A Change of Plans

with Kim and Krickitt Carpenter | August 7, 2012

Ten weeks into their marriage the unthinkable happened. Heading home for the Thanksgiving holidays, Kim and Krickitt were hit by another car. Kim was critically injured and Krickitt suffered through a traumatic brain injury. Kim and Krickitt Carpenter recall that awful night and the challenges of recovery, especially when doctors discovered that Krickitt had lost all her memories of the past year, including the fact that she was married.

Ten weeks into their marriage the unthinkable happened. Heading home for the Thanksgiving holidays, Kim and Krickitt were hit by another car. Kim was critically injured and Krickitt suffered through a traumatic brain injury. Kim and Krickitt Carpenter recall that awful night and the challenges of recovery, especially when doctors discovered that Krickitt had lost all her memories of the past year, including the fact that she was married.

A Change of Plans

With Kim and Krickitt Carpenter
August 07, 2012
| Download Transcript PDF

Bob:  At about 6:30 in the evening on November 24th, 1993, 5.7 miles east of the Arizona/New Mexico state line on I-40, a white Ford® Escort was involved in a collision with two trucks.  Inside the Escort were Kim and Krickitt Carpenter.  Krickitt’s life was hanging by a thread.

Kim:  When I got to the University of New Mexico Medical Center, my dad had called ahead.  We pulled up to the ER, where the ambulances usually pull up.  There were people waiting.  My best man—God love him—he knelt down on his knees and he said, “How are you doing, Bud?”  I looked at him; I said, “Mike, is she still alive?”  He took a big sigh.  He said, “She’s fighting.  She’s fighting.”

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, August 7th.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  Krickitt Carpenter won the battle for her life, but the fight for her marriage was just beginning.  Stay tuned.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition.  You know, all of us are going to face challenges in marriage.  Probably none of us will face the kind of challenge that our guests today faced, with the car accident that we’re going to hear about; but the decision winds up being the same, whether the challenge is a big challenge or a small challenge; right?


Dennis:  That’s exactly right.  Kim and Krickitt Carpenter join us on FamilyLife Today.  Kim, Krickitt, welcome back.

Kim:  Thank you very much.

Krickitt:  Thank you.  It’s great to be here.

Dennis:  They have written a book called The Vow.  That is a story that inspired a movie by the same name.  They live in Farmington, New Mexico.  We established that earlier—near Four Corners—the only place in America where you can stand on four states at one time.  There are probably people who have pulled out a map, who are going, “Now wait a second.  There’s got to be other places in America where that can happen.”

But back to how Bob set this up.  Your relationship started, Kim, when you ordered some sporting goods from Krickitt because you were a head baseball coach.  You spent over a hundred hours together—well, hundreds of hours together over the phone, finally met, fell in love, made the commitment, and started your marriage together.

Bob:  I have to scold the two of you because you didn’t attend a Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway before you got married, which we think ought to be a requirement for all of our listeners and our children. 

Although I have to say, my son James, who got married last month—he and his fiancée, now his wife, did not attend a Weekend to Remember  before they got married, as well; but they were registered for one.  They’re going to be at the Weekend to Remember in Estes Park, which is one of dozens of Weekends to Remember that we’re going to be hosting, all across the country, this fall.

Let me just do a little commercial here because I need to let our listeners know that this week and next week we have a special offer for FamilyLife Today listeners.  If you would like to attend one of these upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaways, either as an engaged couple or as a married couple—and most of the folks who come are married couples—but we have a lot of engaged couples who come, as well. 

If you’d like to attend, now would be the perfect time to sign up because, this week and next week, we’re making a special offer to FamilyLife Today listeners.  If you sign up and mention that you listen to FamilyLife Today, you will save 35 percent off the regular registration fee.  Go to FamilyLifeToday.com—you can register online, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. 

If you register online, as you fill out the online registration form, you have to type my name.  You have to type, “BOB”, into the promo code box in order for the special offer to kick in; or if you call 1-800-FL-TODAY, we can answer any questions you might have about the event—get you registered over the phone.  Just make sure you mention that you listen to FamilyLife Today and you want to take advantage of the special offer. 

Again, we’re going to be hosting these events in dozens of cities this fall—and some cool locations, too, like Estes Park, Colorado.  I’m going to be at one in San Antonio, Texas, this fall.  There are some beautiful spots where the Weekend to Remember is being held.  Find out more and register this week to take advantage of the special offer.  Go online at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY”.  We can get you all signed up.

With that, the commercial is over and we’ll get back to your story.  Kim, where did you guys get married?

Kim:  In September of 1993, we were married in Scottsdale, Arizona, at Scottsdale Bible Church.

Bob:  And you honeymooned?

Kim:  And we honeymooned in Maui.

Dennis:  Oh, wow!

Bob:  That’s nice.

Kim:  We did.

Bob:  And then settled in in Las Vegas, New Mexico, where you were living?

Kim:  The original Las Vegas.  It’s a small town.

Dennis:  And where you were coaching; right?

Kim:  I was.  I was coaching at the university there.  It’s a NCAA small college called Highlands University.  Then, eight, just nearly ten weeks after we were married, that’s when it all changed.

Dennis:  What happened?

Kim:  Well, we were on our way to Phoenix, Arizona, for our first Thanksgiving celebration, together, with Krickitt’s parents.  Six miles west of Gallup, New Mexico, on Interstate 40, we came upon the back end of a flat bed semi that was a parts hauler.  It was doing about 25 miles an hour on the Interstate, throwing exhaust everywhere.  We thought we were in a fog.  It was dark. 

Before we knew it, there was a sudden taillight blur.  Krickitt tried to swerve to miss the vehicle.  The front driver’s side axle and tire caught the rear passenger side of the truck, and struck its dual axle, and we bounced off of it.  A one-ton Chevy pickup—that was following us too closely, literally broad-sided us and creamed the car.  In fact, the police report was extremely detailed.  The car went airborne for over 30 feet before the impact point hit, and then we rolled another one-and-a-half times, and slid on the roof of the vehicle over 100 feet before it finally came to a stop.

Dennis:  You didn’t have a seat belt on.

Kim:  I did not.  No.  I’ve often described it as being thrown around like a sock in the dryer.  You’re helpless.  I can remember every point of impact, what bone broke on what impact point.  We were both critically injured.  My back was drug on the interstate for over 100 feet.  Krickitt sustained a traumatic brain injury with a skull fracture and bleeding in and on the brain.

Bob:  You’re taken to the hospital in Gallup; I guess?

Kim:  We are.  We were transported to Gallup to ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Rehoboth McKinley Hospital.  Krickitt was trapped in the vehicle.  They had to cut her out.  She was in the vehicle for over an hour.

Dennis:  Was she wearing her seatbelt?

Kim:  She was.  She was hung upside down in the seatbelt.  In fact, I thought she had died.  I was yelling for her at the time, and a trucker had actually—the car was still running when we stopped.  A trucker was yelling to turn the vehicle off.  The key was busted off in the ignition, but our passenger was finally able to get the ignition shut off.  Not long after, things got eerily quiet.  I heard this “ughhhhh” gasp, and I thought that it was Krickitt.  I thought she had died, right there.  I was yelling for her.  

It was dark. I couldn’t see.  It was really ironic.  I felt like somebody had sprayed water on me everywhere.  I was soaking wet.  I later found out that the skull fracture was—she was bleeding pretty profusely.  I was actually right below her, in the darkness of the accident.  I did not find out for a few minutes that she was actually still alive until I got into the ambulance and I heard the paramedic calling to the hospital saying, “We’ve got one serious but stable.  We’ve got another one critically injured with possible pneumothorax to the lung and a third victim, still trapped in the car, who is critical.  They’re trying to extricate her.”  So that was my first real knowledge that she was alive.

Dennis:  You were conscious?

Kim:  The entire time.

Dennis:  Amazing.  Your own faith—had Krickitt impacted you in your walk with God at that point so that when you started walking down a dark valley you immediately cried out to God?

Kim:  Absolutely.  I was a young Christian at the time.  She was far more mature in her faith than I was, but I had enough of faith in my life that I knew full well that this was in God’s hands.  I just was so fearful because, when we got to the hospital, I had several lacerations to my face and back.  I also—they were concerned I had suffered a skull fracture behind my left ear, that was torn up pretty bad.  So they took me to CT to get a CT scan.  I came back, and they had just pulled her into the hospital.  About 15 minutes later, a doctor came in and gave me a manila envelope.  It had her wedding ring and watch in it.  He said, “We’re sorry.”  I thought she had died; and I said, “What do you mean, you’re sorry?”  He said, “Well, we’re trying to do everything we can for her; and she’s very ill.”

Dennis:  They weren’t giving her much of a chance?

Kim:  No. They had pretty much written her off.  I wanted to see her, and I kept telling them.  They said, “Well, we need to do some work on you; but we’re trying to do everything we can for her.”  So, they were bouncing back and forth.  The x-rays on my chest had shown a scratch on my lung, instead of a puncture.  I had broken two ribs, broke my hand, my nose, and completely severed my left ear.  My nose was actually on my upper lip.  The wonders of plastic surgery put me back together. 

It was a violent, violent wreck—nothing I have ever.  You want to feel helpless—go sit in a 500-gallon drum of a dryer, and turn it on, and see how helpless you feel because that’s what it felt like in the car.

Bob:  And when did you realize that Krickitt had pulled through and that she was okay?

Kim:  Well, the doctors came in a few minutes later.  They said, “Well, she seems to be trying to fight.  She is very ill.  We can’t take care of her here.  We’re going to airlift her to Albuquerque, to the University of New Mexico Hospital.”  I went ballistic.  If she’s going to die, I wanted to be there, “I’m not staying here.”  I left against medical advice.  My dad knew the fire chief in Gallup.

Dennis:  Now wait a second.  You left against medical advice.

Kim:  I did.

Dennis:  How did you leave?

Kim:  I got a ride from the fire chief of Gallup, New Mexico who took me to Grants.  The nurse had told me, “You could die if you leave.”  I said “Well, if she dies, I don’t want to be alive anyway.”  He came and got me, and put me in the car, and got me to Grants.  My dad was waiting in a truck stop there.  Grants is about—oh, not too far from Albuquerque—between Gallup, New Mexico, and Interstate 40.  He rushed me to the U of NM Hospital. 

One of the most compelling parts to this story—that was really interesting that night is—when I got to the University of New Mexico Medical Center, my dad had called ahead, to not only check in and see how it’s going, but to let them know that I’m going to need to be worked on.  We pulled up in the ER, where the ambulances usually pull up.  There were people waiting.  My best man—God love him—he pushed through every single—there were two nurses, there was an orderly—one or two orderlies—and he pushed through them. 

They were telling him they were going to arrest him.  He said, “I want to talk to this guy.”  He knelt down on his knees and put his hands on my thigh.  He said, “How you doing, Bud?”  I looked at him; I said, “Mike, is she still alive?”  He took a big sigh.  He said, “She’s fighting.  She’s fighting.” 

I got in there and they worked on me.  I finally was able to go see her, and she was seizuring.  They had told us she was very ill—she’s probably not going to live through the afternoon.  You know what?  God had a different plan in mind.  The second day, I grabbed her hand.  I was trying to tell her to squeeze my hand.  She seemed to be responding.  The neuropsychologists were like, “Well, you just don’t know.” 

Really, the most compelling point, then in ICU, was when they took the feeding tube out of her—after day five.  It was a great day because I went in and was trying to talk to her.  I leaned down and told her I loved her.  She said, “I love you, too.”  I went crazy.  I went out, like I had just won the lottery; but we later found out it was a conditioned response—that a lot of times, as you go through the years, where you have, “I love you,” “I love you, too” —that kind of thing.  The neuropsychologists determined it was a conditioned response.  She was still in a very deep coma; but she was upright, and walking, and talking, going into the end of the second month.

Bob:  So what they were calling a coma was Krickitt not being able to pull up data from the past? 

Kim:  Well, that’s her form of amnesia that she suffered.

Bob:  And when did you become aware that that was a part of what had happened to her?

Kim:  Twenty-one days after the accident.  We had been transported to Arizona to Barrow Neurological Institute.  Twenty-one days after the accident, a doctor came in.  They decided—basically, a coma, when you damage your brain—your brain is resting, is basically what’s happening.  So, they woke her up.  They really abused her to get her to open up.  I mean, they pinched her, twisted skin, did everything to aggravate the daylights out of her. 

They were able to get her up enough to ask questions.  They were doing what’s called a reorientation session—asking her about her awareness.  They’d say, “Well, who’s your mom?” She said, “Mary.”  This was really the first she had done any talking.  We were so full of anxiety.  She said, “Who’s your dad?”  She said, “Gus.”  They said, “Well, Krickitt, who’s your husband?”  She didn’t say anything. 

They said, “Krickitt, who’s your husband?”  She kind of opened her eyes and said, “Well, I’m not married.”  I said, “No, Krickitt, you are married.  Who’s your husband?”  She said, “Todd.”  Todd was an ex-boyfriend from about two to three years prior to when we met.  I couldn’t believe what I heard out of her mouth.  I left the room.  I remember going out, and punching the wall, and sliding down the wall, thinking, “What in the world is going on?”  It was devastating.

A neuropsychologist came out and said, “Hey, she’s disoriented.  Let’s just see what happens.  We’ll play it by ear.  She obviously has some retrograde amnesia.”  Barrow did a great job.  I couldn’t compliment another institute like what they did.  They educated us.  Every week, we had education classes on the brain, memory loss—all of that.  It made our life so much easier to be able to comprehend what’s going to happen in the transitions of a head injury recovery.

Bob:  But you had to be thinking, “This is temporary.  She’ll get it back.  Sure she’s not remembering everything, but she’s getting better.  The memory will come back.”  But at some point it dawned on you, “It’s not coming back.”

Kim:  About two weeks after.  It was a roller coaster ride because we had to start all over with her.  We had her in diapers for a couple of weeks.  Occupational therapy came in and tried to work with her on brushing her teeth and combing her hair, and trying to reinforce what you do for daily hygiene, and things like that.  She was able to retain it after she learned it, but it was a real challenge.

Dennis:  But she didn’t recognize you.

Kim:  No, and anybody she—my family came to visit.  She didn’t recognize any of them—anybody that she had come into contact with—in fact, they finally did a diagnosis of her to try to find and identify a time frame so that we could get a better understanding of what her recollection was.  They determined about 22 months, and give or take—of what’s called snapshot memories.  Those kinds of things she was able to remember, but it was up and down. 

It was, “Hi, how you doing?”  One second, she’s real friendly; and the next second, she would turn on you.  I pushed her through rehab.  I didn’t feel—here’s a two-time academic all-American gymnast from Cal State Fullerton, who was a top physical athlete in college.  I did not feel, as a coach, that physical therapy was doing enough with her—so I pushed her.  If she went four minutes on a treadmill, “Let’s do two more.”  If she went up one stair flight, “Let’s do another flight.”  She hated me for it.

Dennis:  Krickitt, 22 months that’s blank.  What’s the last memory before the blank slate? 

Krickitt:  I remember back in college and right after college.  I can remember going to a retreat that I went to with my girlfriends.  That’s probably one of the last memories I had before Kim entered my life.

Kim:  You spent a lot of time talking about your mission, too.

Krickitt:  Right.  I did.  I went on a mission trip.  I was a gymnast, and I was a gymnast for 19 years.  I had a college scholarship at Cal State Fullerton; but my senior year, I blew my knee out.  So, that ended my college career.  That opened the door for me to go on a mission trip to Hungary with my college group.  I can remember doing that.  I can remember some real sweet moments of that trip.  Right around that time is the last time that I remember. 

And then, the 22 months—I start to remember.  I was in outpatient rehab in April.  I was living at my parents’ house in Phoenix because that’s where I was from and that’s where Barrows Neurological Institute is.  I remember looking in the mirror thinking, “Okay, Krickitt.”  I have this scab, up on the back of my head.  I had definitely been hit with something on the back of my head.  I remember looking down at my ankle; and I’m like, “Golly, I don’t remember having this scar before.” 

Then, I remember thinking, “Everyone is telling me the same story about this car accident and this guy named Kim.”  You know what?  It just dawned on me in April, “I am not waking up from this dream.”  I looked in the mirror and I thought, “Wow!  I think this is really happening to me.  I’ve been in a bad car accident and I’m married to a guy named Kim.”  That’s when I start to pick up memory again. 

And I do—in that 22 months—I have a few snapshot memories.  That’s what they’re called.  It’s basically like I can maybe picture a table.  I can picture the scenery, like the ocean.  We’ve gone back, and we’ve been able to place some of those snapshots.  That one was on our honeymoon.  So, I have a few little snapshot memories and that’s it; but there’s no feelings and there’s no emotion connected to the memory.  It’s basically like looking out two eyes and seeing a picture, and that’s it.

Dennis:  Well, just listening to your story, you just kind of take a step back and go, “You know, we have this false assumption in our minds we’re in charge, that we’re in control”—

Kim:  Absolutely.

Dennis:  —of what’s happening to us.

Krickitt:  And we’re not.

Dennis:  In an instant, your lives were turned—

Krickitt:  Upside down.

Dennis:  —upside down.  About all you had to cling to was the faith that you had begun to learn, Kim—and Krickitt, your faith that had caused you to grow as a college student, that you’d built your life around—

Krickitt:  Right.

Dennis:  —and your mission you were on.  It’s interesting to see how having just that can sustain you—

Krickitt:  Oh, definitely.

Dennis:  —and can give you a foundation and a place to begin anew.  I wonder, Bob, if there’s not somebody listening who maybe just kind of needs to go back to the basics in their relationship around their faith in God—the promise they made one another.  They just need to start building from there.

Bob:  I think of the number of couples who have attended one of our Weekend to Remember marriage getaways.  At the end of the weekend, one of the things they tell us is that it was a weekend of spiritual recommitment for them.  Their walk with Christ had become stale or routine, and God used the weekend to breathe a breath of fresh air into their walk with Him and into their relationship with one another.

Of course, we’ve already mentioned that we have a special offer, this week, for FamilyLife Today listeners.  You can attend an upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaway and save 35 percent off the regular registration fee.  All the details for that are online at FamilyLifeToday.com.  The offer is good this week and next week only.  If you want to take advantage of that special offer for FamilyLife Today listeners, now is the time to go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information; or call us if you have any questions at 1-800-FL-TODAY. 

If you are a regular listener to FamilyLife Today but you’ve never made a donation to support the ministry, and if you’d like to attend a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway, this month, we are trying to connect with those of you who do listen regularly but have never gotten in touch with us.  We’re asking you to consider making a first-time donation to support the ministry. 

If you can go online at FamilyLifeToday.com or call 1-800-FLTODAY and make a donation, we want to send you, as a thank-you gift, the new movie, October Baby, which is not yet out on DVD.  We have some advance copies of that, and we’ll send one to you if you make a donation.  If that donation is $100 or more, we’ll send you a certificate so that you and your spouse can attend a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway as our guests; or you can pass the certificate along to your children or to someone else you know who would like to attend.

Again, this is for those of you who are regular listeners but you’ve never gotten in touch with us to let us know you’re listening, and you can help out with a donation, this month, of $100 or more.  We’ll send you the Weekend to Remember registration certificate.  If the donation is less than $100, we’re going to say, “Thank you,” by sending you the movie, October Baby.  We’re glad you’re listening, and we look forward to hearing from you.  We appreciate your financial support for this ministry.

Let me also add that we have copies of Kim and Krickitt Carpenter’s book, The Vow, in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center.  This is one of those cases where the book really is better than the movie.  Let me encourage you to go online at FamilyLifeToday.com and order a copy of the book; or call us, toll-free, at 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY”.

Now, tomorrow, we’re going to hear about the rebuilding process that happened in Kim and Krickitt Carpenter’s marriage.  I hope you can tune in for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today

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