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Fight For Life After Son is Hit by Drunk Driver

“I came inside from doing some yard work, and I got a phone call from a strange number, Charlie Burton says, ‘and it was Cole's professor. He said, ‘Cole's been in an accident.’  He said, ‘He's still breathing, but it's bad.’”

Charlie and Tina burton will never forget the morning of May 24, 2018. “At that moment I was just frozen,” Charlie recalls. “I was just paralyzed, if you will.”

That day, as their son Cole and members of his geology class searched for rocks on the side of a highway, a truck careened out of control, striking Cole.

“The emotions that we felt, I think, were mainly just confusion and worry and hope that things would be okay,” Tina says. “We prayed before we went, and before we got on the road.”

Cole was life-flighted to the UAB Medical Center. When the Burtons got there, they were devastated by the news. “When the physician, along with a chaplain, came to speak to us, I knew that it was a grave situation,” says Charlie. “I knew that they were, involved in a fight, if you will, a fight for Cole's life.

“He was already in a coma at the time that we saw him. We didn't realize that,” Tina adds. “But just, as a mother to see your child, just lying there, you want to help them.”

Cole had suffered diffuse axonal injury, a condition similar to shaken baby syndrome. “It's basically where a very fast start and stop, and the brain continues to move inside the skull,” Charlie explains. “And it creates a shearing type injury and so it's multiple injuries in multiple locations.”

The Burtons began contacting friends and family to pray for Cole. “My prayers at that point were not audible, intelligible prayers,” Charlie says. “They were groans, they were grunts.”  

“So our daughter, Libba, she did create this Facebook page, ‘Pray for Cole,’ just to keep people updated,” Tina says. “And we felt the prayers of our church family, of our family, of our community.”

All Charlie and Tina could do was wait. “Five days in, they told us that (there would be) no meaningful recovery and that he would probably be in a vegetative state the rest of his life. I started imagining, ‘Okay, so if this is what he's gonna be like, how, as a mom, am I going to take care of him?’”

Charlie adds, “Cole had weaned himself off the respirator. But he started to storm-- brainstorming. And that meant his heart rate was not regulated, his blood pressure. It was almost as if Cole was running a marathon, and the doctors and the nurses said, you know, ‘This is not sustainable. We’re going to have to put him back on the respirator. For that three weeks in ICU, of just being on an hour-by-hour rollercoaster, time kind of stood still.”

The Burtons were sustained during their trial by prayer--and by music.

“When I couldn't pray, I would listen to music,” Tina says. “And one of the main songs that I listened to was the song by Mercy Me, ‘Even If.’ In the song it says, ‘It's easy to sing when there's nothing to get you down.’ That song became important to me, because even if God chose not to heal him, that I knew Cole was going to be okay, because we knew that Cole was saved. And we knew where he would spend eternity.”

Charlie adds, “Strangely, we had this overwhelming sense of peace in that moment. God could have easily taken Cole at the scene of that accident, and He didn't. And we felt like if anybody had an opportunity to make it, it was Cole.”

After about three weeks, Cole began to respond.  Tina recalls, “The nurses came running out into the waiting room and they said, ‘He just said 'Mom!’ It's like reverting back to when they were babies, and just looking and wanting to hear that first word. He had a trach, and he had a feeding tube so we still didn’t know what his future would look like, but we knew that he was responding to those commands. Even though they were baby steps, they were happening.”

Once he was stable Cole was then transferred to the Shepherd center in Atlanta for rehab.

“They said, ‘Cole doesn't have any sneakers, and he needs sneakers. ’And I thought, ‘Well, that's kind of maybe a cruel joke, because Cole is still not mobile,” Charlie recalls. “He's not verbal. And they said, ‘No, we're going to get him up. We're going to get him moving.’ That was a sense of hope, and we were like, ‘Okay, we're in the right place.’”

Over the course of the next year, Cole continued to improve, exceeding all expectations. although he has little memory of the accident, Cole remembers his time in rehab well.

Cole says: “The people at Shepherd Center were so amazing, and incredible in my recovery. They never showed an attitude of doubt that I would get better.”

Today, Cole is back at Auburn University and is functioning at about 90% of his previous capabilities.  Cole and his family are also quick to credit the power of prayer. Cole adds, “They told my parents that there wasn't a medical explanation for what happened. I tried to understand the brain and research so I would be knowledgeable and know what to ask when I went back to see the doctors. And they said, ‘Hey, this is a miracle of God."

"Where two or more are gathered--and there were more than two, you know--God is there, and God is listening,” Tina says. “And He heard those prayers. Our hope and our prayer through all of this, and putting this on social media, was not that people would see us, not that people would see Cole, but that people would see God and the power of God. And what He can do when His people come together and believe and pray.”

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