By Jay Rogers
Published December 22, 2007
“As I raced the last few yards down Boston’s Boylston Street, beyond exhaustion, drenched, each step a creation of agony, I barely heard the sounds that enveloped me. TV cameras, video and still cameras clicked and whirred. After I had nearly collapsed across the finish line, I was amazed to discover that amid the competition of Olympic and professional runners I had finished in the top 20 percent.
“I sent a prayer of thanks heavenward, also remembering that I had hit the wall before and survived.”
CHICO, California (FR) – A car crash left him hanging between life and death; the doctors said he would never walk or talk again, but Richard Sprenkle, is alive today and has since completed the Boston Marathon. This spring, he plans to “Race Across America” on a 3-4 week bicycle tour of the United States.
Six years ago, while driving his jeep in Chico, California, Rich swerved to avoid hitting a dog. The jeep overturned ejecting three other passengers, but Rich was the one most critically injured. He slammed into a curb breaking his neck in four places; the jeep hit a tree and bounced back landing on Rich, crushing his pelvis and skull. He was rushed to the hospital and doctors did not expect him to live through the night.
Miraculously, Rich lived, but slipped into a coma. Immediately his parents and friends began a prayer vigil throughout the state. They understood that it would take more than medical science to save Rich’s life. The family believes that it was prayer that made the difference. The runner’s father, Rich Sprenkle, Sr., stayed at the hospital and often prayed by his son’s side. “The next morning one doctor came in and looked at us kind of strange,” Sprenkle, Sr. said. “He said, ‘Things are looking better. Whatever you’re doing keep it up.’”
Another crisis arose two weeks into the coma. Rich developed a blood clot in his brain which was operated on, but again doctors could not guarantee that he would ever regain consciousness. Even if he survived, Rich’s family was told, he would be unable to walk or talk ever again. But after a month long coma, Rich emerged both talking and thinking clearly.
Doctors were astounded. Doug Kelly, Director of Chico Community Hospital Rehabilitation Center, said, “It’s very rare to see someone come out of a coma after 28 days, very rare.”
Rich learned to walk and feed himself again after the brain surgery and, after a 60 day rehabilitation period, he walked away from the hospital. 90 days later, Rich competed in a triathlon.
Says Dr. Kelly: “Never have I seen someone come out of a coma, and progress as quickly and as far as Rich has … Never.”
Having survived these traumas, Rich now turned toward God. He had been profoundly affected by Jesus Christ and the reality of His salvation during his early life, but in his early adult years, God was placed on a back burner. “With God’s help, much prayer and determination, I was walking within a few weeks,” remembers Rich.
“Finally, the doctors allowed me to run. Prior to the accident, I had not taken running seriously, but now I began to run competitively.” Rich began by racing in several triathlons, marathons, 10Ks and long distance races. In 1989, he ran in the Chico Bidwell Classic Marathon and finished with a time of 2.59 hours which qualified him for the “race of races” – the Boston Marathon.
Rich is proud of the fact that he finished in the top 20%, competing against professional and Olympic runners and displays his medal as a testimony to the healing power of Jesus Christ.
“I had to rely on God’s Word and believe for the complete healing of my body. The X-rays showed that my spine was severed in three places. The blood clot in my brain was right where my speech center is. They said my speech would be garbled, but there is no impairment – nothing but two little scars on my forehead.”
Today, Rich is an artist of beautiful water color paintings. His finishing time in the upcoming Columbus Ohio Marathon will determine his qualification for the Summer 1992 Olympics. “I am now planning my RAAM – ‘Race Across America.’ This is a love motivated race. The event is to glorify God’s name and not mine.”
The race will take him from Santa Monica pier beginning on April 15 to Washington, D.C. in about three weeks. If you would like a listing of cities that Rich will be traveling through, write: 2605 Cactus Avenue, Chico, CA, 95926. (916) 345-5440.
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