She was declared dead at the scene. And that was just the beginning... 

We often take so many things for granted. We all face obstacles, twists and turns. As Thanksgiving approaches, let us take time to pause and thank God for all that He's given us, and realize that blessings can pour forth in abundance, even in the midst of our trials and suffering.  

A friend of mine was involved in a serious accident when she was in her 20s. Judy Dreher was declared dead at the scene. And that was just the beginning of her tragic journey.  She somehow overcame incredible odds to not only survive, but to flourish.  Many decades have passed, but Judy has been feeling called to share her experience.   

Here is Judy Dreher's story:  

Since Thanksgiving is right around the corner, I realize just how much I have to be thankful for at this time in my life. Many of my friends know my story. However, there are many people who don't and who I am trying to reach. I've been asking God for a very long time what he would like me to do to show my gratitude for my survival and my ability to walk, talk and physically take care of myself. The answer has always been, "tell your story". I've decided to finally listen to His message.

When I was 24 I was in a very bad motor vehicle accident on St. Patrick's night in 1982. I was drinking and driving, and so was the driver who hit us. 

I was dead at the scene and revived by a man who shouldn't have been there (my guardian angel). They had to use the Jaws of Life to free me. I was dead on arrival. My mom and sister were met by a priest who had just administered last rites and a doctor who had very little hope.

I was bleeding internally so I had emergency surgery and my spleen was removed. I had fractured my C2-C3 vertebrae, which is referred to as a Hang Man's break. I had a fractured skull, broken left arm and they put 180 stitches in my left leg.  

I slipped into a coma.  Three days later I stopped breathing and they had to perform a tracheotomy. My Uncle Mike put Lourdes Holy water on me the entire time and prayed the rosary at my bedside. I have seven siblings and my mom who were all praying for me, as well as, all of my friends and coworkers.

I came out of the coma after six weeks.  The situation was hopeless. I was diagnosed a Quadriplegic. Even though the doctors told me I would never move again, I felt a divine inspiration telling me I was going to be fine. The doctors would not hear of this and told me I wasn't taking this seriously.  I would visualize myself swimming, walking down Wall Street where I worked and driving a new car. I did this constantly as I lie in bed by myself, hour after hour. 

The doctors and lawyer told me I would never work again.  Where had this positive thinking come from?  Unwilling to accept defeat, I constantly asked questions.  How long will I be in intensive care?  What will happen next? When will physical therapy begin? When can I go home?

With intensive inpatient physical therapy I began to improve.  Six months to the day, I walked onto the NYSE trading floor to a warm round of applause. My diagnosis had been changed to Brown Syquard Syndrome, with right side paralysis and a loss of sensation on my left side.    

I returned back to my faith with a fervor that motivated me.  I fought hard. I learned how to write leftie. But it was a real challenge working on the floor.  I had been the 85th woman hired amongst 3000 men, and being handicapped made me even more of a minority. 

I stood on my feet all day and it was difficult; but day by day, I began to improve.  I started out working only one day a week.  Then in 1983, the week of St. Patricks Day, I returned to work full time.  It took a whole year but I did it!

I learned how to handicap ski and participated in marathons in Wyndham. I walked, and tried to run in marathons, and just kept persevering. 

However, it was not always easy.  I also underwent over seven major surgeries while working full time.

When you endure an injury like this, it follows you throughout your entire life.  I had a very high paying job and all the luxuries you could imagine, but I was very lonely.  I decided I wanted to change careers. I went on to get my Master's degree in Counseling - while working full time!

With God's prompting, I then decided to see a therapist.  Unfortunately, there were some deep scars. My fiance at the time of the accident, who was a passenger in my car that night, couldn't handle my disability and broke up with me six months after the accident. I found it very hard over the years to give my heart away. I had put up a wall around my heart. You see, the emotional scars were much harder to fix then the physical problems.

Finally, 18 years later, God gave me visuals about meeting a husband. I wrote down that I wanted a son and horses and I wanted to live in the country. I joined an online dating service.  I went on with my life, but kept these visuals in the front of my mind. 

About three months later, I saw a profile of a man who was widowed, had a son, owned three horses, and lived in the country. Sadly, Frank had lost his wife in a motor vehicle accident.  Could this be divine intervention?  I contacted him.  On our first date I didn't think he was the one for me. My sister persuaded me to go on a second date. The whole ride there, I prayed that God would open my eyes if this was the man I was supposed to marry. By the time dinner was over, I felt something special.  He lived an hour away so we began talking on the phone.  Two weeks, two days and three dates later, Frank asked me to marry him!  When I met his son Matthew, I felt like I knew him my entire life, and he immediately started calling me "Mom".  Frank shared with me that two months earlier at Christmas, he sensed a voice telling him that he was being sent an angel with a broken wing to take care of.  Ironically, my email is judyangel and I had no use of my right arm...

We were married on September 1, 2001.  We went on a ten day honeymoon to Hawaii.  I'd never been happier. 

Every morning for twenty years, I had walked through the World Trade Center at 8:50am.  But I was not there the horrible morning of 9/11 that changed people's lives.  I knew many people who were there that day, and they were forever changed.  If I hadn't been on my honeymoon, I would have been there that fateful day.  It makes me wonder, was this how my husband was taking care of me? 

Unfortunately, in 2002 I had to retire on disability. I've had no use of my right arm and I developed neuropathy in my left arm.  I am in chronic pain and I'm unable to tolerate medications.  My son has told me, "Mom, sad to say, but your accident will catch up with you".  How true that is, for we never know how our foolish decisions will affect us over the years.

I have had to make amends to many people.  My family suffered much with fear, worry and anxiety, wondering if I would ever survive and return to myself. I never thought much about that until I began working on my spiritual growth.

Frank is the cantor at our church.  We attend Mass as often as we can.  I started a Rosary group 12 years ago and we still meet every Monday evening.  We also attend the Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help every Wednesday evening.  I believe that God speaks to us - we just need to quiet our minds so that we can hear His voice.

Through the grace of God, I survived a deadly accident against all the odds; and with God's divine intervention, my life was spared a second time.  I have been given my wonderful family and God continues to richly bless us in so many ways.  

There is much more to this story. I am 24 years sober in Alcoholics Anonymous. I feel that it is time for me to share my story.  I want to let people know that there is hope when they face difficult times. 

If anyone knows how I can get my story out there, please contact me. I have spoken at High Schools about this. I would appreciate any advice or suggestions on how to spread the word to encourage people to persevere and never give up hope. Thank you.  Also, please pass my story along.


To contact Judy Dreher, please send an email to her at  

What an incredible testimony of hope, miracles, determination, perseverance, overcoming obstacles and of the almighty and powerful glory of God!  He does not waste any experiences, but can use life's biggest challenges to fulfill His plans for our lives...  

"He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:27-28)