The Wrong Girl

Indianapolisstar Indiana parents spend weeks at their daughter's bedside, awaiting her emergence from a coma. When she comes to, the girl says she isn't their daughter - she's actually another blonde who was in the car wreck. Which means their own daughter has already been buried.

For the past week, the family of Laura VanRyn, 22, had been using a blog to keep friends and loved ones up to date on the young woman's progress since the April 26 crash involving several students at Taylor University. The young woman was in a rehab center in Grand Rapid, Mich, when she started coming to.

Monday, the mother, Lisa VanRyn wrote, "While certain things seem to be coming back to her, she still has times where she'll say things that don't make much sense." When she was able to write her name, she wrote:

Whitney Cerak.

A 19-year-old thought to have died in the crash five weeks before.

Dental records confirmed it was not Van Ryn at the rehab center.

Yesterday, the family wrote:

What may come to us as a shock, does not shock the One who made us. We have some hard news to share with you today. Our hearts are aching as we have learned that the young woman we have been taking care of over the past five weeks has not been our dear Laura, but instead a fellow Taylor student of hers, Whitney Cerak. There was a misidentification made at the time of the accident and it is uncanny the resemblence that these two women share. Their body types are similar, their hair color and texture, their facial features, etc. Over the past couple of days, as Whitney had been becoming more aware of her surroundings, she'd been saying and doing some things that made us question whether or not she was Laura. Yesterday, we talked with a Spectrum staff member and began the process of making a positive ID. We now know without a doubt, that this is Whitney.

The Cerak family came down from Gaylord and we had the privelege of meeting with them this morning. While we discussed some of the action steps that will need to take place over the next couple of days, we were also able to share with them some of the great things we have seen Whitney accomplish over the past month. It is a sorrow and a joy for us to learn of this turn of events. For us, we will mourn Laura's going home and will greatly miss her compassionate heart and sweetness while knowing that she is safe and with her King forever. We rejoice with the Ceraks, that they will have more time on this earth with their daughter, sister, and loved one.

Here's an AP article on what happened. A longer version from the Indianapolis Star.

Will Teullive
Posted 06/01/2006 07:28:36 AM

Official statement from rehab center in Grand Rapid, Mich just released by AP; "Whoops, my bad"

Posted 06/01/2006 10:07:07 AM

Wow. And what a compassionate and noble statement from the family!

Posted 06/01/2006 11:23:34 AM

It'd be nice to see this not turn litigious in the coming weeks and months, but who think that'll happen? It sounds like the families themselves bear some responsibility in this taking 5 weeks to be discovered. The parents of the girl who is alive didn't want to see the body of the girl they thought was theirs. That alone may have solved the problem within 24 hours. I'm not knocking anyone. Just saying that the rescue workers and hospital folks should not be held to account for this.

Posted 06/01/2006 05:58:11 PM

absolutely heartwrenching. Heard an abbreviated version of the story this morning, and yes, Linndc, i cannot imagine being able to put something together like that for the public.

Posted 06/02/2006 06:40:18 AM

Unbelievable. It's 6:45 a.m. on 6/2/06 and I am at work with tears running down my face. I have two young daughters 12 and 9 and I immediately thought of this happening to my family and WOW...... I agree with Will....the VanRyn family's statement was extremely compassionate. I send the VanRyn family all of my prayers and hope they can overcome this heartbreaking time.

ping: hoodia -->
Posted 06/04/2006 04:56:11 PM