Diana’s Journey

“I love going to the beach, but the first thing I am going to do when I am able is to go to my church and have a Mass of thanksgiving.”


For those of you who are interested in the progress of Diana, the young gal from El Recreo who had a devastating accident two and one half years ago that completely severed her spine, and the recovery and rehab she is enduring since her surgery this past June. This past Sunday was a big day for her; a milestone in recovery not only physically, but mentally.

When we sat in her hospital room waiting for the long hours to pass before they cam and wheeled her into the operating room, Diana expressed how she was so ready for this surgery to happen. She was so at peace about the whole thing. She was the calming force in the room. Her statement that she has been praying with God and that God would be the one who was going to be helping her through the use of the surgeon, God’s instrument, and that whatever happens she was OK with that. At that moment, we all knew she had turned her life over to God and what FAITH and STRENGTH that took.

When she came out of recovery and out of the effects of the anesthetic, after a long and grueling eight hour surgery, everyone around the room was ecstatic as well as relieved that the operation had been successful. Before leaving her room, I told her that when she had finished her therapy and was able to travel that we will go to the beach at the ocean for a celebration. It was then that she informed me, “NO!” Much to my shock I asked her, “Why, you do not like the water?” She replied, very matter-of-factly, “I love going to the beach, but the first thing I am going to do when I am able is to go to my church and have a Mass of thanksgiving.”


Sunday was the big day. Diana invited her relatives near and far to attend, there were around 150 in total celebrating with her in the church, The Blessed Heart of Jesus in El Recreo, in the small village that she had spent her entire life up until the accident.


Father Danilo, the Priest of the church and the celebrant for her Mass, had known her for several years and had visited her many times during the two years she spent lying flat on her back with her severed spine. He had also been visiting her at home in Berlin, where she now lives. It was during one of those visits that Diana shared her story about what had happened to her and what life was like before and after the accident and now following the operation and rehab. Her testimony to him that day was so faith filled that he asked if she would be able to retell it to the congregation during her Mass.

The big day arrives, and Andrés picks her and her sister up and head to El Recreo. Many of her new neighbors and friends, where she now lives, wanted to go along and share this big day with her, so they all piled into the back of a truck and off they went. You can see by the pictures that the church was full. Father Danilo commented at the beginning of Mass that he wished every Sunday there would be such a crowd. The altar was beautifully decorated with flowers, and the seven alter servers were decked out in their colorful cassocks. Even the ever present dog positioned himself in the middle of the aisle guaranteeing himself the best view in the house.

Fr. Danilo’s homily centered around Diana and the journey she has been on. Towards the end of mass he invited Diana to share her story. Soon after she began to tell her story from the time of the accident to now, nearly everyone was in tears as she relived all that she had been through: her struggles, her victories, her faith in God, and how all was in His hands and whatever the outcome she is ok with that. She shared that while in a coma after the accident she knew she was dead, but kept praying with God and the Virgin Mary that if it was to be that she was to be alive again that she would share their message and her faith. She also told everyone that God’s purpose for her now is to share what happened to her with all the youth. That is when she began to speak to the youth in attendance. She explained that at any moment the decisions you make can change your life forever. Even if you are doing nothing wrong, bad things can happen. Without her faith, she did not know what would have happened to her or if she would even be here. With great sincerity she expressed that she forgives the guy that left her for dead on the road that day; that she holds no ill will towards him and hopes that he gets right with God before his time of judgement. Fr. Danilo told the crowd that he himself doubts that his own faith would be so strong. There was literally not a dry eye in the church. Even Andres said now I am crying!

After Mass was over, they shared sandwiches, drinks, and snacks with everyone. There were people eating and talking inside the church as well as outside. I am sure they were all sharing what they had just witnessed. Her day was not even close to being over though as she was invited to the Evangelical church to celebrate and share her story with them . How cool is that? And to top off the day there was a big soccer game to be played in her honor at the soccer field in El Recreo. As most know, soccer is a big deal there and everything is put on hold if there is a game, plus before, Diana was an avid member of the female soccer team there.

Sorry to make this almost a book, but i thought it might be helpful to share a little something to accompany the pictures. I would just like to say that Diana has become someone very special to me. Like I shared with my wife, Kathy, at the very beginning of this journey, Diana is like a beacon of light, radiating her smile, her positive attitude, her ability to forgive, and her faith without any hesitation whatsoever. She has taught me more than she will ever realize.
Thanks for listening,
Jerry Burger
Founder and President, Friends From Iowa Foundation
Want to read more from Diana in her own words?