The morning drive down old US Hwy 45 S between Paducah and Murray was hampered by a drizzling rain. Due to the continuous pour, standing water created unfavorable driving conditions. That day, June 12, Nancy Dew-Garland had made a commitment to volunteer at a Special Olympics event to be held at Murray State University. After all, her plan after graduating high school was to attend MSU and major in special education. On that early morning drive to the event, life would change forever.
Being a giving person has been part of Nancy’s nature since she was a little girl. She was the youngest sibling out of four and everyone in the family doted over her and she returned that love with a glad heart. In fact, family life could be compared to the television drama The Walton's, the show that aired in the 70's. Not based on financial struggles or hardships but as a loving family unit that looked after one another.
Nancy had many friends at Clark Elementary, Brazelton Junior High, and Paducah Tilghman High School. Growing up in a small town, many of your friends journey with you through the various stages of life that include adolescence, puberty, and the tumultuous teenage years.
The accident that happened in 1982 played a principal role in Nancy’s life moving forward. “It affected my life in every way,” she said. On June 12, only a few weeks after graduating high school, it was early in the morning, the roads were wet, and her car hydroplaned. As she lost control, the car hit a ditch. On impact, Nancy was thrown out of the car landing on her face. She had a broken cheek bone, missing front teeth, and an incredibly swollen face. Nancy said, “I was so swollen I looked like a mongrel.”
From the initial exam, Nancy had facial injuries, a compound fracture of her arm, and broken ribs. There were countless lacerations on her face and head that required stitches and her arm received 13 screws. Four days after the accident, she asked if she could see a mirror. After viewing her facial injuries, Nancy asked if the staff wouldn't mind covering all the mirrors in the room.
Shortly after returning home to recover, another injury was discovered. “After being home for five hours, I tried to eat. My sister and nephew were at the house to lend a hand. I remember scaring my nephew to death because I didn’t have my front teeth,” said Nancy. “Right at that moment, I started throwing up blood, a lot of blood. My mom had an apron on and without hesitation lifted it up to catch most of it before it hit the floor.” Nancy was immediately taken to the hospital where they found a liver laceration.
So, they sewed up the liver lac and took out her gallbladder. The surgeon on the case was Dr. Wally Montgomery, a well-known and respected surgeon in the area. The general practitioner was Dr. Richard Smith. Nancy trusted both of these doctors and said she 'couldn't have made it through if it hadn’t been for these two.'
After surgery, Nancy remained in the ICU for nine days and on the tenth day was given a regular patient room. “They always say 10 days is the magic number,” said Nancy. After waking up on the 10th day, she looked down and discovered she was lying in a pool of blood.
Nancy was a daddy’s girl. Ray Dew was one of the nicest men anyone ever met and he loved his family. Ray had just walked in the door of their home when the telephone rang. The family lived on Forest Circle in Paducah which is about 10 minutes from Baptist Health. Before Nancy was wheeled into emergency surgery, her dad was by her side. “I saw my Dad crying and I told him I wasn’t going anywhere.”
As she was being wheeled to the operating room, her body was hemorrhaging which is life threatening and one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Before reaching the OR, they were administering intravenous Vitamin K, fresh frozen plasma, blood and platelets. Once stabilized, doctors could locate the bleed. During this emergent situation, Nancy was still talking. She said, “I never lost consciousness. I kept talking. Even asked what my blood pressure was.”
Nancy said, “When I was in the throes of the hemorrhage, my relationship with God was everything. I didn’t stop talking. Never panicked. There was a calmness. I knew God was in control.”
“I saw myself overhead going through this. God didn’t let me die. There was peace about it,” Nancy continued. "I was in the ICU and saw that I was hooked up to everything. God spoke to me saying, ‘Do you see you now? You’re going to be ok.’ It was an out of body experience." she said.
Nancy was in the ICU for a month in a private room. After such a frightening experience, her family took shifts looking after her. She was never left alone.
It had been a year since the accident and Nancy was ready to go to college. She started at Lambuth University, a liberal arts school in Jackson, Tennessee. After the first year, she transferred to MSU. She chose to continue studying special education but admitted, “At first I thought God was calling me to be a nurse.” Since she had lived through a tragic accident, she thought maybe she could help others. Ultimately, Nancy decided it was too painful to relive the accident over and over again in a hospital environment.
Nancy’s first husband was in the military and was given an assignment and stationed in Hawaii. “Living in Hawaii was like living in paradise,” Nancy said. “It was beautiful. The ocean breeze and the smell of flowers was absolutely stunning. It would’ve been terrific if I hadn’t been so homesick.”
Two wonderful fraternal twins were the result of two years living in paradise. Nancy said the twin girls are “as different as humanly possible to be born in the same minute.” Becca and Sarah are 31 years old and live in close proximity to their mom. Becca works as a nurse for a general practitioner in Mayfield, Kentucky and Sarah is going to cosmetology school. She has a degree in education but decided it wasn’t for her.
Nancy divorced and remarried. She was introduced to Tim Garland by her brother Steve Dew. Steve and Tim worked together at Chester Mechanical and Steve thought they would hit it off. Tim was a good Christian man with two sons from a previous marriage and Nancy had the twins and a strong faith. After meeting for the first time, they married six weeks later and have been together for 24 years. Nancy said, “When you know, you know.” Nancy's stepsons are Nathan, 31 and Chris, 33.
The Garlands started a heating and air business shortly after being married. As a couple, they built the business and have worked side by side for nearly 20 years. Nancy would’ve continued working at her husband's side but a stroke prevented that from happening.
After the accident, Nancy has suffered with pain. She was diagnosed with fibromyalgia years ago and has suffered with leg, back and arm pain. She and Dr. Smith traced the source back to the accident. Nancy said a lot of people who experience traumatic injuries are diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a common condition that affects your bones and muscles.
Nancy’s first stroke happened approximately two years ago. Prior to the stroke, she had neck surgery on C4 and C5 of the spine and was in a neck brace. The stroke caused Nancy to lose peripheral vision on her right side. It also left her with short-term memory loss.
The second stroke happened early 2020, around the time the pandemic hit western Kentucky. After returning home from a quick trip to the heating and air business, Nancy had a headache. She had encountered a stressful situation while at the office and couldn't get it off her mind. She called her daughter and Becca immediately thought she was having another stroke. Nancy believes the stressful situation led to her demise.
During this time, the no visitors policy was initiated at Baptist Health. Tim was upset and concerned that he couldn’t be with wife. “He slept in our van the whole time I was in the hospital.” she said. “That man knows what marriage is supposed to be. I’m so blessed."
The girls have been a big support system for Nancy. “They’re amazing, a God send,” she said. "We're very close. It might've been those years prior to meeting Tim when it was just the three of us. My sons are a blessing too. I've raised them since they were ages seven and nine. What a gift they are to me."
Nancy’s daddy died on January 3, 2019. It’s been very hard for her. She said, “I miss my daddy.” On that day when Nancy was rushed to the OR for emergency surgery to save her life, she decided right then and there, “I was going to stay here to pester him for the rest of his life.” And she did.
Due to the effects the stroke has had on Nancy’s short-term memory, she engages in art therapy. In fact, she’s converted her formal living room into a craft studio. One of her latest art interests is acrylic pour painting. She’s experimenting with this new technique and likes it. She also enjoys decoupage and paper crafting such as cards, journals, and memory books.
Nancy is blessed to have such an amazing family. The twin girls, two step-sons, a Christian husband, a large extended family, and grandchildren all make it worthwhile. It’s hard to understand why bad things happen to good people. Nancy noted that many years ago, one of her long time friends, Alan Haws said, “I never understood out of all of us why it happened to you.” This is the mystery of life. Nancy believes that one of the reasons she survived the accident was to give birth to her twin girls.
That’s the question of the day. Why do bad things happen to good people? Nancy is a good person. Though she is homebound for the most part, she reaches out to others through Facebook, a phone call or text, and through prayers. It’s not a small thing to continue to pray for others. All of us have our purpose in life and Nancy has made peace with hers.