Jennifer Zeulner is an amazing young woman with an extraordinary story of courage and faith. Read on to learn about her journey.
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
A: I’ve lived in Orange County all my life. I’m a mom of two girls; they are my world. The oldest is almost eight and the youngest is four and a half. I live with my husband in Aliso Viejo, and he works at a church in Costa Mesa. For fun I enjoy snowboarding, wakeboarding and a really good cup of coffee.
Q: What were you like as a teenager?
A: As a teenager I was labeled as a “good Christian girl.” I came from a Christian home and have two brothers. I was everyone’s friend, played volleyball, ran track and on ASB. I’m naturally a very empathetic person, so I feel like my life has always been about other people. I have always worried about others, prayed for others, but I never felt like I was an important person.
Q: What made you decide to serve at youth camp?
A: I was feeling trapped by the culture of Orange County. I grew up here and I was seeing myself fall prey to the things of the world. I didn’t want to find value in what I looked like, what I did or my education. So as a 19-year-old I signed up to work at a youth camp in Colorado. I knew that this was going to be the breath of fresh air that I was needing. I wanted to serve God, hear from Him, clear my head and get away.
Q: Tell us about the accident that changed everything?
Q: What were your thoughts about God and how this would affect the rest of your life?
A: My immediate thought was that I didn’t want to be angry or wonder why this has happen to me, because I’m so thankful at how good God has been to me. This was the first traumatic thing that had happened to me. My life had been easy up until that point. I knew at that moment that my life was never going to be the same.
Q: What was the external and internal healing process like?
A: It was a three-year process where I had more than 30 reconstructive surgeries. The first year alone, I had to wear a neck brace all the time and had compression bandages on my arm. Everywhere I went, people would look at me funny. Recovery has meant everything from shaving my head and taking skin from my scalp to doctors reforming the skin around my eyes. One of the hardest experiences was when they inserted an implant at the base of my neck and used it to stretch the skin over the course of a month by adding liquid to it (think water balloon under your skin). I was in bed all month—it was very hard to move. I went in for surgery and they cut out all the thick scarring on my neck and used the extra skin to give me a neck lift.
I have gone through extensive counseling trying to deal with the whole situation. Considering what happened, I felt pretty level-headed through the whole ordeal. It was God who was sustaining me and keeping my eyes on Him. It really was an out-of-body experience where He protected and loved me through my darkest hours.
Q: Is there anything you would like to tell others going through a similar situation?
A: Tragedy is really hard, but when you embrace it with hope and God’s love, He will see you through it.