Missouri Baptist teacher credits ‘small tree’ with saving her life
By Bob Baysinger
February 17, 2004
“Thus were the visions of mine head in my bed; I saw, and behold a tree in the midst of the earth, and the height thereof was great. The tree grew, and was strong … (Daniel 4:10-11)
JEFFERSON CITY – Trees have always played an important role in the life of man.
In the book of Daniel, it was a tall and strong tree that left Nebuchadnezzar afraid in his dream.
Tree leaves manufacture oxygen for us to breathe.
The songwriter asked the question: “Was it for crimes that I had done He groaned upon the tree?"
And two Missouri Baptists – Aby Bramlett and Ken Koffer – say it’s because of a “very small tree" that they are alive today.
“It was some time later when I revisited the sight of the accident that I was able to fully realize what a miracle it was that Ken Koffer and I survived," said Bramlett in an interview with The Pathway about one year after the horrific two-vehicle accident on U.S. 50 east of Jefferson City.
“We had managed to snag Koffer’s truck on a very small tree – the only one there – on the edge of a deep ravine. Had we not caught ourselves on that tree, we would almost certainly have rolled down the incline and been killed."
Bramlett is a member at Concord Baptist Church and Koffer a member at Cornerstone Baptist, both in Jefferson City. Both are teachers in the Westphalia public schools, located about 15 miles east of the Capital City. On Jan. 15, 2003, Bramlett was having car trouble and asked Koffer if she could ride to work with him.
It was on the way home that day that their lives were placed in jeopardy.
“We were on Highway 50, nearly to Taos, and I was talking with Ken about my students when I saw him tense up," Bramlett said. “I looked forward and saw a pickup truck cross the highway directly in front of us. I barely had time to react. The last thing that I remember was hearing both of us scream right before everything went black."
Koffer and Bramlett were riding in a small pickup. The vehicle crossing the highway was a larger pickup.
The small pickup careened off the road and headed down the steep embankment after the impact. Only the “very small tree" prevented them from plunging into the ravine.
“When I came to the first thing that I noticed was how odd and twisted the inside of the truck looked," Bramlett said. “Everything seemed way too close to my face. It was then that I became aware of the shattered glass covering me and everything else inside the truck. I finally realized that someone was tapping at my window, and I turned to see."
“The man told me that he was an EMT from out of state. He had seen the accident and stopped. He asked me if I could roll down my window because he couldn’t get the door open. It was pinned against the tree.
“I tried but realized then that something was wrong with my body. I managed a few cranks and then he reached in the window and he finished for me. Just then, the pain started to hit in waves. I grabbed that man by the shirt and squeezed as hard as I could!"
Koffer doesn’t remember as much about the accident as Bramlett. He blacked out.
“All I remember is that we were on Highway 50 coming from Westphalia . There is a turnoff where vehicles cross the highway. I had it (the accelerator) set on cruise control at 65. I saw somebody come up and pull in front of me. I turned my wheel to try to avoid them. That’s all I remember until they cut me out of that little Nissan pickup," Koffer said.
Bramlett was awake during the ordeal.
“The rescue teams covered Ken and I with a blanket and used the jaws of life to tear off the roof of the truck. The EMT’s told me that they were going to lift me out of the truck. They asked me not to move because they were on a steep incline and didn’t want to drop me," Bramlett said.
“The two guys in the ambulance cut my clothes off to check for injuries. I talked them out of cutting off my favorite pair of shoes."
Bramlett suffered severe upper body injuries.
Koffer’s right leg was shattered below the knee and above the ankle.
Koffer’s wife, Margaret, realized the seriousness of the injuries even before her husband.
“I was at home fixing supper," she said. “Ken was walking about three miles every day after finishing his teaching. I thought that was what he was doing.
“I wasn’t even concerned when I received a call from St. Mary’s (Health Center), telling me that my husband was at the hospital. Ken had broken his ankle about a year and one-half earlier, and I thought he had twisted his ankle while walking and somebody had taken him to the hospital."
Margaret soon learned differently.
“A nurse met me and asked me if I was bothered by (the sight) of blood. I told her ‘no,’ but she insisted on going with me. When I saw him, there was blood everywhere. I was shocked. It did bother me a little bit that time."
“I still didn’t know what happened until a Highway Patrolman came and explained to me what happened."
Koffer said he has been told that his leg bone was showing through the flesh in three places. Even after three surgeries, doctors were concerned that infection would force them to remove the leg.
“A lot of people prayed for us and provided support during this ordeal," Koffer said. “It sure is nice to be part of a church that cares.
“I believe God was in this thing, even in the emergency room. The emergency room doctor realized quickly that he had neither the expertise nor equipment to deal with my injury. That’s why they shipped me right over to the University Hospitals at Columbia ."
Bramlett, too, could see God at work at the hospital.
“I was talking with my doctor about my injuries. About this time I became aware of Margaret and several other people in the cubicle next to mine praying for Ken as he was in surgery," Bramlett said.
“And after I was released from the hospital, God really worked a miracle in that Corey (Bramlett’s husband) was allowed to take off work indefinitely to care for me. This truly was a miracle because Corey’s job is so demanding and so specialized that he can rarely be spared even for one day," Bramlett said.
“And yet he was able to take off work to care for me for two months!"
Bramlett needed the extended care because doctors continued to find problems.
She initially was diagnosed with a broken arm and finger. She continued to suffer, however, and it was later discovered with x-rays that she cracked four ribs on her left side. The pain in Bramlett’s face persisted, and more x-rays discovered that several of her teeth were cracked during the accident.
“I am still in physical therapy to rehabilitate the muscles in my back and neck that atrophied during my convalescence," she said. “I am gradually repairing my teeth."
Koffer’s doctor, a renowned orthopedic surgeon at Columbia , still marvels at Koffer’s recovery. The doctor, however, doesn’t call it a miracle. He describes it as a “success story."
“The doctor called recently and asked Margaret if she realized that I was one of his success stories," Koffer said. “He said most people with the extent of injures he had would not be walking. But I was walking last September, only eight months after the accident."
“When I look back on our experience, I am grateful to be alive and deeply thankful for all of the prayers and support of our family and friends," Bramlett said.
And she’s thankful, too, for “a very small tree."