Rachel (Hart '04) Hagler | Nursing

Rachel Hagler

Rachel Hagler's life was going according to plan. She had graduated from ACU with a degree in nursing, had worked in a hospital for six years, and was seeking a master's degree in nurse anesthesia. But on one Saturday morning in October 2010, that plan abruptly fell apart.

How did I get through? Our Lord in heaven, thousands of prayers, and family and friends.

Rachel was driving down a familiar road close to her home when she went around a blind curve, veered off the road and hit a tree on the other side before her car started to roll. She was thrown out of one of the windows and landed on her chin; as a result, she shattered her neck, broke her back in several places, lacerated her liver, bruised her lungs and broke her shoulder. She also had a concussion and was kept sedated so she did not wake up for two days, until after her surgeries were completed. She was paralyzed.

Her own worst nightmare

"The next two weeks were like a blur," she remembers. "It was like waking up in your own worst nightmare."

Her friends, family, co-workers and fellow church members came to visit her and pray by her bedside. In a few weeks, Rachel was transferred to the Baylor Institute of Rehabilitation. There were a lot of "baby steps," she says. She had to be weaned off her ventilator, learn how to sit up again, how to write and how to operate a motorized wheelchair. But her ultimate goal was to learn how to walk again. And on December 29, 2010, Rachel walked out of rehab and came home to Gilmer, Texas.

Rachel is now walking independently, wrapping up outpatient therapy and putting her life back together. She returned to school this fall. As she looks back at the trauma of her accident, she is amazed at the depth of support she received and the incredible nature of her recovery.

A second chance

"How did I get through? Our Lord in heaven, thousands of prayers, and family and friends. I just kept telling myself that my body was never my own to begin with, my life was never my own to begin with, that God knew what the plan was and would take care of me. There were so many miracles," she said. "I am so unbelievably blessed. God clearly has more for me to do here. My job is to figure out what that is and do it."

As Rachel works on returning to the career she loves, she considers what led her to pursue nursing in the first place: helping patients and their loved ones deal with the stress of illness and surgery.

"I wanted to be a nurse since I was a teenager. My grandfather suffered a series of strokes, and I became exposed to hospitals and nursing at that time. There were several nurses who obviously loved what they did so very much and made our experience so much better. I remember thinking to myself even then: I want to be that for someone," she said.

The ministry of presence

Her favorite part of being a nurse is knowing that she's made a connection with a patient or family member - and she loves being able to hold patients' hands as they go under anesthesia for surgery.

"That is such a scary, vulnerable time for a patient. I would hold their hand and sometimes they would squeeze back and look at me with such gratitude. That is always so special," she said.

Although she loves being a nurse, Rachel is interested in anesthesiology because of its team approach and the opportunity to be a part of the operating room.

"It is a wonderful blend of two of my loves: surgery and critical care," she said.

Rachel learned many of the skills she now uses while at ACU, where she earned her bachelor's degree in nursing. She credits the university with strengthening her faith and giving her deep friendships that have lasted far beyond her college experience.

"I came to ACU from a very small east Texas town and came to a whole new world. My experience was wonderful one. I met complete strangers who are now friends for life. I went from having a wonderful Christian background to developing and nurturing a faith of my own. I received an excellent education that not only prepared me for my career field, but taught me to approach it from a 'change the world' perspective - being an ambassador for Christ in my field," she said.

Living for Christ

That sense of living her life for Christ spills over into every aspect of her career. And her ultimate goal as a nurse/anesthesiologist is to demonstrate God's work in the everyday world around her.

"With anything you choose to do, making sure you are working ultimately for God can always be challenging … Making sure you can show Jesus in your actions while being in a busy, stressful and sometimes emotionally demanding profession is something I want to retain as my mission."

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