PLAINVIEW – Many parents have probably joked that they never thought their child would ever graduate from college. But for David and Debbie Barnes of Tulia, the reality is sobering.
On Saturday, their oldest son, Jonathan, earns his Bachelor of Business Administration degree in marketing and management from Wayland Baptist University. But an automobile accident in October 2004 that claimed the life of two of his friends and fellow Wayland students might have altered that reality forever.
“It’s really a miracle that he’s here,” said Debbie Barnes, Jonathan’s mother. “For a week or more, we didn’t know if he would even live, so this is really special. God has been so good to our family.”
Commencement comes a semester later for Jonathan than he originally planned, but he never considered not completing his degree. Though it hasn’t always been a smooth ride, getting back to school in the spring was vital to Barnes.
“I was glad to get back to Wayland,” Barnes said, flashing his signature grin. “I was going crazy at home.”
Debbie echoes the sentiment, adding, “It was good for him to get his life back to ‘normal’ as soon as possible. His friends were there to help him out and his professors helped him out. We’re just so grateful to Wayland for all they’ve done for him.”
With the accident 14 months behind him, Jonathan says he doesn’t remember much about the day, except for loading up in the vehicles headed for New Mexico. The next thing he recalls is waking up in the hospital three weeks later.
Heavily medicated due to his injuries and surgeries, Barnes said he never knew about the accident, his family and friends spending hours on end in ICU waiting rooms or the fact that his foot had to be amputated due to massive injuries. He also didn’t know until that waking moment that two friends were gone for good.
“It wasn’t all real for me because of all the drugs I was on,” he said. “Once they started wearing off, it was more real. They told me that I lost my foot, but it was like I already knew about it somehow.”
Learning about the deaths of his friends, Katye Mansdoerfer and Reid Rogers, Barnes said would have been more difficult if it wasn’t for his assurance of their eternal home.
“I knew they were OK and didn’t have to worry about anything anymore, so I took it probably better than some people did,” Barnes said.
In the accident, Barnes sustained internal injuries and had to have his spleen removed. One foot was badly crushed and had to eventually be amputated, a decision Debbie calls one of the hardest she’s ever made. Jonathan’s other foot was injured as well but was saved with surgeries.
Barnes was released from the hospital shortly before Thanksgiving in 2004, then returned to Wayland in the spring. He spent the term in a wheelchair, enduring the challenges of getting around campus, then was fitted for a prosthetic foot in the early summer. He is able to walk normally with his new foot.
Adjusting to the changes in his life have not been easy, and understandably so. But Barnes knows his situation could definitely have been worse and is thankful for the support of friends and family who have helped him through the difficult times.
“I’m lucky to have parents that care about me,” he said. Brother Will, a senior at Wayland, has also remained by his side, as have his two sisters, Lauren, a freshman at Baylor University, and Kaitlyn, a junior at Tulia High School.
“I’m just proud to have him with us. It’s not like anything I’ve ever been through before,” said his father, David Barnes.
The Barneses expect Saturday’s graduation ceremony will be a time of mixed emotions as they watch their son pass this milestone.
“It’s tinged with sadness for those families who lost their children, but I’m happy for Jonathan. There will still be challenges ahead for him, but he’s got a pretty good attitude about it and is looking forward to the future,” Debbie said.