WEST PLAINS, Mo. -- Thanksgiving Day 2018, will be a day the Hinds family of West Plains will never forget. More than seven months later, the family shares its long journey of returning home.
"It was a typical Thanksgiving morning, where I get up early and I'm busy cooking," Gail Hinds told KY3.
Gail's husband Mark, as he typically does on Thanksgiving, went with his son to cut some wood, south of the family's home.
"And about 9:45, my son calls me. He says mom, something bad has happened to dad. He's been hit in the head and we're going to AirEvac him to Springfield," Gail said.
Gail thought her son was joking.
"He's like mom, I'm not kidding. He's so calm. Finally, he put the paramedic on. My heart just dropped," Hinds explained.
A branch had fallen from a dead tree and hit Mark in the head, crushing part of his skull.
Gail didn't get to see Mark before he was taken in the helicopter.
"His vitals signs continued to worsen, she added. They knew his brain was swelling. So in the middle of the night, they did a craniectomy. Just for several days, he was so critical."
One minute Mark would improve, the next his condition would worsen.
"I felt very broken and emptied. And I gave it to God, Hinds exclaimed. I would sit in his room. He couldn't have any stimuli and you couldn't have any sound. I would sit in his room and be just really quiet. I had to be still as a mouse. I couldn't touch him and couldn't talk to him. I would just pray. It was really dark. It was dark in there. We had to keep it dark. I gave it to God, but in my mind I started planning his funeral."
On December 2nd, a day before Gail thought she might have the decision to pull Mark off life support, Mark surprised everyone.
"I looked at Mark and his eyes were open. I said Mark, your eyes are open," Hinds screamed. I don't think I've ever experienced such joy in my whole life."
After more than three weeks in Springfield, Mark's family moved him to Craig Hospital.
A hospital that specializes in traumatic brain injuries in Denver.
He would undergo grueling rehab for the next six months.
"People would ask me everyday, how are you Mark? I'm homesick. Other than that, I'm fine," Hinds said.
Letters, cards, visits and prayer warriors back home in the Ozarks kept Mark's spirits up.
"And they'd say, Mark your better today. Why are you better? And I'd say, everybody at home is praying for me. That's why I'm better."
On June 6th, the Hinds family started the drive back home.
Along the way, a stop a Cox South to thank the team of nurses for everything.
Then came a homecoming no one expected.
"It was quite a homecoming, Mark noted. I couldn't have ever imagined it. It started in Willow Springs, which is 20 to 25 miles up the road and it was clear up to the front door of my house. People were strung out all along the highway with ribbons and signs. I was amazed. I couldn't believe it. There was people taking off work, there was people doing everything just to come and greet me coming home."
Mark has been home for a week now and things are going well.
Loved ones are stopping by and Mark is enjoying his own bed.
Gail hopes others dealing with similar situations don't give up hope.
"All is dark and all hope is gone....you hang on, because that is the very time that God will act."