Local News

May 29, 2014

‘It’s more than luck’

Mother thanks church family, others, as son recovers from wreck

Monica Gambrell didn’t know how badly her son had been injured.

She knew he’d been in a wreck, and that he was airlifted to Erlanger Medical Center in Chattanooga.

But being several thousand miles away in Montana, where she moved recently as a missionary, she had to rely on others to keep her updated.

“It was so heartbreaking and frustrating,” she said. “Not having information was killing me. I had no clue what was happening. We knew he had been airlifted to Erlanger. That’s bad enough. That’s enough to panic.”

David Gambrell, a 22-year-old karate teacher, was ejected when the Jeep Cherokee he was driving overturned three times after being struck by a Varnell Police car driven by Officer John Hayes. The wreck happened on Cleveland Highway near Broadacre Road last week.

Hayes was placed on administrative leave and was given a warning by the Georgia State Patrol for an improper turn. Gambrell was not wearing his seat belt.

Varnell Police Chief Lyle Grant said he would not comment other than that Hayes is on administrative leave and said an open records request would have to be filed with City Clerk Pam Garrison for any additional information. A response to the request sent on Tuesday had not been received as of Wednesday afternoon.

Gambrell had severe lacerations on his head and the heels of his feet. He’s undergone surgery to repair his feet. He also has a broken sternum and bruised ribs.

“He’s going to heal completely,” Monica Gambrell said. “We’re so thankful because the officers on the scene said in accidents where a person is ejected from a vehicle, there’s a 96.4 percent chance you die. We know it’s more than luck. If he had been wearing his seat belt — I could kill him for not — it’s a rare, rare case because most of the time seat belts save millions of lives. If he had been wearing it when he rolled, it would have killed him because the roll bar snapped and crushed his seat. If (the Jeep) had rolled one more time, it would have crushed him. Looking back now ... you think, ‘Oh my gosh, how thankful we should all be for every little moment because life could be gone in an instant.’”

David Gambrell was in the intensive care unit  for a few days, and then surprised people when he was able to go home only four days after the wreck, Monica Gambrell said.

“No one can believe how well he’s doing right now,” she said. “He’s walking without crutches. It’s amazing that that’s even possible ... We thought he’d be in the hospital for weeks.”

Monica Gambrell knows her son’s quick healing is because of all the prayers he has received, not just locally but throughout the world. David Gambrell has traveled extensively, both because of his karate and because he has gone on several mission trips through his church, Mount Rachel Baptist.

“I know that’s been a crucial part of his healing process,” Monica Gambrell said.

David Gambrell teaches karate at Tenchi Family Karate. The last call he made on his cellphone before the wreck was to his boss.

Someone saw his phone on the pavement at the scene of the wreck, picked it up and called the last number dialed. David Gambrell’s boss called Mount Rachel Pastor Marty Greene, who then called the family to tell them what had happened.

It was a Wednesday night, and many of the church’s members had just arrived for service. But upon finding out the news, they left the church to go to Erlanger to be with David Gambrell, Monica Gambrell said.

“We have an army of people from Mount Rachel,” she said. “They left the church building and went up there. They were all Facebooking and texting me and letting me know his condition.”

Now, between church members, two of David Gambrell’s siblings and his boss, he’s being cared for at his house, and Monica Gambrell can worry just a little less.

David Gambrell doesn’t have medical insurance and he will need to find a way to pay bills after being out of work. It will be awhile before he can go back to teaching karate because his body will need time to heal, Monica Gambrell said.

“I don’t know the reason for all this,” she said. “I’m sure there’s more than a few. Things don’t happen by accident. ... We’re incredibly thankful for the entire community, church, work and strangers, the woman who called for people, people who stayed past the time they needed to at the accident so they could be a witness. We’re incredibly thankful. We’re asking for blessings on all of them.”

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