Lindsey Bowden needs all the support she can get right now.
Bowden, who graduated from Plant City High School in 2018, was seriously injured in a longboarding accident on Sept. 16. While she’s fighting to get back on her feet again, her communities have done what they can to let her know they’re in her corner.
Lees-McRae College, where she plays soccer, held a prayer vigil for her on Sept. 20. Plant City residents did the same on Tuesday evening at the Palmer Street train depot. More than 60 people — friends, family members and more — came to pour the energy of their thoughts and prayers to Bowden and her family as they tackle one of the toughest times in their lives.
“We’re here tonight to show support, say prayers, take donations and do what we can to help the family,” Traci Walding, one of the family friends who helped organize the vigil, said.
Leecy Bowden, Lindsey’s mom, has given several updates on her daughter’s condition via Facebook over the past few weeks.
In a Sept. 23 post, she went into detail about the accident itself. While longboarding down a hill on her college campus, Lindsey was unable to control her momentum and hit a car. The impact from the collision sent Lindsey backward and broke her skull. Her brain was bleeding and swelling, and she was immediately hospitalized.
“When we found out, we left immediately in the middle of the night and we had to drive through Hurricane Sally to get up there,” Charlie Bowden, Lindsey’s father, said. “We stayed up there for two and a half weeks. It’s been unbelievable. It’s been something that no parent needs to go through. A parent’s nightmare. We were on the road and they asked if they could do a procedure while we were driving.”
Two surgeries later, Lindsey’s brain pressure was stabilized and her condition improved to stable. After she woke up from a coma, she regained some movement and was able to react. A piece of her skull was removed and that, Charlie said, was crucial to Lindsey’s condition improving.
“She was kind of in a coma, in a self-induced paralysis for about a week, week and a half, then they started slowly taking her off that,” he said. “She had about 15 tubes and wires, you know, attached to her and every day, they would take one or two off. After about a week and a half, she woke up and she didn’t remember the accident at all.”
In a Sept. 27 update, Leecy said Lindsey had progressed well enough that her brain monitor and vent were removed early that morning. She and Charlie were both able to visit Lindsey simultaneously and got an encouraging sign for their daughter.
“I believe because we were both there together she started responding better than ever,” Leecy wrote. “She smiled at us and opened her eyes and looked at us. She nodded her head and answered questions. She responded to commands. She wiggled her toes and gave thumbs up!”
On Tuesday, Charlie said Lindsey had just been transferred from Mission Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina to the Atlanta, Georgia-based Shepherd Center for spinal cord and brain injury rehabilitation on Monday. Lindsey’s rehab program started Wednesday and will last for at least two months. Because the center only allows patients to have one visitor at a time due to COVID-19, Leecy is staying with her daughter while Charlie is back in Florida.
Lindsey’s motor skills are coming back, Charlie said, and she is able to communicate and answer some questions.
“They gradually let her start doing some physical activity,” Charlie said. “She could put her socks on, her shoes on, brush her teeth — but then when you ask her something simple like, I was wearing a Gators shirt and I said, ‘Lindsey, what team do we root for?’ She says ‘We root for the Florida Gators.’ I said, ‘That is so good! What color is (the shirt)?’ She didn’t know. So her select memory is a struggle. She has a big old deal in her head with 50 staples.”
Plant City residents wasted no time reaching out to the Bowdens and trying to help.
The #BowdenStrong hashtag started trending locally on social media well before Tuesday’s vigil. Many people offered to donate to the Bowden family. “Bowden Strong” t-shirts were quickly made and put up for sale online with all proceeds slated to go directly to the family. The shirts, along with #BowdenStrong bracelets, were available for people to take at the vigil when they went up to put some money in the donations box. Charlie said the response the family has gotten from the community — whether it’s friends and family, his coworkers at Badcock Home Furniture, Plant City High School, First Baptist Church of Plant City or even old friends from long ago — has been incredible.
“We’ve felt all the prayers from Plant City, even from friends I haven’t talked to in 30 years,” he said. “It’s just blown us away.”
Many Bible verses were shared at the Tuesday evening vigil, but one in particular stood out: Isaiah 41:10. It’s been a fixture in the #BowdenStrong merchandise and was read to close the ceremony. It’s the ultimate confidence booster, an assurance that having a little faith will go a long way in one woman’s fight to get her life back.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
The Guynn family always knew of the Bowdens, but Lindsey’s accident brought them together. They knew exactly what Lindsey was up against from their own experience.
Six years ago, when Brock Guynn was 14 years old and four-wheeling with friends in Georgia, he got into an accident that left him with a traumatic brain injury of his own. He, too, ended up at the Shepherd Center after winning a fight for his life at a hospital in Savannah, Georgia. He said Lindsey is in good hands at the Shepherd Center.
“They helped me get back, kind of, athletically,” he said. “I was heavy into soccer and my focus of getting back was to play soccer again. Not being able to walk again wasn’t really an option. I fought and did everything I could to get back on my feet. The Shepherd Center is a phenomenal rehabilitation center… it’s very, very wonderful.”
When Lindsey’s accident happened, mutual friends reached out to the Guynns to build a connection and they jumped at the chance to support the Bowdens. They knew they had to be there for this family, even if they barely knew each other beforehand.
“We have a lot of close friends of theirs who are friends of ours and they called us right away to ask us to pray, and if we could be there for them,” Monica Guynn said. “That’s certainly what we’re called to do now — to remind people that miracles are still real and that God is still big. We need to support each other and be there in prayer for one another.”