Fighting for Life
When Toni Steffensen Pauls, Ph.D., and her son were involved in a life-threatening car accident on Oct. 3, 2001, the doctors said she wouldn’t live. Her left leg was crushed and she had several other broken bones and internal injuries.
“When they put me on the life flight to the hospital in Fort Wayne, they notified the hospital to expect the patient dead on arrival,” says Pauls.
Someone from her church heard the message over the radio, and word got out that she had died. Pauls arrived at the hospital near death but still alive.
Meanwhile, two surgeons were discussing her case over the operating table and considering how to treat her. One believed it was necessary to amputate her left leg, while the younger surgeon believed it was possible to save it. The younger surgeon was given a chance, and the operation was successful.
Following surgery, Pauls spent a year in recovery, learning to walk again and regaining strength and mobility in her leg. Through the difficult road to recovery, Pauls says she sensed the presence of God and saw His great love for her demonstrated through the sacrificial commitment of fellow church members to care for her family during that time.
Pauls recalls a key lesson she learned through her journey to recovery:
“If there is no pain, there is no hope for improvement,” she says. “If we are not feeling pain in our life, if we are not feeling compassion, if our hearts are hardened… it’s a dangerous place to be.”
About 12 years later, Pauls began working at Bethel in September of 2013 as the Vice President for Adult and Graduate Studies (AGS). She says she has seen God at work in a unique way through the AGS program and enjoys working with students in that capacity.
“We’re attracting students who aren’t coming necessarily because it’s a Christian college; they’re coming because we have programs that fit their needs,” she says.
Pauls believes that the AGS program has great potential as a means of sharing the Gospel.
“AGS has a greater opportunity to reach the lost,” she says.
Though Pauls primarily interacts with faculty and staff, she also enjoys the opportunities she receives to serve and interact with students.
“I feel very blessed by God to have the opportunity to be at such a wonderful place where God is clearly at work in students’ lives,” she says.
Outside of her work at Bethel, Pauls walks 3-5 miles per day to maintain the strength and mobility in her leg, trains for half-marathons and goes mountain-hiking. She plans to pursue another half-marathon this year.
“One thing I learned during my journey to recovery was that improvement takes a lot of hard work,” she said. “But God was faithful and gave me the strength to make it through.”