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By Cody Van Sickle

You may not remember what you were doing in August of 1999, but even though I was only five years old, I can never forget. I was outside in my babysitter’s yard in German Valley, Illinois, a small town about twenty-one miles west of Rockford, playing with her dog, a husky wolf mix, which I had played with many times before. My babysitter was over three quarters of a mile away at the end of the driveway getting the mail.

Cody before the accident.

Cody before the accident.

Suddenly the dog knocked me to the ground and started attacking me. I let out a bloodcurdling scream as his teeth sank into my wrist. When he clamped onto my face, I blacked out. The next thing I remember was being dragged away from the dog. As I lay there in the gravel, I tried to look around. Everything was tinted red.

My babysitter’s face said it all. Horrified, she told me to stay put while she called 911. She did not have a phone at her house, so she had to break into my mother’s house next door to use the phone. While she was making the call, I remember shuffling over to the house holding on to the back of my black lab, Dakota, for balance.

I had made it up the stairs before blacking out and falling onto our cement patio. While I lay unconscious, an EMT from our local fire department arrived and started to treat my wounds. My injuries were so extensive I was airlifted to a hospital. Waking up in the helicopter, I was terrified by the loud noise and instinctively reached out. The paramedic grabbed onto my hand, reassured me that everything was going to be ok, and told me to stay with her.

The flight crew medics thought they were going to lose me because of the amount of blood loss I had experienced. They called a Code Blue on me as I went into cardiac arrest twice in the helicopter – once during the flight and once as we were landing at the hospital. Although they were able to resuscitate me in flight, they needed to get me into surgery as soon as we landed.

Once we made it to the hospital the medics rushed me into surgery, which lasted for nine hours. Due to the extensive damage done to my nerves and facial muscles, I would need yet another surgery. This one was scheduled with specialized surgeons in Chicago. I had nerve, ear, dental, jaw, and plastic surgeons for that surgery, which lasted close to twenty hours. These specialists were able to correct most of the damage done, but to this day I have lasting effects from the attack.

After my release from the hospital, I started the rehabilitation process but struggled getting back to normal. Not only was I just starting kindergarten, but I also had to juggle going back and forth between my dad’s and my mother’s houses. I had very little stability in my life at that time. My dad’s house was calm and I knew I was safe there, but my mother had custody of me. That meant I would see my dad only every other weekend. My mother’s house, on the other hand, felt unsafe because it was not healthy. It was where the attack occurred and being there brought back all the anguish. I was in so much pain I could barely sleep and did not want to take my medication because it tasted awful. I became bitter, closed off, and angry.

After the accident Cody stuck closely to his dad, Rod Van Sickle.

After the accident Cody stuck closely to his dad, Rod Van Sickle.

I longed for stability and security. My mother and we kids moved eight times in a matter of a few years, living with her boyfriends or new husbands. I have one full sister and seven step-siblings and half-siblings.

In one city I would ride my bike to nearby Veterans Memorial, a park-like area that served as a memorial for fallen U.S. soldiers, so I could get away from the house and the influences there. I had no idea what a healthy Christian family looked like because parts of my family were involved in or around drugs, lies, and violence.

It was not until my father and stepmother, Rod and Malinda Van Sickle, brought me to church that I found God – Someone who still loved me no matter how much I was angry or beat myself up. I began to be surrounded by people and families who loved the Lord and had healthy relationships. The desire for this kind of atmosphere is what led my dad’s side of the family to Journey Church, an Open Bible church in Windsor Heights, Illinois (near Rockford), then pastored by Bruce Pfadenhauer.

When I was twelve, I had a huge fight with my stepfather and mother, which led to my not having contact with her for six years. My attitude improved because at my dad’s home I had a consistent set of rules and influences. I was able to establish my relationship with the Lord and get involved in church. My youth pastor, Pat Meyer, was like a mother to me during those years of growth and helped me find who God had called me to be. That process directed me to North Central University in Minneapolis. God was working His plan, which eventually led me to First Church of the Open Bible in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where I am currently the student ministries pastor.

I can see God’s hand throughout my life. I see His hand while I was en route to the hospital, in my broken family, and in my past hurt. Everything that happened has equipped me for His calling on my life. God has given me a burning passion for teenagers and other people to make sure they never feel alone, especially when they are broken and hurting. Serving on staff at First Open Bible has given me the opportunity to speak life into students’ lives and help them go through their hurts.

God will bless those who are faithful through the trials. I am a testament of that promise as I have an amazing ministerial position and am getting married to a beautiful woman this summer.

MSG Van Sickle Taylor and Cody 2 0119
Cody Van Sickle is the student ministries pastor at First Church of the Open Bible in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. A graduate of North Central University in Minneapolis, Minnesota, he has a passion to make sure that no student feels abandoned, but instead feels God’s love for them.

About The Author

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Since 1920, Message of the Open Bible has been a medium to celebrate all the wonderful things God is doing through His people in Open Bible Churches – from personal testimonies, to news-related stories, to inspirational articles by quality authors.