Sister of the Two-Time Plane Crash Surviver Speaks of the Miraculous




“We have seen miracles in our profession, but this I don’t know how to explain.” I will never forget these words from one of the physicians at the rehab institute. He had been working tirelessly to get Austin better. He went on to explain that he wasn’t someone who tended to believe in miracles like this, but he didn’t know any other way to explain the type of progress Austin was making, this kind of healing. Once a week, the family would sit around a meeting table at the rehab center and debrief about Austin’s progress. This is where I learned how intricate and fragile the brain is and how the healing from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) is unpredictable and how any healing at all is amazing because often healing can be nonexistent. When you read about Austin “overcoming the odds” it is an accurate depiction of his healing.

After the crash we weren’t sure if Austin would live. He spent three months in a medically induced coma to allow his brain time to recover. The first time I saw him awake after the coma, I was terrified. Austin was unable to speak and unable to walk. It was such a shock to see this athletic young guy not even able to feed himself. I was told this might be his new normal, but there was nothing normal about this for his family. I started to wonder if the hope that I had from his life being spared was going to turn into grief, grieving that I would not be able to talk to my brother again, grieving that I would not laugh or reminisce over memories with him again.

My heart broke just thinking about it. I’ll never forget going back to the hotel room that night and, in the quiet, I took my fists and beat the bed until my eyes ran out of tears and my body ran out of strength. “You healed him for this, Lord?” I had already lost my parents, and I felt like it was one loss after another. This one was hard to take.

Honestly, I don’t remember when it started to happen, but the conversations during the meetings with doctors started to change from despair to hope. We went from hearing “This may be his life” to “We just don’t know what to tell you. People with TBIs usually hit a plateau in their healing, and we just don’t know what that plateau will be.” Austin never plateaued. No doctor could explain it, but I can.

After the plane crash, I spent much time on my knees, face to the floor with my Bible open. I was in complete agony, searching for any word, any sign from God. There is one particular time I spent on that floor in tears that I will never forget. I was in such agony that I could feel my entire body hurt; my heart was physically aching. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t speak. But then I experienced a moment of strength. I sat up and turned my face toward Heaven and cried out, “Lord, I don’t want to be apart of some miracle story where people are in awe of a person. I want you to blow the minds of the world, so that no one (doctor, mentor, friend, sister, brother, etc) can take the credit for what you are going to do through the death of my parents, a second plane crash, and the healing of my brother.” Did he ever answer that prayer!

Austin’s story is miraculous. How could it not be when a boy survives two plane crashes? He has worked so hard. I admire the man he is and the man he is becoming. I have had a front row seat in his life for the last twelve years! Once I was sitting on the sidelines of (nearly) every basketball game he played yelling, “AJ baby!” every time he hit a three with Dad smirking at me as if to know he couldn’t shut me up if he tried. Now, I sit at home and yell, “AJ baby!” every time I see him on the T.V. being a voice of strength for others. I am crazy about my brother, and I’m so proud of him.

But, I have to tell you the truth, Austin’s story is miraculous because of God and to ignore, make light of, or try to get around His name is simply not giving or telling the full story or the truth. What you are reading in the media is just evidence of who God is!

When you allow Scripture to collide with this story, it puts fire to the miracle and a name behind and before it. You won’t find the name in the media or plastered in a magazine. There is a name above every name and it is King Jesus (Philippians 2:9). The Lord didn’t just heal my brother, he brought the house down with His healing so no man could say, “I did that”. Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the grand narrative of the Bible … you are witnessing a miracle because of Jesus.

Be sure to catch Austin on  People Icons: Heroes & Survivors on Tuesday, March 14, at 10 p.m. ET on ABC


24 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Beautiful, Maria. God is truly amazing. He is our Creator, and no one can take credit for this miracle or the lives that have been touched but Him. Love, Pattie.

      1. Praise God! You’re so right about God healing your brother. So touched by you sharing this experience. Thank you & God Bless you & your family!

  2. I read your most recent blogpost when a mutual friend (Tracy Bullion) shared it on Facebook. Steve was my doctor and your family lived in the same neighborhood as my parents – my dad and your mom were on the association board together at the time of the crash. He still has an email your mom had sent just before that regarding her trip to Joplin MO.
    When I got to the part about your prayer where you wanted there to be no doubt as to who was responsible for Austin’s healing, I teared up. This is just such an incredible testimony to God’s healing power! Thank you so much for your transparent sharing of your anguish, your pleas for complete healing, and how God has so completely answered those prayers. Blessings!

    1. Hi Lori! I am so touched that your spent time to write this and reach out. I treasure your words. I truly do. Thank you for sharing YOUR heart.

  3. God is nothing short of amazing and Austin’s story certainly testifies to that! He is so faithful.

    And can I say just how much I adore the love and support you have for each other.
    Just love your heart, Maria.

  4. Thank you, Maria, for telling this story about Austin and of the miracles that God still performs–our God is an AWESOME God!!!

  5. Such a wonderful testimony. Thank you for sharing. I have so loved and admired Austin for his testimony strength and perseverence. Now I can say the same for u. I think in the sadness of this story of Austin i forgot about you. I am so sorry. But God has been good and carried u all through this to a life well lived. Bless your heart for sharing.

    1. Do not be sorry. The message that burns inside is one that point people back to God, I am ok with this story NEVER pointing back to me. xo

  6. I have followed this story from day one and I am so in awe of your family! God has big plans for Austin’s life. May God continue to receive the glory and bless your family!

    1. yes! what I do love is that he will receive the glory regardless if we give it … we just have this beautiful opportunity to be a part of it. Love that truth!

  7. Maria, what a powerful God we serve.
    I did nanny work for the Hatch family when Austin was still in a crib in diapers until the first plane crash. I was suppose to dog sit for them, but they decided to take their dog with them. I can’t say enough about the wonderful family they were and I have followed Austins journey pouring a lot of prayer over him.
    Thank you for this wonderful, inspiring blog.

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