The past six months have led Bruce and Tammy Smith, the parents of 11 children, down a harrowing road.
In October, as Tammy slowly pulled away from a stop sign, a semi-truck plowed into her door, knocking her unconscious and delivering a serious brain injury. One of her lungs collapsed, ribs were broken and she would remain in a vegetative state until Thanksgiving.
At the scene, after the truck driver crawled from his overturned cab, he approached the horrific wreckage of Tammy’s van and began to pray for her.
Bruce, her husband of 24 years, had one goal – he would stay by Tammy’s side as much as the hospital staff would let him, and together the couple would reach the other side.
Friends, neighbors and people he’d never met stepped into the breach. Residents of the small town of Johnston, South Carolina, pitched in, as did people from surrounding communities.
With Bruce at the hospital, car pools formed, food and money were donated, the Smith children got to school as well as to their extra-curricular activities.
The Smith children. (Courtesy of the Smith family)
“These are amazing people in these communities,” he told InsideEdition.com. “I’ve got three girls in ballet” and the classes are 35 miles away. But somehow, the girls made it there.
“Our communities have repeatedly come together,” Bruce said. “They’ve given us everything you can think of.”
Tammy’s road to recovery is still being traveled. There are chunks of time missing from her brain. She remembers nothing of the accident. She has trouble sometimes telling her youngest child, two-year-old Faith, from a grandchild who is nearly the same age and looks like Faith.
Her family showed her photographs of Faith as a baby until Tammy could remember that she gave birth to the child. “It wasn’t instant,” Bruce said, “but it became more real.”
Their kids range in age from two to 23, and nine of them still live at home.
Things are always a bit chaotic in the family’s three-bedroom home, but everyone is dedicated to helping Tammy get better.
She is able to walk a few feet on her own, Bruce said. She can bathe herself but needs help in and out of the tub. The couple goes for walks on their wooded property with Tammy leaning on Bruce for support.
Bruce Smith helps wife Tammy walk in the yard of their South Carolina home. (Smith family photo)
Bruce stopped working as a truck driver to care for Tammy fulltime when she was released from the hospital in January. “She’s doing good,” he said. “She hasn’t stopped improving. “
Doctors have no way of knowing if her recovery will be complete, Bruce said. He thinks his wife faces another year of rehabilitation to get to her old self.
Her mind is working, he said. “She did not lose herself.”
Tammy uses a wheelchair to go grocery shopping with Bruce, and to church with her family. She goes on outings with friends. “It’s really neat when we go places,” Bruce said. “People come up, some we absolutely do not know.”
But they know about the Smith family, and all it has endured in the last six months.
Sometimes they just marvel at the sheer size of the family.
“We take the kids out to eat, people just stare,” Smith said, laughing. “They can’t believe we go anywhere with all these kids.”