her mother is and that gives her peace.  Jeff and Kim’s home is full of pictures of Courtney and said when Paylon saw the pictures this weekend, she sang about her mother…with joy.

Paylon-Grandma
Holding on to the hand that never left her side and prayed without ceasing, Paylon enjoys a beautiful spring afternoon in her grandmother’s backyard…particulary proud of her new shoes that light up and sparkle when she walks!

Now, Paylon is home surrounded by family…romping and playing, unassisted, in the backyard with her cousins.  At this time, she is only expected to have two more surgeries, a cosmetic one for her face and the ear transplant.

Jeff said the scripture that encapsulates Paylon’s story for them is Hebrews 11:1 that says “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  The word “now” has profound significance to them after this tragedy.  He said he learned from Courtney’s death to never take one day or moment for granted.

The family knows it is their faith and the power of prayer that spanned 23 states and 3 countries (via Facebook) that brought this miraculous healing.  They are comfortable sharing this little miracle named Paylon with a community who joined them in the valley and now celebrates with them on the mountain in their triumphant victory.