UPDATED: Pastor recovering from serious back injury
By KASIA PIERZGA
Whidbey Examiner Staff
August 31, 2012 · Updated 12:00 PM
UPDATE AS OF AUG. 25: Family and friends of Garrett Arnold were saddened today to learn that he has permanent damage to his spinal cord below his mid-section as a result of a fall off an embankment in Ledgewood. Arnold is pastor of Living Hope Foursquare Church in Coupeville.
The news was posted on the church's Facebook page at about 8 p.m. Saturday by Arnold's sister-in-law, Sarah Engle Viers.
"Please continue to pray as Garrett and the family works through this emotionally," Viers wrote in her message. "This will be a long journey towards independence."
According to Viers, Arnold can now receive cards and flowers in his room in the rehabilitation unit at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. However, nurses have advised the family that he needs to continue to rest, and should not have outside visitors.
"Thank you for your ever-present love and support," Viers wrote. "We know you are praying, and even in these tough times we feel your arms around us."
ORIGINAL STORY, POSTED ON AUG. 22:
Nearly a week after a well-known Coupeville pastor broke his back in a 25-foot fall down a steep embankment in the Ledgewood neighborhood, his family, friends and church community are praying for his recovery.
Garrett Arnold, pastor of Living Hope Foursquare Church, remains in the intensive care unit at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle after undergoing surgery in which doctors fused several broken vertebrae and stabilized his spinal column.
Sarah Viers, Arnold’s sister-in-law, said the surgery was successful, but it will be some time before doctors will know the full extent of the injury.
“The doctors continue to caution us that his back and his spine are so swollen, he needs time to rest and recover before they will be able to see what they’re working with,” she said. “They won’t tell us how long he’ll be in ICU or how long he would be in rehab. That’s the very frustrating thing with this type of injury.”
Arnold and his wife, Sylvia, celebrated their 24th wedding anniversary at Harborview on Monday. The couple has three children, two of whom – Scott and Courtney – are students at Azusa Pacific University in California. Their third child, Brett, is a junior at Coupeville High School who also plays on the football team.
Scott and Courtney were able to fly back to Washington to spend time at their dad’s bedside before heading back to college, Viers said.
“Luckily our other sister Shannon lives there, so they have that support,” Viers said. Shannon is married to Garrett Arnold’s brother, Lance.
The church’s Facebook page – Living Hope in Coupeville – is filled with comments from people near and far who are sending their prayers for Arnold’s recovery.
Updates on his condition also are being posted to the page.
Church Treasurer Suzanne Zetter, described the outpouring of love and prayers as “powerful.”
“The family is extremely grateful of the outpouring of the community’s love and prayer,” she said Monday.
People from churches from across the country and as far away as Australia and the Netherlands have sent thoughts and prayers to the Arnold family, she said.
Arnold has been senior pastor at Living Hope since 1997. On Friday morning, he was trimming grass when he tumbled about 25 feet from the top of a bluff. He lay there for nearly three hours before a woman walking on the beach discovered him.
He was eventually transported by ambulance to Greenbank Farm, then airlifted to Harborview.
Only family members are allowed in to visit Arnold while he recovers in intensive care, Viers said, adding that people should hold off on sending cards and flowers as well.
“As soon as he can, we’ll get that information out there,” she said.
Viers also asked that people refrain from speculating about Arnold’s injury and his prospects for recovery. Spreading stories and information that may or may not be true is stressful for his family, she said.
The family asks that people continue to pray for Arnold’s recovery, she said.
“Sylvia every day just asks to have people keep praying,” she said. “We appreciate all of Coupeville, and all the love and support they’re sending.”
Living Hope will host special worship services from 7 to 8 p.m. each Wednesday through September.
An account has been set up at Peoples Bank, where Sylvia works, so people donate to help offset the significant medical expenses the family will face. Checks can be taken to any Peoples Bank branch or to the church office at 105 N.W. Broadway.
In the meantime, church staff is pulling together to ensure services and programs continue. Services on Saturday were led by Ron Eerkes, associate pastor of Oak Harbor’s Grace Community Church. He is scheduled to preach again this Sunday.
Reporter Nathan Whalen contributed to this story.