All our suffering and challenges have a purpose in God’s plan. Remembering that in the hard times is important.
Amanda M. Klemp
It was May of 2013, and Samantha (Sam) Schroth had just graduated from college with a bachelor of science in animal science with a pre-veterinary emphasis—a degree she worked hard to earn in three years. As she walked across the stage to receive her diploma, she thought about how to enjoy her summer off before starting vet school in the fall.
But the hope of a relaxing summer and vet school came crashing down the next weekend. Sam was at a friend’s cabin in northern Minnesota, and as she was standing outside ready to enjoy the first boat ride of the season, a dead tree fell on her. In what is the exact definition of a random accident, Sam’s life was permanently changed.
“The section that fell on me was five feet long and one and a half feet in diameter and knocked me down to the ground really hard. It actually took two people to get the tree off of me,” says Sam. “My friend gave me CPR because I wasn’t breathing at the time. I assume I got the wind knocked out of me. Then I was driven from that location to the nearest clearing, and from the clearing I was picked up by helicopter and flown to the nearest trauma center, which was actually in Fargo, North Dakota.”
The accident resulted in a spinal cord injury, leaving her paralyzed from the waist down.
Sam spent three months in the hospital—three and a half weeks in Fargo and then a rehabilitation hospital in Colorado. “I don’t remember any of it,” she says. “I’m very thankful that God doesn’t let me remember those things, because from what I heard it was a very challenging time—collapsed lung, broken ribs.”
She does remember waking up in Colorado. “I remember being shocked and confused that I was in Colorado, because I had no idea where I was,” she says. But she was not surprised that she lost the use of her legs. Her parents repeatedly and lovingly told her about the injury while she was unconscious, and she believes their words reduced that shock when she woke up.
Rehabilitation kept her busy while in Colorado and kept her mind off what life was going to be like once she returned to Wisconsin, where she lived. “We had classes from 7 A.M. to 5 P.M., just learning how to live life as a paraplegic,” Sam explains. “So many things are different, and the world is very much not built for a person in a wheelchair. So, it was about learning how to live life and make the world work for you.
“I didn’t really realize all that would need to change and all that I would need to adjust to until I came home from the hospital, and I definitely had those ‘what in the world am I going to do now’ thoughts.
“It was definitely a really challenging time watching my friends go back to school and continue with their lives while I was sitting at home, struggling to find my independence.”
Adjusting to life at home had its expected challenges. Sam explains, “Physically, I realized how much I used to take for granted, things that I used to think were no big deal—something as simple as opening a door. That was something we were actually taught in rehab classes: how to open a door in a wheelchair without one of those handicap buttons.” However, she adds, “I don’t like to press those now anyway, because I’m fiercely independent and I do things how I want.”
Emotionally, she learned to stop asking the “what-if” questions. “I realized it put me in this really negative and dark place; it wasn’t a place that I needed to be,” she says. “I came to the conclusion that it happened because it was supposed to, and God has a purpose for this occurring in my life, and I need to trust that plan even though I have no idea what it is.”
The early days being home were the hardest, but knowing that God was with her and learning to trust him helped her get through. “You realize you need
to lean on something a lot bigger than yourself, and I’m so thankful and blessed that I have a great and awesome and powerful God that I was able to lean on during that time,” says Sam.
Today, Sam has adjusted to life in a wheelchair and can even drive herself. She’s able to work remotely for her alma mater, the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities, doing research part time. In addition, she’s taking business classes at the University of Wisconsin–Fox Valley and has applied to medical school. Since the accident, she has shifted her focus from veterinary school to medical school, hoping to specialize in spinal cord injuries.
Besides continuing her education, Sam volunteers at The Ave., an Appleton, Wisconsin–area WELS teen group. She likes to work with teens, particularly encouraging them to interact and find their place. She wants them to know it’s okay to be different.
“I’m happy to get out and talk to people, and I’m happy to be out and live the life that I have, even though it’s very different from what I ever expected it to be,” says Sam. “I can only attribute that to my awesome God, who has brought me through the hard struggles.”
She says that even though her life has drastically changed, she wouldn’t undo the accident if she could. “It’s a hard transition and it’s a big transition, but I’ve learned so much about myself and what I want to do in life, and [I’ve] grown so much in my faith and met so many people that I never would’ve met before.”
She continues, “That doesn’t make it easy, that’s for sure. But it would be hard to give up all I gained in a spiritual and emotional sense. If I would change anything, it would be how I was living before the injury. I would definitely have been more grateful for everything I did have.”
After her experiences, her advice to everyone dealing with a hardship would be to put their trust in God. “It’s really important to stop, reflect, and give it to God,” she says. “When you put it on your own shoulders, you’re not going to go anywhere, and it’s going to get really hard. But when you just stop and realize that there’s someone a lot bigger than you and a lot stronger and so much greater and so much more loving—God loves us more than we will ever know or ever be able to fathom—and when you realize that, it all gets a lot easier. All our suffering and challenges have a purpose in God’s plan, and remembering that in the hard times is really important.”
Amanda Klemp, WELS web content manager, is a member at Living Word, Waukesha, Wisconsin.
Do you have a manuscript, idea, or story from your own life you’d like to share for use in Forward in Christ or on wels.net? Use our online form to share it to our editorial office for consideration.
Get inspirational stories, spiritual help, and synod news from Forward in Christ every month. Print and digital subscriptions are available from Northwestern Publishing House.
Author: Amanda M. Klemp
Volume 102, Number 2
Issue: February 2015
Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2018
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us