BY LEANN DILBECK –
Monday, March 11, marked the one-year anniversary of a tragic two-car accident that forever changed the lives of two local families. The collision, which claimed the lives of two, almost claimed the life of a third, and while they still mourn for those lost, they celebrate daily the survival of Paylon Grace Sage.
The Pulse was privileged to sit down with Paylon’s family one-year later to reflect on her miraculous survival and recovery.
Paylon’s mother, 19-year old Courtney McCormack, was killed that fateful day on Hwy 8 East along with 12-year old Dakota Atkinson, a passenger in the second vehicle. EMTs first on the scene were unable to get a pulse from Paylon. Just three months following the accident, both Paylon’s paternal and maternal grandparents believed that the child had stood in the presence of God. They found comfort in believing that Courtney had pled for her daughter’s life to be spared. Now, this bubbly, energetic, full-of-life 3-year old confirms their beliefs when she tells them that “Momma and Jesus left the car at the same time.” She told one of her grandmothers, Deborah Shand, “Jesus told me I had to get old.” And Deborah says, “She talks about going to Heaven again to see her Momma.”
When The Pulse first brought you Paylon’s recovery story, we told you about the countless way she defied the odds and the doctor’s predictions. Professionals told the family that Paylon would be in ICU for at least 30 days, and she was out in nine. The medical staff predicted that she’d be in the hospital for at least six to eight months but she walked out of the hospital in 40 days. “Paylon was tested and found to be worthy, just like others in the Bible,” said her paternal grandfather Jeff McCormack.
Due to the 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 grandfather reflected, “She walked out of Children’s completely unassisted.” And time has only continued to improve her skills. The day of the interview, she ran, jumped, and bounced all around the living-room smiling happily.
Doctors told the family that Paylon would not see from her left eye due to a pinched optic nerve and yet, according to family, she sees fine from that eye. The only remaining need for the eye is a tear duct that doctors were unable to salvage during the reconstruction. Her head trauma was so great that the orbital bone was reconstructed using cadaver bone. The doctors also said she would have further surgery in the future to raise the eye to be more asymmetrical but photos now versus one year ago show that the surgery is no longer necessary.
Just months following the accident, her grandfather Jeff explained the doctors learned early to stop making predictions for her and joked that they now say, “It’s just Paylon.” The doctors themselves are unable to explain her healing other than God.
Now, one-year later, she continues to amaze them. With the extensive reconstruction Paylon underwent, doctors were unable to save her inner left ear. Paylon was placed on a transplant list all the while, grandmother Deborah Shand continued believing in God’s continued healing. God’s Word had proven true time and again. He caused the blind to see, the lame to walk, and the deaf to hear. During a routine check-up, Paylon saw a new doctor who looked in her left ear and nodded that everything was fine, until Deborah stopped him and told him to look again and then asked him what he saw. “He named off the cochlea and a couple of other things. I went scrambling for my page from the surgery that confirmed they had removed all of that. I told him that it was surgically removed and I think he thought I was crazy until I found her paperwork that said it had!” Paylon is no longer on the transplant list, yet another surgery that Paylon was expected to endure has been eliminated.
The only “set-back” for Paylon has been from an injury to her frontal lobe in her brain that has affected her swallowing. But even from that, the family credits God for bringing them all together. Deborah explained that Paylon’s swallowing issue had vastly improved but admitted that all of the family had begun bickering about “little stuff. When I took Paylon in for another swallow test, she had gone back to step one.” Kimberly said that it taught them that they had to keep their focus on God and Paylon and what was in her best interest.” Deborah echoed Kimberly’s statement and said “We’re all family.”
Kimberly said Courtney’s death brought about a unification of family that wasn’t there during Courtney’s childhood but will be for Paylon. And, she said, it is that unification that has helped the family that Courtney left behind deal with a year of firsts.
The pain of losing Courtney is still very evident with the entire family but they said because God spared Paylon’s life, Courtney is still very much alive in their daily routines. Courtney’s mother, Kimberly Parker, said the resemblance alone is overwhelming. Jeff said from Kimberly’s baby pictures, to Courtney’s, to Paylon’s, it was very difficult to tell them apart.
The family is happy to share Paylon and see how her story affects people and said Paylon, herself, lifts up other people’s spirits. Deborah said that Paylon has a very keen ability to see people’s hurts and wants to help them. She said she will randomly walk up to strangers and tell them they are beautiful or that God loves them. “Paylon’s story reminds all of us that God still loves us and that He is still in the business of healing…He is still very much in the miracle business.”
Jeff said if people only draw one thing from this story, he hopes that it is that we’re not promised tomorrow and his wife Kim, Courtney’s step-mother, added, “to be very grateful for what you have.”
Deborah said the whole experience has left her with a much greater passion for the lost. A passion that has led her to join a mission team where she’s had the opportunity to minister to the White Mountain Apache tribe. “If you don’t know Jesus, you need to. He’s more real than anything in this life.”
Kimberly said for her, in so many ways, it still feels like yesterday but what helps her deal with the pit in her stomach that never goes away is Paylon. “She’s evidence that with God, all things are possible.”