Moving effortlessly around her kitchen, Muriel McGuire is doing something she hasn’t done in a while—bake cookies. You would never know that just over a year ago she was lying unconscious in the trauma unit of an Edmonton hospital. The doctors had not given her family much hope. In fact, they were certain she had a zero per cent chance of survival and was put on end-of-life care. It was very unlikely that she would be able to recover from the extensive internal injuries she suffered as a truck crossed the centre line on a highway outside of Peace River, Alta., on that fateful February morning in 2021.
Muriel and her husband, Sam, were headed to a meeting when poor road conditions and the wind caused the young driver of a Ford F-150 to swerve out of control on a curve. “Her vehicle hit Sam’s side of their small car, a Prius, as Sam was heading into the ditch to avoid the impact,” recalls Muriel’s mother, Thelma Corris, who has written a book about the events that followed that momentous winter day.
The accident scene was complicated by the presence of strong prairie winds that swept across the road, creating extremely icy conditions. These winds are known to lift up a tractor-trailer and tip it on its side in a matter of seconds. The ambulance arrived to take Muriel to the Peace River Airport, from where she would be flown to Edmonton—six hours away by car. As the ambulance left the scene of the accident, it had travelled only a short distance when the wind blew it off the road and into the ditch. As a result, the air ambulance helicopter from Grande Prairie had to be called to pick her up at the roadside and fly her to Edmonton, delaying Muriel’s admission to hospital by approximately eight hours.
Due to the extensive damage to her internal organs caused by the force and pressure of her seatbelt upon impact, Muriel developed a serious infection upon arrival at the hospital. With no chance of survival, the family sent out desperate requests for prayer. Thelma described it this way: “In great fear and sorrow the family began what was to be a long prayer vigil for mercy and healing for Muriel. Sam’s injuries were not life threatening and would heal with time. Calls for prayer went far and wide—to England, Australia, Africa, the USA, and all across Canada.” Muriel doesn’t remember any of this. In fact, she doesn’t remember the first three weeks after the accident or even the accident itself, which is, in a way, a blessing.
It was during this time of desperation that God began to speak to several people about Muriel. The young 12-year-old daughter of the pastor of their church, Christian Life Assembly in Peace River, Alta., woke up one morning while Muriel was still in a coma and declared that God had told her in a dream that Muriel would recover and be OK.
Another young person also declared that God had told him in an audible voice that she would recover. It had been approximately 20 years since he had last spent time with the family. It was during the time that Muriel was a single mother of five, and her home had become a safe haven for her children’s friends who were facing difficult family situations. Over the years, this young man had lost his belief in God. But hearing of Muriel's life-threatening condition, he decided to do something he hadn’t done in a long time—pray. And God answered.
Muriel’s mother explains what happened next: “The ICU surgeon told the family they could do nothing for her unless she gave them a sign that she could move forward. In a short time she awoke and traced Sam’s name with her finger on the nurse’s hand. Muriel couldn’t speak at the time because she had been intubated.
Then she fell silent and back into a coma for several days. The startled doctor said, “Oh, she really is in there. We’d better get busy.”
After a thorough examination, the doctor sadly reported that the arteries in both legs had been so badly damaged that there was next to no blood flow to her legs and feet. If they were unable to repair the damage, they would need to amputate both legs within a matter of two days. Once again the network of family and friends began to plead with God, specifically now for Him to heal Muriel’s legs.
Thelma reported what happened next: “Two members of the family were there the next day and witnessed the joyful discovery that a strong flow of blood was surging through her legs! God had heard and answered prayer!”
There were still problems with her abdomen: almost every organ was either bruised, crushed, or irreparably damaged. In fact, only three metres of her intestines remained intact. According to Thelma: “Weeks of recovery, filled with God’s miracles, followed. As the ICU doctor removed the breathing machine, he said, ‘If someone had told me when she arrived here that in 11 days she would be breathing on her own, I would have said, “That is impossible.”’ But with God, nothing is impossible!”
As the days and weeks passed, the doctors continued to work on repairing her internal organs. Muriel also had a broken vertebra in her neck for which she needed to wear a neck brace. In addition, her ankle was crushed and put in a cast to be operated on later, once her more urgent injuries were repaired.
Sam had been released from hospital a few days after the accident with some injuries to his back, and he had suffered a concussion. However, after three weeks, he was well enough to travel so he could be by Muriel’s side to assist with her personal care needs. There was a shortage of nursing staff due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and no other visitors were allowed to see her.
Initially, Muriel needed to be fed intravenously due to all the damage to her stomach and intestines. Thelma described those difficult weeks this way: “Muriel was not allowed any liquid by mouth—just ice cubes. So Sam helped with that, and when she could take food he helped her with the pudding texture diet. When she could sit up for a while, Sam would take her for wheelchair walks in the halls.”
After 54 days, Muriel was released from the ICU trauma ward and transferred to a rehabilitation hospital. There she worked closely with physiotherapists to regain her strength. She learned to walk again and to climb stairs, all of which her doctors had told her family she would never do again. Part of Muriel’s treatment included a cognitive assessment due to the extensive brain injury she had suffered as well. However, during testing it became clear that Muriel did not have any lasting damage. The therapist even remarked that she could complete the timed tests faster than he could! At the request of Muriel’s boss, Sam asked her if she knew the password to her work computer. To everyone’s surprise, she readily supplied him with the password, which he was then able to relay to her boss.
Muriel spent a total of 83 days recovering in the two hospitals, which was half of the time the doctors had predicted she would need to be hospitalized in order to recover. Sam and Muriel continued outpatient therapy in their hometown and pursued their own activities, which included tending to their large garden each day. Muriel returned to her job as an accountant nine months later. Sam returned to his job as a delivery driver for a local all-purpose delivery service, which takes him regularly past the place on the highway where the accident happened.
There was one fatality: the passenger and friend of the young woman who was driving the pick-up truck. Sam and Muriel have visited her to help ease her guilt over the damage that was caused by the accident. They are still reaching out to her.
In the year since the accident, Muriel and Sam have continued to marvel at God’s goodness and lovingkindness toward them and their family. As Muriel reflects over the events of the past year, she doesn’t dwell on why this happened to her. She doesn’t believe in wallowing in self-pity. She doesn’t know why this happened, but she does ask herself this: “How can I use what happened to me to help someone else?” Life is more precious than ever for this family and those who love them.
Although Muriel still needs one more operation on her abdomen, she and her family have seen the power of an ever-present, all-powerful, loving God who hears and answers the desperate prayers of anyone willing to cry out for help.
Thelma put it this way: “Throughout this traumatic voyage the family has been of one mind. We knew there was no hope for Muriel unless our wonder-working God took her in His hand and carried her through the ‘valley of the shadow of death.’ He has done that and also saved Sam’s life and kept him from permanent injury. For this we are eternally grateful. Thank You, God!”
Thelma Corris, who first called testimony to share this story of her daughter’s recovery, lives in Fort Saskatchewan, Alta. She held deaconess credentials with the PAOC until 1976. Barbara Hein holds ministry related credentials and is a speaker, an author, and a member of Life Church in Edmonton, Alta.
This article appeared in the July/August/September 2022 issue of testimony/Enrich, a quarterly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. © 2022 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Home page photo of Dunvegan Bridge in Northern Alberta © istockphoto.com. Photos courtesy Muriel McGuire. Pictured: Muriel McGuire out fishing and Thelma Corris celebrating a birthday.