UND student draws on personal tragedy to inspire others in new book
University of North Dakota senior Ben Hylden was given a five percent chance of survival after being thrown from his vehicle in a tragic accident two days before Easter in 2007.
"On that cold April day, I was on my way to a back therapy appointment I had scheduled," he said. "Running late, I decided to take the back road because it was faster than the normal route. Little did I know that the road had become frozen overnight. After losing control of my maroon Buick Lesabre, I went into the ditch, hit an approach and flew through the air."
"Flipping several times in the air, the car eventually landed in a nearby field with me being violently thrown from it. As I lay in that frozen field, swallowing my own blood from my tongue I bit through, I gave up. I knew I was going to die and all I wanted to do was say goodbye to my family. I accepted the fact that I would not be able to until 'two nice people' arrived."
Little did he know at the time those nice passersby were his own parents.
In an act of fate, his parents took a different road to get to town that day. The same road on which their son had crashed. This by itself was a miracle, as his parents never took that road. When they came upon the accident scene and a battered body in the field. The wreckage was unrecognizable as was the young victim they discovered nearby. They had no idea it was their son
Hylden was rushed to the hospital where he suffered a severed tongue, shattered bones in his face, five broken ribs, a crushed right leg, bleeding of the brain, and bruised and bleeding lungs, pancreas, small intestine, liver and kidneys.
After his lungs collapsed during surgery, the doctors gave him little chance to live three more days.
But faith intervened.
With many days of perseverance, surgeries and recovery, Hylden defied the odds and escaped death. He's now sharing his story in the new book he authored, titled Finding Faith in the Field.
The book depicts Hylden's journey of faith that began the day his life changed forever.
"Today, I know that the strength to overcome that disaster came from God due to the many people praying for me," said Hylden.
With the help of Missy Ohe, the mother of one of the campers he counseled at Park River (N.D.) Bible Camp, the idea of a book took shape.
Editor and book manager Mary Beth Lagerborg and UND Assistant Professor of Communication Timothy Pasch also helped make the book a reality.
"Mr. Pasch helped me out while I was in his class last semester," Hylden said. "He helped me realize how many people I could reach and impact with my story by making it available to purchase online with stores such as iTunes or Amazon," said Hylden.
Finding Faith in the Field, which was released on April 6, 2014, can also be purchased at six regional stores: Ferguson Books, Christian Bookshelf, Grafton (N.D.) Drug, Hugo's Supermarkets, The UND Bookstore, and Ye Olde Medicine Center in Park River, N.D.
Although this book touches on the obstacles Hylden faced, the overarching theme is faith. Hylden claims he wasn't a firm believer in God before his incident.
"I would say I was a Christian because of what my parents taught me," he said, "but I never cared or thought about God. I was raised in a Christian home and my parents took me to Bible Camp, Sunday School and church and taught me my morals and how to live a life according to the Bible, but I never had a relationship with Jesus and I always had doubts about God's existence," said Hylden.
At the time of his accident, Hylden's life revolved around sports and his pursuit of a state championship in basketball. After the accident forced him to walk away from his basketball career, Hylden pursued other passions.
"I decided to give up my dream for something that I felt was much bigger and better in my future, but at the time I had no idea what it was," said Hylden. "Today, I am now living out that dream."
Hylden, who will pursue a master's degree in counseling, hopes his book can be an inspiration to others and a lesson in faith and recovery. He also has decided to pursue a career in motivational speaking as a result of his experiences.
"From my book, I want to help give people faith in what they cannot see, hope in what is to come after this life and strength to keep fighting no matter what obstacle is in the way of their dreams," Hylden said. "I hope people realize that nothing is impossible and that no matter what people tell them that through God, all things are possible."
Because after all, if it weren't for his accident, Hylden may not have discovered his own faith.
Amy Halvorson and Kate Menzies
University & Public Affairs student writers