After accident, she finds solace, meaning at local hospital
LINCOLNTON – Cindy Warlick always led a normal life. She worked as a registered nurse at Lincoln County Hospital, had a loving husband, a young daughter and was just weeks away from delivering a baby boy.
Warlick’s life took a drastic change one May morning in 1985, though, when she was on her way to work.
Then 26, Warlick was driving east towards Lincolnton on N.C. 182 when her car careened off the road and into a ditch, hitting a tree.
“No one really knows what happened or how it went off the road,” Warlick’s husband, Ray, said. “She was just lying on the side of the road, and I think several people had stopped to help.”
Cindy Warlick was eight months pregnant at the time and was knocked unconscious. Her baby, Dustin, was delivered by Caesarean section once Cindy Warlick arrived at the hospital, but doctors discovered she had irreversible brain damage.
She was in a coma for more than a month. When she woke up, things weren’t quite the same.
“When she finally woke up, she recognized the people there, but she didn’t know why they were at the hospital,” Ray Warlick said. “All kinds of things were going through her head.”
Cindy Warlick recognized Ray but didn’t know he was her husband.
“That was kind of tough,” Ray Warlick said. “We took some pictures to the hospital to show her, hoping it would kind of help out.”
Cindy Warlick’s brain damage affected her short-term memory, and she wasn’t able to return to her full-time job at the hospital. The people around her also had to take a much greater rule in raising Dustin.
“I did as much as I could to help raise him, and the grandparents pitched in as much as they could to help, too,” Ray Warlick said. Norman’s Grove Baptist, the Warlicks’ church, “was also very helpful through the whole thing.”
Dustin Warlick, now 26, had a pretty normal life growing up and attended N.C. State University. He married a little more than a year ago and works as a mechanic.
Cindy Warlick returned to the hospital as a volunteer in April 1987, nearly two years after her accident. It wasn’t the same, but she enjoyed returning to the familiar environment, she said.
“A lot of the patients would remember me from when I was a registered nurse there,” Cindy Warlick said. “I just get so much enjoyment from working there. I absolutely love it.”
Rather than perform duties she normally would as a nurse, Warlick kept busy giving patients baths and taking lab work from place to place.
But she says her most important duties don’t include filing paperwork.
“I’m a Christian, and I witness to patients and pray with them,” she said. “A lot of times, I’ll just go in and talk to patients and just kind of lift them up.”
Cindy Warlick also teaches Sunday school to third- and fourth-graders at her church, and sometimes, she does the same thing at the hospital.
“Things don’t always go the way you’d like for them to go,” Ray Warlick said. “But we’re alright. She’s right where she wants to be.”