Tim and Dolly Lenards and their children Mary, Melissa, and Matt have always had a strong faith in God, but their faith was put to the test a year ago. You could say they passed that test with flying colors. You could also say they have become an inspiration to the community and witnesses for the power of prayer.
Tim suffered a brain bleed on March 13, 2015, and was rushed to Sanford Hospital in Sioux Falls. He was in a coma and required one-on-one care 24/7 for four weeks. The family was told the odds were stacked against him as Tim would need to undergo three surgeries on his brain and one on his stomach.
The doctors informed the family there were no guarantees and would not even predict outcomes from the surgeries. Tim beat those odds. He and his family believe he received several miracles that resulted from an outpouring of prayers. “People stepped up and showered us with love and prayers, it was amazing,” Dolly said. “The prayers saved him! There is no other explanation for his recovery. He experienced unexplainable miracles and it’s all because of the prayers.”
The family created a prayer map, which now hangs in their living room. The map shows a dot for every location they were said and the prayers rained down from coast to coast as well as Columbia, Italy, Germany, Denmark, Ghana, and Mexico.
Tim gradually came out of his coma and spent another month in intensive rehabilitation. He began with bedside therapy and was then moved to the rehab floor for the remainder of his stay. “Tim had to start from square one and learn everything all over. We celebrated every baby step,” said Dolly. “From swallowing and moving one finger, to talking and eating, to sitting on the edge of the bed, and finally taking his first step.”
Dolly spent the entire two months by Tim’s side and Mary, Melissa, and Matt were there almost as much. “Our kids have been so great throughout this journey,” Dolly said. “They have gone above and beyond and developed an amazing level of maturity, responsibility, depth of love, and appreciation for life.” Tim added, “The biggest help to me was Dolly and the kids. They did more for me than any doctor ever could. They pushed me and kept me going.”
Mary recently graduated from the University of South Dakota and teaches fourth grade at Christ The King School in Sioux Falls. She also coaches gymnastics at Sioux Falls O’Gorman High School. She spent last summer at home and ran the gymnastics program for Unity Square as well as worked nearly full-time at the Millstone. She helped with all of the indoor and outdoor work at home and accompanied her dad to therapy appointments.
Melissa is studying Commodity Merchandising in Agriculture at Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown. She spent the summer working full-time at Perkins and came home as often as possible to help. Last fall, Melissa scheduled her classes for three days a week so she was able to spend time with her dad and help out.
Matt, a junior at Milbank High School, worked two part-time jobs, kept his grades up, was actively involved in football, basketball, tennis, and baseball, but he took on many of Tim’s responsibilities. “As Tim’s condition has improved,” Dolly said, “Matt has worked beside his dad rather than in his place.”
Tim and Dolly have a large extended family who have also pitched in. “Crisis brings out the best or the worst in people,” Dolly said, “But in our family, it definitely brought out the best in all of us.”
Dolly had to be absent from her position as a second grade teacher at Koch School during Tim’s hospitalization and recovery. Linda Comstock substituted for her. “Linda contacted Mr. Lease immediately when she heard the news about Tim,” said Dolly. “She agreed to sub for me as long as necessary, which ended up being the rest of the school year. She did a wonderful job with the kids; not only did she provide a great education, but she answered difficult questions about my situation and helped them to keep in touch with me and show support for Tim and our family. She sent tons of cards and letters from the students. The second grade teaching team was also amazing and took Linda under their wing during her long-term assignment.”
Dolly recalls sitting in the chair at Tim’s bedside reading some of the cards the students had made. Some featured pictures of leprechauns and text about why they were lucky to have me as a teacher. “In the midst of some very difficult moments, I was able to smile and even giggle as I read their messages. They sent two adorable projects which we displayed proudly in Tim’s room.” Dolly was able to stop into the classroom for a visit before the school year ended. “It was wonderful to see my class again, thank them for their support, hear of their experiences and, of course, get some much needed school-kid hugs!”
She said the entire school district was understanding and supportive. “We received many cards, texts, emails, visits, meals, and gifts from staff in both buildings. It was incredible how they supported the Tim Team Benefit. Most importantly, the staff were bold in their faith. They, along with our family and friends, prayed us through some very tough times.”
During one of their darkest moments, the family received a message from heaven. It arrived during a time of prayer and proclaimed: Trust The Plan! They were suddenly overcome with a great sense of peace and calm. “We made the message our family motto and say it often. We are definitely trusting the plan, whatever that may be,” Dolly stated.
As Tim continues to recover, the family can relax more and reflect on his journey. Dolly explained that “in true Tim fashion” he often joked around with the nurses, doctors, therapists, and his children. He tried to encourage the kids to break him out of the hospital or to do simple tasks such as tying his shoe for him, instead of doing it himself. He also would have fun with the hospital staff, which became like family to all the Lenards.
Tim also channeled his competitive and stubborn nature to work towards his rehab goals. His ultimate goal was to be released from the hospital in time to attend the MHS graduation and his son’s state tennis tournament. He reached his goal and was released May 13, 2015, exactly two months after being admitted. “Without those goals, I could have easily just laid there and felt sorry for myself,” he said. “I had to will myself to do things and not settle for less.”
The doctors were most concerned with the effects the brain bleed would have on his vision, speech, and coordination. Most of those things have returned and Tim is doing well. He was recently cleared to drive again and will continue his rehab in hopes of returning to work. For now, the family enjoys their time together and have learned not to take anything for granted. “Our family has pulled together and become stronger as individuals and as a unit,” expressed Dolly. “We are grateful to everyone who has been part of our journey. We could not have come so far without their love, prayers, calls, visits, texts, meals, gifts, help, and support. May they all be blessed!”
The Lenards family was recently honored by the Knights of Columbus as the 2016 Family of the Year. The family was chosen for their inspirational example. “They have shown us that miracles can happen when you have faith, prayer, and a commitment to each other and God,” stated Dan Loehrer, Grand Knight for the KCs.
Tim has been an active member of the Knights of Columbus since February of 2010 and regularly takes part in over a dozen projects, including the annual fish fry, pancake feed, and cemetery cleaning. “We were so surprised to receive this award,” Tim and Dolly said. “The kids and our family knew, but we didn’t. We thought it was kind of weird that the kids were at the supper, but everyone had an explanation. This award is so meaningful to all of us. The Knights have been so supportive!”
As the Lenards move forward from their one year anniversary they will continue to keep the faith and “Trust The Plan.”