Conversation: Heather Bland
The will to live
At age 4, Heather Bland fell out of her mother’s car and was
run over. Her chances of survival were minimal. But 36 years and nearly 200
operations later, Bland not only survived but walks, is married to her husband,
DeWayne, and has a 13-year-old daughter, Mackenzie. This year she documented
her life’s story in God Said Yes.
Bland has also endured the pain of childhood sexual abuse.
She gave birth to a stillborn son during her first marriage. The last three
years Bland has battled a rare form of staph infection and was recently
diagnosed with MS. Finding joy in the midst of it all, Bland spoke to Assistant
Editor Jennifer McClure about her will to live.
tpe: You say that “from hip to hip, pelvis to sternum”
you’re held together with wire mesh. How were you able to carry a pregnancy and
give birth to your daughter, Mackenzie?
BLAND: I was on bed rest in the hospital for 14 weeks until she
was born at 28 weeks by emergency C-section. She was born 5 pounds, 2 ounces,
but within the first two weeks she went down to 1 pound, 11 ounces. She had so
many things against her, but she’s 13 years old and perfectly healthy now.
Either surgically or with medication they have corrected everything. She’s a
great kid and is a big reason why I wake up every day.
tpe: What went wrong when Christopher was stillborn?
BLAND: I was told I would never get pregnant, but at the end
of 1991 after marrying my high school sweetheart in June of 1990, I found out I
was pregnant. I went into labor several weeks premature. During delivery
Christopher suffocated in fluid.
So up until five minutes before he was born, he still had a
heartbeat. He was perfect. He had a full head of coal black hair like me, and
green eyes. Perfect weight, perfect everything, but he had ingested too much of
the fluid and there was nothing they could do.
If there was ever a time in my life when I was angry with
God, it was when my son died, more so than any surgery or the accident or even
the sexual abuse. I had convinced myself my son was God’s thank you gift for
all my suffering.
tpe: And this is when you became bulimic?
BLAND: Yes. I didn’t drink or smoke, but I could control
food. I binged and purged almost every day for about a year and a half. It took
about 18 months and some good Christian counseling for me to finally realize
just like children get leukemia or people have miscarriages, bad things happen
to good people just like bad things happen to bad people. God doesn’t reward us
with a child any more than He would punish us with our child having leukemia.
tpe: How old were you when you were sexually abused, and how
have you dealt with that?
BLAND: It went on from the ages of 9 to 11. A man who lived
six doors down would pay kids to hand him tools while he was working on cars.
Little by little, he began sexually abusing me and at least three other kids in
the neighborhood. I was 12 before it all went to court. He went to jail and got
5 years of probation after he got out.
Back then you didn’t talk about sexual abuse. You didn’t go
to counseling. You just pretended it didn’t happen. It wasn’t until the death
of my son that I began to deal with my sexual abuse. Honestly, I’m still
working on forgiving what I went through. But every time I speak, somebody
walks up and tells me they’ve been abused.
tpe: When living is so painful, how have you maintained the
will to keep going?
BLAND: My faith and my family and a few select good friends.
You keep your faith as strong as you can. You remember your blessings every
day. It’s a choice if your pain outweighs your life or if your joy outweighs
your life. I choose for my joy to outweigh my life.
I can get aggravated and tired of being sick, but to pull
the sheet over my head and not get up is not an option. I’ve still got to be a
mom and a wife, and I’ve still got to get up and fight the fight and speak as
often as I can. And I’m not scared of heaven. I’m not scared of where I’m
going. I would just love to raise my daughter, love my husband and live my life
tpe: How do you find the good in life?
BLAND: I have been able to see miracles and blessings where
so many other people have not been able to see them. There’s no other way you
can explain why I’m still here or walking or functioning or still going every
day. Everyone says I should be in a wheelchair or in a bed, but that’s just not
Honestly, meeting others in pain and crisis has made my
faith stronger. Writing the book and starting to speak, I’m really learning how
to be more of a vessel for my Savior. It’s a blessing to see that everything I
have been through gives others encouragement.
There’s a lot of pain, but there’s a lot more joy. I’m very
blessed. My life, in spite of everything, is good.
tpe: Do you find yourself reflecting on the biblical
BLAND: Absolutely. I’ve probably read the Book of Job 30
times. I can relate to his story,
especially lately with MS and watching my mom go through MS the last 15 years.
I’m finally getting close to the end of this staph infection, and there’s
already another big bump in the road.
But for whatever reason, it’s just the next step, and I have
to be positive. I don’t think God’s punishing me. Whether I’m here one more day
or I’m here 20 more years, what I’ve been through is for a reason. If that
reason is to show people the joy over the pain, then that’s what I want to do.
tpe: Who encouraged you to write the book?
BLAND: My husband, De-Wayne. He really is the one who gave
me the courage to share everything. DeWayne let me know God has kept me here
for a reason. Between God and DeWayne, I realized that.
DeWayne truly is an angel. After my divorce, I was single
for eight years. I didn’t know if a man could love me the way I was —
with all my scars and everything that came with me. But DeWayne loves me in
spite of all of those things. Our faith is what keeps us together and what ties
us the closest. He’s my best friend. And he’s just as great to Mackenzie as he
is to me.
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