Editor’s Note: The below letter is from the parents of Gip Gayle. GON reported on Gip’s Toombs County dove-hunting incident in the October 2003 issue. Gip received numerous shotgun pellets to his head and was not expected to live.
GON is glad to report that Gip is doing very well. His parents felt led to update the GON family on God’s incredible grace in their amazing journey.
GON wrote an article about our son, Gip Gayle, in the October 2003 issue. The article told about Gip’s dove-hunting accident that took place in Toombs County on Sept. 6, 2003. Gip was shot in the head and not expected to survive, let alone recover. Well, thanks to God’s amazing grace and many, many prayers, Gip is with us today! He has his complete memory, his wonderful sense of humor and his unshakable faith. In our hearts, we truly believe that Gip is a walking, talking miracle!
We just celebrated the five-year anniversary of Gip’s accident — or as we prefer to call it, “God’s Miracle in Gip’s Life.” We still receive letters and inquiries about Gip’s recovery from people who read your article on him in 2003. In that spirit, we thought you might be interested in an update on our son’s recovery, as it has been a remarkable journey.
At 19 years old, and only three weeks into his freshman year of college, Gip went dove hunting in Vidalia. A friend accidentally fired his gun and hit Gip in the head with 12-gauge bird shot from less than 26 feet away. Gip’s skull was completely crushed on the right side at his temple area, above his right ear to the top of his head. Gip suffered a traumatic brain injury, as he lost more than one-quarter of his brain from the blast.
It seems that miracles began happening even at that moment. One of the hunters had a cell phone and actually got a signal. That was rare, as this hunting field is in the middle of nowhere. The EMT arrived in less than 10 minutes. Again, this field is out in the middle of nowhere. The ambulance took Gip to the Vidalia hospital. They were unable to treat him there because of the severity of his injuries and called for a life-flight helicopter to take him to the nearest trauma hospital, which was in Savannah. The life-flight crew had been grounded due to a storm coming in, but when they got the call, they knew they were Gip’s only hope for survival, so they came anyway.
That’s when we received the call from the Vidalia sheriff. He told us that our son had been shot in a hunting accident, and that we needed to get to Savannah immediately. The sheriff was unable to tell us if our son was still alive or not. After an UNBEARABLE five-hour drive to Savannah, we, along with our other son, Taylor, 14 years old at the time, arrived at the Savannah hospital and were told that Gip had just been given his last rites by a local priest and was not expected to survive. Well, he did survive; praise the Lord!
He spent nearly a year in and out of several hospitals and has had more than 20 surgeries and procedures so far. He lost more than 70 pounds and became extremely weak and fragile. He continued to face one serious complication after another. The pain Gip had to endure is indescribable. Watching him suffer through it was incomprehensible. When he was finally able to come home, he still had to go to outpatient facilities for intensive therapies for another six months as he relearned how to do everything. He continued to return to the hospital for additional surgeries over the next few years.
Gip’s road to recovery has been a long and tough one, and he still has more ahead of him. We almost lost our son more times than we care to remember. But, our prayer warriors kept praying, and “The Gipper” kept fighting, and here we are.
Gip is determined to get his life back. He lives each day thankful for the opportunity to give glory to God for his second chance at life. At this five-year anniversary, we are blessed to report that Gip is now back in college! He is taking it slowly, one step at a time, but this is a huge accomplishment and a day that many said would never come.
Many ask us if things are back to normal. Our honest answer is that we have a “new normal” in our lives now, and we have learned that our acceptance of that is our greatest gift. It’s the Serenity Prayer in its purest form: God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can and the wisdom to know the difference.
Do we still have struggles in this journey? Of course we do. But, we have so much to be thankful for, and we are. We stay on bended knee in thanks and praise.
One of the highlights in Gip’s journey is that he met and became good friends with Jeff Foxworthy, our beloved all-time favorite comedian and fellow hunter. When Gip was shot, he was wearing a camouflage ball cap that was signed by Jeff Foxworthy. It was Gip’s favorite hat. He even called it his lucky hat; he still does.
Gip was very involved in the Young Life christian youth group throughout high school, and Jeff is a huge supporter of this organization. As a senior in high school, Gip won a Young Life contest, and the prize was one of the signed hats that Jeff had donated to Young Life.
The blast from the gun went right between Jeff and Foxworthy, pretty much destroying Gip’s favorite hat. Gip’s Young Life leader, Chuck Scott, was determined to meet Jeff Foxworthy and get another signed hat for Gip. Thanks to Chuck’s relentless efforts, one thing led to another and before we knew it, Jeff and his precious wife, Gregg, came to our home to meet Gip, bringing him many signed hats. This was such a gift from God. Meeting Jeff, and of course laughing with him, lifted all of our spirits at a time when life was pretty tough.
About two years into Gip’s recovery, Jeff invited Gip and Richard (Gip’s dad) to go deer hunting at his farm in Harris County. This was Gip’s first time returning to the hunting world since his accident. Needless to say, Gip was thrilled.
I (Beth) don’t hunt, but I know that hunting seems to get in the blood for those who do, including Gip. As parents, we’ve had to accept this and even embrace it. After all that we’ve been through, it has been tough to let go and allow Gip to hunt again. But, as Gip has told us many, many times, “I fought soooo hard to survive. Now I want to live! And for me, hunting is living!”
As they set out to hunt, they were joined by Glenn Garner, Jeff’s good friend and hunting partner. Gip did not get a deer that weekend, but he got a boost to his morale that could not be measured in words, or antlers!
Gip and Glenn hit it off right away. As if Jeff hadn’t done enough, Gip spent the following summer working with Glenn at Jeff’s farm. Glenn and his wife, Andrea, graciously invited Gip to live with them while he worked on the farm. Jeff’s brother, Jay Foxworthy, also joined them in working on the farm, and he and Gip became fast friends as well.
God’s finger print seems to be on every page of Gip’s journey. It was an awesome summer for Gip being with these fine, Christian men. They were wonderful to Gip and became incredible mentors in his life.
Almost a year later, Jeff called Gip to tell him that he felt led by God to do a benefit concert in Gip’s honor. Gip graciously thanked Jeff, but said that he could not accept such a gift. Jeff responded in typical Foxworthy fashion, saying “Gipper, I am not asking for your permission, buddy. I’m just telling you when it’s gonna happen, and that it would be great if you could be there.” Yep, humor is the best medicine, and Jeff is the best at it. He called the concert, “One For The Gipper!”
Gip and Jeff continue to keep in touch, and Jeff’s beautiful heart continues to amaze our family. We have thanked Jeff many, many times, but he will never really know just how much he has blessed our lives. What he and his precious family have done for Gip can only be measured in heavenly terms. Jeff is such a fine man, a wonderful example of true Christianity and has become a dear friend to our entire family. Thank you for allowing us to thank him, publicly!
Visit Gip’s website at <www.gipgayle.net> and be lifted and inspired, as we have been by God’s amazing grace and by the many earthly angels that have carried us through this journey. We are very, very blessed. May God bless all of you. HUNT SAFELY!
With Grateful Hearts,
Beth & Richard Gayle, Lawrenceville