wife, Carla Poling, who started asking people to pray for Sarah
and the situation.
I sensed a need to pray. But how could I pray with my wife
and daughter about this tragedy when I was ready to emotionally lose it? I went to the garage, not quite a man cave
but good enough, and lifted my hands to Heaven. In times
like this, there are so many Bible verses to lean on. God’s
Word says that He will be there in the midst of our trouble to
provide strength and comfort. “I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from? My help comes from the
Lord” (Ps. 121:1, 2, NIV). I prayed, “If You choose to take her,
help me accept Your will and be thankful that we have had her
this long, but don’t let me be bitter. And, please, if she is alive,
please remove her physical pain and don’t let her feel alone.”
I then asked for courage to go back into the house and pray
with my family, that I would find the words to comfort them,
and that they would accept God’s will no matter the outcome.
I went into the house, called Cindy and Faith together,
and we huddled. Their weeping was intense. We prayed that
Sarah would be rescued and that she would have strength and
courage through this ordeal. I prayed that God would deliver
her through this tragedy, but if He chose not to, that we would
accept the outcome and would have strength and courage to
endure this time in our lives. (I wanted to tell my family to
prepare their hearts, because she was probably gone.)
We called some local people associated with her missions
trip who had contacts in Bolivia and the American embassy
there. At that point we were still unaware of Sarah’s condition.
Two hours into their trip from Uyuni to Llica, a sports utility
vehicle had clipped the bus Sarah was riding in. She had fallen
asleep with her head resting against a window. The bus rocked
back and forth, tipped over onto its left side, and slid several
yards with her left hand trapped outside her window. When
the bus came to a stop, Sarah, a trauma nurse with a background in ICU care, knew that the radial artery in her arm had
been severed. She was also suffering from a severe head wound.
Sarah thought her chances of survival were bleak to none.
She prayed, “Lord, if You are going to take me, I am ready, not
because of me but because of Your grace and forgiveness. If
You aren’t going to take me, give me the strength to get out of
Phil gave Sarah his belt to use as a tourniquet. She tied
it with her teeth and right hand but couldn’t pull it tight
enough. Seeing Phil’s cowboy hat nearby, she reached for it
and removed the gold rope around it. She tied the rope around
her arm, and a Bolivian man who had come to check on her
tightened it, as she was too weak to do it on her own. Trapped
for over an hour, Sarah was growing weaker. A young woman
found a soup spoon, and she and Sarah used it to dig her hand
from the hard salt, freeing her from underneath the bus.
Of the 44 people on the bus, 16 passengers, including Sarah,
were injured in the accident. Three of the four men in the SUV
An hour after the initial phone call, Sarah called us. She was
able to cobble together some words to reassure us that she was
Over the next 12 hours, communication between our
Sarah Dean assists with anesthesia during surgery
on her second medical missions trip to Bolivia. It was
one of 26 surgeries she assisted with that day.
On her second day back in the U.S. after the accident, Sarah
Dean receives flowers and a visit from her niece Brianna Dean
and her family at the University of Chicago Hospital.