On Sunday, September 19, Adelynn Connors, 14, was on a bus to the LCBC’s Manheim campus after a religious retreat in New York State.
Her mother, RenÃ©e Connors, received a panicked phone call from the mother of one of Adelynn’s friends.
âShe was crying hysterically, saying there had been an accident,â Connors said.
The bus crashed around 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, September 19, just off the Hegins exit of Interstate 81 in Frailey Township, Schuylkill County.
Adelynn, a ninth grade student at Manheim Canton High School, and 31 others on the bus were injured.
Adelynn had a broken back. His ribs on both sides were cracked. She had a massive blood transfusion and suffered a concussion so severe that she weakened her eyesight.
For a while, doctors wondered if she had suffered any brain damage.
âI call it my walking miracle,â Connors said of his daughter. “It is only by the grace of God that she is here.”
“We just prayed, prayed, prayed”
Connors, 44, described Adelynn as a “beautiful, smart and loving girl” who scores top marks and enjoys skiing and swimming. She is a member of the high school ski club and swim team, and swims with the Skyline Sharks team in the summers.
At first, Connors thought that Adelynn might not have been seriously injured. As the day dragged on and she drove to the scene of the crash, Connors still hadn’t heard from his daughter.
âYou start to play mind games,â she said. “You think, ‘OK, she doesn’t have her cell phone, so she can’t call.’ As time goes on you think, “maybe she just doesn’t know my phone number.”
Two girls are still hospitalized in rehabilitation centers after the accident, LCBC told LNP | LancasterOnline last week. State police also said the crash investigation was ongoing and no further updates were available.
When a young volunteer, who had evacuated the less injured girls from the bus, called Adelynn to see if she was still inside, there was no response. But Adelynn was still in the wreckage, unable to answer loud enough for the youth manager to hear her.
Rescuers flew Adelynn to Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, where they had to resuscitate her with a massive blood transfusion. Geisinger officials called Connors, letting him know that “a whole team” was working on his daughter.
When Connors arrived at Geisinger, hospital officials summoned a chaplain and took her outside.
âMy life had just ended at that point,â she said.
Adelynn was seriously injured and bled inside, hospital officials said, although at this point they did not know the extent of her injuries.
âWe just prayed, prayed, prayed,â Connors said. “I begged Jesus not to take her home, that it was not his time.”
His spleen was broken and needed to be removed. His pancreas was cut in half. Her kidney was severed and her adrenal glands and liver were damaged. His ribs were fractured on both sides of his body. Her back was broken in an area that often leads to paralysis – a condition she somehow avoided, although she lost around 15% of her reach while twisting.
A concussion weakened his eyesight and it was not clear if his brain had been damaged in the crash.
âIt took three surgeries to finally shut it down,â Connors said. âShe was intubated for a week.
“It’s just something that you never, ever think is going to happen.”
Surgery fixed Adelynn’s broken back, with surgeons inserting four screws and two rods into her spine. She is still weak in her midsection and wears a rigid valve splint, Connors said.
On October 13, Adelynn left Geisinger to return home, nearly a month after a life-changing moments on a Pennsylvania highway.
Adelynn is recovering, both physically and mentally, and said her faith has only gotten stronger. It was hard not being able to go to school and see her friends, she said, but she copes with spending time with them outside of class. It helps her feel like herself again, she said.
âI just feel better and better as I get back to my normal life,â she said.
Adelynn said it was God who saved her and the other girls who were on the bus.
“He kept me calm while waiting for the EMTs and helicopters to arrive,” she said.
The road to healing
Adelynn takes short walks around her neighborhood to regain her strength, as she cannot walk for long periods of time. A physiotherapist comes to her home about twice a week.
Adelynn’s pain will likely continue for several months or a year, her mother says. She might be able to resume more intensive activities like swimming during the summer, although what that might look like is not yet known.
âWe don’t know if she’ll be able to make the swim team or what,â Connors said.
The Connors have yet to return to the LCBC as a family, although Adelynn hopes to start attending youth services soon. A teacher is working with Adelynn one-on-one for daily home schooling, and she won’t be returning to class in person until at least January.
Adelynn and her family rely on their faith to guide them through what they describe as a difficult time.
âWe think (God) saved her,â Connors said. “We think it’s a miracle that she’s alive.”
Connors is grateful, she said, for the paramedics who acknowledged that Adelynn was injured inside, saving her life.
Support for the Connors comes from across Lancaster County, including the LCBC, Adelynn’s swim team, and friends and family. Some deliver meals to the Connor’s home every night. A Greek Orthodox church held a special service to pray for Adelynn, and a surgeon even sat down with Connors to pray at one point. Over $ 51,000 was raised in a GoFundMe for Adelynn’s medical expenses.
Even strangers sent the family cards, and Connors heard stories from people as far away as Canada and Africa praying for Adelynn.
“With all the pessimism, it’s been really nice to see so many people coming around and showing their support and just wanting to try and help you in any way. It kinda restores your faith in humanity,” Connors said, adding that those who want to help should donate blood, because that’s what saved Adelynn.
Adelynn “is getting stronger and (seeming) brighter every day,” Connors said. Although Adelynn misses activities like swimming and skiing, “she handles it a lot better than I thought”.
âHer whole life has been turned upside down,â Connors said. âEverything she knows is gone. Here she becomes an independent person at 14, and here I have to be her guardian all the time and in her space.
“It will be a long time before she comes back, and there will be a lot of things that she cannot do,” she said. “But she’s alive, and that’s what we need to focus on.”