This is not how 2013 was supposed to begin for the Nevil family.
Steve and Katy and their kids Laren and Will left home in Tennessee to visit relatives in Texas just before Thanksgiving. They never made it. A horrifying accident took the life of Katy Nevil, 38, and has left 12-year-old Lauren fighting for her life.
According to Arkansas State Police, another vehicle driving erratically along I-30 West hit the family's SUV causing them to veer off the roadway. A tree sliced through the passenger side of the car.
Katy's husband Steve was driving during the incident. He and the couple's nine-year-old son, Will, were not seriously injured.
The story doesn't end there. What has happened since is equal parts heartbreaking and inspirational. Steve Nevil started a Facebook page for Lauren, chronicling her recovery from a traumatic brain injury. He posts updates in her voice, writing words he hopes some day to hear her speak for herself.
"It helped me try to understand what she was physically going through as a 12-year-old child,” Nevil explained to a local news outlet. "I wanted to allow [people] to reside in our hospital room where I am every day, and let them see her progress.”
The Praying for the Nevils Facebook page has, in less than two months, amassed 170,000 likes from fans who are now following Lauren's difficult road and sending in prayers.
"I'm now able to be transferred from my bed of 82 days to a wheelchair," goes a typical post from earlier this week.
"Because I can get in a chair now, I've been outside 2 days in a row! … My first trip, I wanted to touch and smell all the landscaping. I was trying to touch the soft, green grass but was too far from it in my wheelchair. The nurse helped me get a few pieces from the ground. I instantly put it to my nose and with a deep inhalation from my nose, smelled it. It's amazing after 80 days the small things that you appreciate and miss so much."
Steve has been too busy helping Lauren through her ordeal to process his own grief over losing his wife, he says. But as a result he's been an incredible father and enormous boon to Lauren. The staff at Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth says her progress is encouraging, too. Some patients who have suffered similar trauma never even make it this far.
A fund has been started to assist the family with medical bills and support has been flowing in from strangers from all over the world.
"I don't understand all of that, but I'm going to accept it," says Steve. "That it's a bigger plan."
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