Stephanie and Christian Nielson have become well-known in the wake of a horrifying plane crash nearly five years ago that killed their pilot and left them both with severe, life-long injuries. But unlike many, they choose not to focus on the crash. Rather, they speak about how much they grew in their faith and in their relationship after it, despite unbelievable obstacles.
“Everybody has something, everybody has a trial,” Christine said, speaking at the Independence Through Commitment conference as part of Glenn Beck’s “Man in the Moon” weekend. What she hopes to impart is that you can go through those trials “beautifully,” and learn from them. “It’s all about helping each other through things,” she said.
“For me, the reason why we exist and live is for our children,” she continued. “I have five children and [during] our accident, they were what kept me going.”
After the crash, doctors determined that Stephanie had burns on over 80% of her body, and her husband 40%. She was in a medically induced coma for months and not expected to live. Christian, who woke up before his wife, was told that if his wife survived, she probably wasn’t going to have a nose, would never walk again, and may not have arms or legs — they might have to be amputated. Her quality of life would be “pretty nonexistent,” Christian was told.
But Christian said that he didn’t believe it would happen, and if it did, it “wouldn’t change our relationship.”
“We got married based on love, not on the way we looked,” Stephanie said. “That helps, but it wasn’t the reason we married each other.”
She continued, growing emotional as she spoke: “The reason I feel beautiful every single day is not because I look at myself in the mirror…but because I can see inside, and I can see that I have these five beautiful children and a husband who loves me, and that’s what makes me beautiful. Beauty is confidence, it’s self-worth. It’s knowing why you exist – your children, what you create. That’s what beauty is to me, and that’s what keeps me going.”
After the accident, it was several months before Stephanie and Christian were able to see each other. Christian lost about 50 pounds, and Stephanie was bandaged from head to toe. Both relied on their faith to get them through.
“I have to tell you that our family that rallied around us…[and] there were great, great miracles performed,” Christian said. “There was great faith in God…and what is God to do with so many prayers for a miracle, other than deliver it?”
Far from the predictions, Christian said his wife’s “beauty was restored” and that she not only survived, but thrived.
He continued by saying he is “so thankful” that pornography has never been a part of his life. “By avoiding it like the plague that it is…[it] made the healing process for Stephanie and me much easier and much better,” he said to a chorus of applause.
Stephanie said one of the favorite stories from the hospital was a time Christian visited while she was still in a coma. He was still too weak to raise his arm, but the doctors placed his hand somewhere on Stephanie’s stomach and let him speak with her alone for a few moments. Almost immediately, Stephanie’s heart rate began rising and rising, to where the doctors actually became somewhat alarmed.
“I like to think that our spirits were talking to each other,” Stephanie said with a smile, saying that’s the way it was before they were married and still feels that way today.
“The fact that we pursued marriage with [the intent to be a family] braced us for the hard times that came – will come – and will for all of you,” Christian added.
Christian concluded with strong words about the healing power of God, saying they are “witnesses to the fact and reality that there is no medicine, no treatment, no doctor, no skill in the healing arts that is any match for the healing power of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
They spoke extremely highly of their doctors, but said even their doctors acknowledge that something greater than medicine was at work in their healing.
Stephanie said: “I believe with all my heart that if you want something hard enough, you can make it happen. I wanted life so bad, I wanted to a mom…I wanted to make dinner, go on dates with my husband…and I made every single one of those things happen. You can do it through Jesus Christ only…you can’t do it alone.”
A little over a year ago, Stephanie gave birth to a beautiful baby girl who reminds them “every single day that God is good and miracles happen on earth today just as they did long, long ago, and we’re witnesses to that.”
“I hope our message is of hope,” she said in conclusion. “That you can go out into the world and that you can change, you can be better, and whatever you’re going through will end.”
For more on the Nielson’s powerful story, watch the full-hour interview Glenn Beck held with the couple in 2011: