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Overli family tragedy turns to triumph

October 25, 2023 - 00:00
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  • Article Image Alt Text
    The Overlie Family (left to right) Mark, Lisa and son Paul. BULLETIN PHOTO by Tracy Thayer
  • Article Image Alt Text
    Mark Overlie (in red) finishes the Kerrville Triathlon Festival race in one hour fifty-seven minutes just two years after surviving a small plane crash. Courtesy Photo

On Feb. 10, 2021, the Overli family’s life changed dramatically. What follows is a story of triumph over tragedy through faith and personal determination.

Mark and Lisa Overlie were just a normal suburban couple, married for 31 years with two sons. Mark worked at a healthcare company in San Antonio, and Lisa was the music teacher at Medina ISD.

Retired from the Air Force, Mark had been around airplanes for 20 years, even purchasing his own small single engine plane.

Flying from Castroville to West Houston, the couple experienced an accident on the approach to the airport. Lucky for both, a nearby observer witnessed the crash and called emergency services.

The FAA has not determined the cause of the accident, but it was found that the plane stalled just before landing.

Mark doesn’t remember the details of the crash, just waking up in the hospital. Lisa remembers more.

She remembers the rescue workers in the late evening rushing to administer aid and remove them from the plane’s wreckage. The couple speculates they would not have survived without the immediate assistance of the emergency personnel, It took the EMS an hour and a half to extract the couple from the wreckage of the plane.

Without that quick-thinking person, the Overlies would not have received needed help so quickly.

Both woke up in separate hospital rooms, most of their injuries leg-related.

“The engine compartment basically just collapsed on our legs,” reports Mark.

Mark and Lisa were thankful their youngest son, Paul, scheduled to accompany Mark on the trip, had to back out at the last minute. Lisa decided to accompany her husband instead.

“We started at the trauma hospital in Houston. Lisa was there for about a month, and I was there for five or six weeks. We were both in separate rooms,” Mark said.

Lisa was then moved to an acute care hospital in San Antonio, Mark to an acute care hospital in Houston. Each went through at least 15 surgeries, “We have bars and rods everywhere,” remarked Lisa.

The couple was in the hospital for a total of five months in different hospitals, reuniting back at the rehab hosptial — finally in the same room.

“It was amazing, I got to see him in one month laying in the bed, then getting up on a walker, then to the cane finally to walking,” stated Lisa. “I said, I am going to follow you. And I am, I’m just going a lot slower. I had a spinal cord stroke and a heart attack, which are just different injuries.”

Both Mark and Lisa were avid runners and very athletic before the crash.

“We had done a triathlon just four months before the accident. I love triathlons because you get to swim and bike and run,” comments Mark. “So, after the accident, I told my therapist that my eventual goal is to do a triathlon again.”

Mark began training by just running 15 feet and increasing the distance gradually. Lisa had been running since she was ten years old, and she used her motorized wheelchair to keep pace with him as they began walking around the block at their home in Bandera River Ranch.

When the couple gets up in the morning now, they aren’t too upbeat, but then they sing two or three hymns and are ready to go.

“We don’t know why this has happened, but God has really gotten us through when we were apart. At first, our brains were just jumbled because we were on so many meds. I couldn’t even finish a prayer,” noted Lisa. “God’s been there during the whole process.”

“So, we have been surrounded by our family and our church family with people helping and making meals. People are so encouraging, they have given encouragement, help, food — given everything,” said Lisa. Their church, the Leon Springs Baptist Church, even added a deck on their back patio so that Lisa can go out there in her chair.

We had planned to get chickens before the crash, and afterward were given chickens,” said Lisa.

The couple enjoys sitting on the back porch watching the chickens and other wildlife around Bandera River Ranch.

The Overlies are goal setters. Mark set the goal of completing a triathlon and he has accomplished that by running in the Kerrville Triathlon Festival in September. Lisa wants to get up on a walker, and then a cane. She also wants to ride on a pontoon boat.

“It’s not about us, it’s about what God wants,” said Lisa. “We said, ‘Let’s use this and make the most out of it.’ I have two people (physical therapists) who are working hard to help me. They told me that I could be walking in two or three years cause my spinal cord wasn’t severed in the crash. I can move my arms some, and the fingers are starting to move, things are starting to wake up.”

Lisa remains optimistic about her recovery timeline. She sees her physical therapists as wells of hope.

“We have been writing books during this time. We have poured a lot of energy into that. I don’t know if I am going back to teaching, but it seems possible,” said Lisa. Lisa is looking forward to getting her math certificate because she loves teaching math.

Mark has plans to continue flying.

“A lot of quadriplegics don’t get out of the house, but we get out and go to church on Sunday and that’s awesome. We go to the Medical Center sometimes twice a week,” stated Mark.

Over 100 different families went on the app “Give, Send, Go” to help the couple buy a special van to transport Lisa’s chair.

“I started moving my legs on my mom’s birthday. Paul rushed out here and started playing the showtune Anything’s Possible on the piano,” remembers Lisa.

She smiles as she recounts his exuberant reaction.

For the Overlie family, it truly seems anything is possible.