By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior writer, firstname.lastname@example.org
This is a love story. Love in its many forms. The love between a bride and her groom, a father and his daughter, and a family and Riley Hospital.
Audra Parrett is the bride and the daughter in this story. Chad Parrett is her new husband, and Eric Lane is her dad.
Valentine’s Day seems the perfect time to share this story, but it goes back several years – 2008 to be exact.
In August of that year, then-13-year-old Audra Lane got it in her head to climb onto one of her family’s big four-wheelers in rural Washington, Indiana, and speed down a country road.
She careened off the road into a ditch about three-quarters of a mile from her home, passing out on impact.
Dazed, she came to and tried to get up, using her right arm to brace herself. That’s when she realized it might be broken. Still, she stood and tried to walk home, but soon collapsed on the side of the road due to excruciating pain in her back.
“I thought I was going to die.”
Yet, she had no obvious external injuries when a local doctor came across her on the road and gave her a ride home. He gave her parents strict instructions to get her to the local hospital promptly if she exhibited any signs of trouble.
Not even five minutes later, she said, she began having trouble breathing and was rushed to the local hospital in Daviess County.
Audra, a competitive athlete, was later airlifted to Riley Hospital for Children, where she spent eight days recovering from a shattered spleen, a punctured lung, bruised kidney, broken wrist and broken rib.
It was there that she met amazing caregivers, including trauma surgeon Dr. Alan Ladd, and her career began to come into focus.
Today, the once-aspiring veterinarian is a first-year resident at West Virginia University School of Medicine. She graduated from Franklin College, where she played collegiate soccer, and completed medical school at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine. Her goal is to be an anesthesiologist.
“Being in the hospital and having so many nurses and doctors interested in my care and making me feel comfortable in a time that was really scary to a 13-year-old girl, I thought maybe instead of animal medicine, I want to do people medicine so I can be that comforting person for someone else,” she said.
It was during her time in the hospital that Audra also began to appreciate the full measure of her father’s love for her.
As she recuperated, she remembers her dad by her side resting his hand on her heart. The sensation comforted her and relieved some of the pressure and pain from a chest tube. The “referred pain” she suffered traveled from her shattered spleen up into her collar bone and shoulder.
“I absolutely remember him placing his hand there, and I would wake up immediately if he took it off,” she said.
Being able to do such a simple thing for his daughter was a great comfort to Eric as well.
“The weight of my hand was enough to move the chest tube to not press against her collar bone,” he said. “What a gift just to be able to do that to ease her pain.”
That experience stayed with Eric, so when it came time to give a speech at his little girl’s wedding last year, he spoke straight from his heart.
As the room quieted, the father of the bride took the microphone and surprised Audra with his touching toast, referencing the time she spent at Riley Hospital and the initial pain of the chest tube.
“What we found out is If old dad would just sit there and put his hand on her heart, it relieved enough pressure that she could be comfortable and could rest,” he told the wedding guests.
“So, I spent a number of hours just sitting there with my hand on her heart, taking the pressure off and allowing the chest tube to not press up against the collarbone. Chad, it’s your turn,” he told her groom. “You get to put your hand on her heart.”
The sweetness of that moment was captured on video, which went viral. Audra was overcome.
The first time she cried after the accident, her dad said, was when doctors told her she would miss soccer season that school year. She took on a new role with her soccer team as a support person/trainer, helping players on the sidelines.
About three months later, she was competing again in basketball and track.
“I was recklessly playing and diving around and giving my parents heart attacks as if I didn’t almost die in a four-wheeler accident.”
She played through a lot of pain, her dad said, her competitive nature refusing to let her sit out a practice.
“Audra’s passion for life after the accident just blossomed,” he said. “She said she got a second chance and she was going to make the most of it.”
Audra is the middle of Eric and Linda Lane’s three children. She grew up making homemade Valentine’s cards for her parents, but she didn’t stop when she got older. She just got more creative.
In Eric’s office hangs a special gift she made with a Bible verse written on it that he treasures. He can’t remember for sure, but he thinks it was a combined Valentine’s/birthday gift (his birthday is Feb. 13).
The Lane family has immense love and respect for Riley. In fact, Audra’s younger sister served on the Riley Dance Marathon board at Indiana State University and together, the family raised thousands of dollars for Riley by making and selling Christmas cookies each year.
Eventually, Audra and Chad, who met playing soccer at Franklin College, would like to move back to Indiana to continue their careers. Chad worked as a respiratory therapist in pre- and post-transplant pulmonary at IU Health Methodist Hospital before leaving to join Audra in West Virginia.
That would be sweet indeed to have his daughter and son-in-law closer to home, said Eric, a bank president. But he knows she is following her passion.
“She’s who I hope to be when I grow up.”
Wedding video courtesy of Sea Jay Films