Union unites after Heather Boulais’ fall

Emy Wood

Registration. Classes. New schedules. Welcome to the new year, Union.

At the end of our first week, we should have been sighing deeply in unison, as we stopped to reflect on another tough week accomplished. Yet, our problems seem miniscule when we think of what our semester has started with—a fall.

On January 15, Heather Boulais, a 23-year old senior elementary education major, fell approximately 23 feet while setting up her apparatus for silks. The fall resulted in a traumatic brain injury, skull fracture and a drug-induced coma that night while doctors worked to save her life.

“It really didn’t hit me how critical her injuries were until her dad said it was a matter of minutes and she may not be here,” said Derek Baker, senior business sports management major and Boulais' hand-to-hand partner.

Over hours of practice, both Baker and Boulais’ silks partner Samuel Dinzey saw her love for gymnastics shine through. They would often spend hours in the gym, practicing routines over and over until perfect.

“When we first started talking about doing routines, she would send me these ideas,” said Dinzey “I would give one sentence, and she would send paragraphs. She loves what she does. You can tell when someone loves what they do by the look on their face.”

Besides gymnastics, Boulais’ love for Union and joy in teaching radiate through the words her friends use to describe her—joyful, determined, passionate, uplifting. The list continues.

“I think that it is just so hard for everyone who knew her to see her in this condition,” said Jeffrey Middleton, College View Academy senior and gymnaire. “She was so active and fit, always up working. It doesn't seem right for her to be where she is. She thinks, eats, drinks, sleeps, and breathes gymnastics.”

Fellow gymnaire Caleb Freitag added, “She has such a drive for life and she is passionate about everything and everyone in it. She is a true witness for Christ through everything that she does. I don’t think I remember a time that she was not smiling.”

“You can never tell when Heather is having a bad day because she chooses to be positive even if things aren't going well for her,” said Tyler Bissell, senior international rescue and relief major. “This situation has been hard to handle especially since I am leaving for Nicaragua and won't be around to support my friend as she works to recover. But it has been amazing to see God work so far, and I am excited to see how He will continue to work and display His character through this.”

Last week, as her story spread through social media, thousands began gathering in an effort to pray for Heather’s healing. A prayer banner was filled with encouraging notes and names during vespers, and on January 17, thousands stopped what they were doing at 11 p.m. to pray.

“After she fell, I couldn’t focus to pray,” remembered Baker who witnessed the fall himself along with Dinzey and several other teammates. “I would overhear the EMTs saying ‘Stay with us, Heather,’ and I just kept thinking that over and over. I thought, I can’t pray right now, but I have 500 friends on Facebook who can. I posted “Prayers, please” and it has grown from there.”

Since the time of the incident, prayer has become even more of a focus for Union. Directly following the morning of Boulais' fall, Union College gathered in prayer as crucial steps were taken to care for her. In nearly every class period, professors began their class with a special word of prayer focused on Heather.

“It’s remarkable how we are coming together as an Adventist family across the nation, with schools like Walla Walla and Andrews praying for Heather and those close to her,” explained Stefani Leeper, sophomore communications major.

Baker also finds similar encouragement from a Facebook prayer group over 4,500 members strong. “God took her away for a bit, and He is showing us how powerful He is,” said Baker. “I don’t always understand God’s plan, but I can see how her fall has banded [us] together; it has really shown the strength of prayer.”

As time continues to pass and we keep Heather on our hearts, we are reminded out of all of this the true power of prayer. Prayer that she will heal and soon be back on the mats, confirming what all of us know to be true—she is a fighter. Don’t pray because you’re afraid you’ll be judged otherwise. Don’t pray because it’s the “cool thing.” Pray because there is a very real battle going on. Pray because, in times like this, it is the only and best thing we can do.

Pray because we are Union. Pray because we believe.


For more updates on Heather, be sure to follow The Clocktower on Facebook.

Emy is a sophomore studying communication.