Ask Johnny and Deanna Bingham about their daughters and watch as ear-to-ear smiles stretch across their faces.
They will be the first to tell you they have a lot to be thankful for.
They will tell you, without hesitation, their family has been blessed.
But if you ask, they will tell you the girls are doing extremely well. Whitney is a nurse working in Fort Worth and Tori will graduate from nursing school at Mary Hardin-Baylor in December (in three-and-a-half years, on the Dean’s List and with a paid internship position).
None of that seemed possible a little more than four years ago.
July 28, 2011.
It was a Thursday, late in the afternoon. Tori had gone to a friend’s house to swim. Deanna had just called to let her know dinner was almost ready and to come and eat.
Johnny remembers every painful detail of that afternoon.
The phone call from another Waxahachie High School volleyball parent letting them know their daughter was in an accident and was being taken by a helicopter to an area hospital and they were on their way to get them.
The police officer pulling into the driveway as they were leaving.
The emergency room doctor telling them Tori had suffered a traumatic head injury and to expect the worst as she would likely never regain consciousness and if she did, she would likely never recognize them.
Deanne fought back the tears and Johnny’s voice cracked as he detailed the worst night of his life.
“Throughout the night, and the days and weeks that followed, the community poured into the hospital,” Deanne said. “There were folks bringing food. There were so many people who just wanted to help in some way — some of them we didn’t know. They just heard about Tori and wanted to help.”
Wiping tears from her face, Deanne said that support helped sustain the family through those difficult times.
“This is such a wonderful community,” she said. “To this day, I still have people ask me every day how Tori is doing. We were hoping that you could do a story that would let everyone know how much we truly appreciate all the support we’ve received because that support has and continues to be a blessing from God.”
It was the summer before Tori’s senior year at Waxahachie High School.
At the time of the accident, Tori was in training for volleyball tryouts scheduled the following week. A standout volleyball player and member of the track team, she was looking forward to the season ahead. Her life revolved around volleyball. She had been recruited by college scouts and her main focus in life at that moment was having a good senior year by helping her team get into the finals and land that scholarship to play on the college level.
Those plans changed following the accident, when Tori was ejected from the vehicle and rolled along the service road on Interstate 35E, coming to rest facing a large cross in front of a church.
While initially her parents were given the “worst case” prognosis, no one asked Tori for her opinion.
She regained consciousness. She recognized her parents and even fought with the medical staff to remove the restraints. She was moved from ICU to a regular room faster than any of her doctors thought possible. She did the same at the rehabilitation hospital.
In fact, she was released from the hospital on the same day as the WHS Lady Indians first district game of the season.
No one expected her to be there, but Tori was at the game to support her team.
“That was a moment I still get choked up about,” Johnny said, as he began wiping away tears from the corner of his eyes. “When she walked in, the entire gym was on its feet cheering — including the Ennis fans. That was a special moment to see how she had touched so many people.”
Tori returned to school.
A few days later she began running a mile a day.
She was voted Homecoming Queen.
She even served at the end of the Lady Indians final district game of the season (Tori lost vision in one eye as a result of the accident, ending her ability to play competitive sports).
She maintained her standing in the National Honor Society for her grades and community work.
She graduated with honors and received more than a dozen scholarships.
“There’s no quit in that girl,” Johnny said as the smile returned, the smile that only a proud father could wear. “If you tell her she can’t do something, she’s going to do it just to prove she can.”
“It’s a blessing,” Deanne said, reaching across the table and taking Johnny’s hand in hers. “There is no other way to say it. We know God has a reason for everything. We look back and as hard as it was, we know this was God’s plan for Tori. It was God who brought the community together to support us in our time of need. We wouldn’t have made it without the love of this truly wonderful community. And now, she’s going to help so many people as a nurse. I’ve told both my girls they have to raise their kids in Waxahachie!”
From the visits to the hospital and home, to the food and the cards and the fundraising, Tori said that support is what drives her to succeed.
“It’s not been easy and I’ve had my share of bad days,” she said. “But then I think of all the people who were there for me and I know I can’t let them down. The love and support this community showed me and my family keeps me going — especially my volleyball teammates.
“The one thing I hope this story conveys is how much I appreciate the community for being there and supporting me during my recovery,” she said. “This story should be about them. Everything I’ve done since the accident, I’ve been able to do because of them.”
When asked why she chose nursing as a career field, Tori said it was party because of her big sister Whitney, and partly because of the outstanding care she received from the nurses in the hospital.
“My nursing staff was absolutely wonderful and I saw first hand what a difference they made in my life,” she said. “I look up to my sister, and yes, she had a lot of influence in my decision as well. I didn’t expect going in to specialize in neo-natal care, but during my internship I really enjoyed working with babies.”
As Tori finishes up her last few weeks of college, Johnny and Deanna pointed out again how a small act of kindness can make a world of difference.
“There’s no way we can express how much we appreciate all the support we’ve received from this community,” Johnny said.
“We want everyone to know that it made a difference,” Deanna added. “It continues making a world of difference to us. And every time someone asks us how Tori is doing, it gives us another opportunity to thank someone for their caring, their compassion and their support.”
Contact Neal at email@example.com or 469-517-1470. Follow Neal on Facebook at Neal White – Waxahachie Newspapers Inc., or on Twitter at wni_nwhite.