Five days before Christmas 2021, Heather Vanboerum was leaving Costco when a driver accidentally hit the gas rather than the brake, pinning her between two cars. One of Heather's legs was severed upon impact. Her life changed in an instant—but the miracles that followed, both big and small, are remarkable and on this week’s episode of All In, Heather helps us see them all through her eyes.
Listen to the full episode in the player below or by clicking here.
The following excerpt has been edited for clarity.
Morgan Pearson: On December 20, 2021, you were on the phone with your husband when something happened that would change your life forever. Something you never could have anticipated. Can you tell listeners a little bit about what you remember from the events of that day or what you've been told happened?
Heather Vanboerum: Yes. I was awake the entire time from the beginning of the accident until I was in the ER. I was at Costco in the parking lot and it was, of course, busy [because it was] five days before Christmas. And I remember a lot of people walking through the parking lot and cars lined up and I was on the phone with my husband. We were planning a pizza party for my son and his friends. I thought it might be nice for us to have the kids over and then give parents a little extra time to do what they [needed] to for Christmas. And I was walking through the parking lot. And all of a sudden I heard some commotion and some noise and some people kind of screaming, and I looked behind me and there was a car backing up quickly. I could see it coming. And all of a sudden, I tried to jump out of the way and the car pinned me between another car and I just dropped to the ground. And I remember it being very cold. And it was starting to get dark. It was probably about 4:00, and it had just started to get that dusky feel. And so I was lying in the parking lot—I don't know where my phone had gone. And somebody came and asked me if I needed a blanket, and I just blinked my eyes [and] kind of said yes. And one of the angels on earth was there to go and get me a blanket, and she held my hand while other people were kind of bustling around trying to figure out what to do. And I kind of just laid there. I didn't really want to look up too much. I was just in excruciating pain—the worst pain I've ever felt. And then I looked down and I happened to see all the blood that was down below. I didn't see that I had lost my right foot, but I saw a lot of blood. And I remember saying, "I'm going to die."
My husband happened to hear that on the other end—somebody had picked up my phone and had started talking to my husband. So at that point, I'm [lying] there, somebody's holding my hand, and a man puts on a tourniquet, a temporary tourniquet on my legs, and that man actually saved my life by doing that. The man who [had picked up] the phone ... was the Costco manager, [and he] let my husband know that we were in the parking lot. And my husband happened to be working, and he was on the 11th floor of the hospital. He ran down and ran across the street and happened to get to the place where I was [lying] right as the ambulance pulled up and at that point, they put me in the ambulance.
Morgan Pearson: So, I think one of the most incredible parts about the story for those that have never been to the Murray, Utah, Costco is that it basically shares a parking lot with the hospital where your husband was, correct?
Heather Vanboerum: Correct.
Morgan Pearson: I just think, “What are the odds of that?” But how does it make you feel when you think about … [how] something like that could have happened anywhere? And instead, it happened in the Costco where your husband was able to get to you quickly, where somebody knew how to put a tourniquet on. I just think there are so many elements of this in which it's difficult to deny the existence of a higher power.
Heather Vanboerum: Absolutely. I think, especially these days, we dismiss things so easily as "Oh, it's just happenstance," but there's no denying that these were little miracles and tender mercies. My husband has said many times had I not been that close to the hospital, there is no way I would have survived. When I got into the ambulance, my blood pressure was so low and I had lost so much blood, so that was a tender mercy. Also ... the man who was instructed to do the tourniquets, he was on the phone with the Murray Fire Department and they instructed him how to ... [make] a temporary one. But the fact that he did that and that he was able to be so calm and do it correctly is a miracle in [and of] itself. And just the fact that there is a [Level 1 trauma center] at IMC—that was huge. [If] they had to send me off to another hospital, that would have been more time, and definitely something that would have not allowed me to live.
Morgan Pearson: It's amazing to me. You've mentioned a few of these everyday heroes, you said earthly angels, people who were just shopping at Costco before Christmas, who I feel were called upon simply by virtue of being there to help save your life. What do you know about those people? What have you learned about them in the days since? What kind of gratitude do you feel toward them?
Heather Vanboerum: Well, I'll start with what I know about them. I have had the privilege of meeting with these earthly angels, some of them, in person. One in particular, the woman who was holding my hand, I have just become so close with. And the day she came to my house after the accident, and we met, of course I didn't know what she looked like. I probably saw her face that day, but I didn't remember what she looked like. But we held hands. And as she came to my door that day, I held her hand and it was like it was home to me. I felt I knew her hand. And I couldn't let go of her hand—it just was the best thing in the world to me. She really stayed with me and kept me with her and gave me peace during that time. ...
[Something] she shared with me is that she didn't know why she was there. She had never been to that Costco. Her father had died the week before. And she had gone over to the mall, she walked around the mall, [and] left without buying anything. She just really did not even know why she was there. And then she went over to Costco, really didn't buy much, and was just leaving when she saw the accident. And she actually had pulled away and thought, "I don't have anything to offer whatever that person is going through," and something made her go back. And I truly believe she was put there to comfort me and to be my mother at that time. She ... didn't know [this] at the time, but I had lost my father as well. And I felt his presence there. And she said she felt like she was there to be a mother figure to me.
Also, we did have a conversation with the man who put the tourniquets on. My husband and I had a conversation with him on the phone, and [I'm] just so grateful to him for his calmness and his willingness to do something that had to be really hard. And I'm sure it hasn't been easy for him since. So my gratitude to both of them and to the manager from Costco is so deep. I think about them. Often I think about what we shared in that parking lot together. And I love them so much for what they gave me at that time, both physically and spiritually. And I'm also very grateful to [the] Murray Fire Department that was there, and I know they comforted the people that helped me after and tried to give them comfort and strength after I had been taken away.