Published 12:00 am Friday, June 17, 2011

By Shelley Smith
SALISBURY — When both of “Officer” Ian Lance’s lungs collapsed during surgery, two doctors ran over to him and prayed with him.
The prayers worked.
On March 4, Ian survived a very rare and risky surgery for his congenital scoliosis. A surgeon operated on Ian’s spine from two different incisions — one on his back, one in the side — and had to break several ribs and collapse a lung to operate. The surgeon installed two rods — one that goes up to Ian’s neck and down to his tailbone, and another that nearly stretches the length of his spine — as well as 13 screws during the fusion of eight vertebrae. Ian lost most of his blood and had to be put on a breathing machine following the surgery.
Ian’s recovery at home is ongoing, but after the first two months of staying inside and playing with his extensive collection of police-themed Legos, and his dog, Molly, he was allowed to go outside.
But his time outside was much more meaningful than it was before the surgery. He was no longer in excruciating pain with each step. And for the first time in his life, he ran.
“I was just running around the yard,” Ian said. “I did it maybe three or four times.”
His mother, Angela, said he ran “to see if he could.”
“He was so tickled,” Angela said. “And he said, ‘Thank you, Jesus, for making me feel better.’ ”
Ian is now able to be active for several hours at a time, but he has to be very careful for at least four more months. He can’t jump around or twist his body too much. But he’s happy.
“My back don’t hurt anymore,” Ian said. “I don’t know what kind of hurt it felt like before, but it hurt a lot worse than it did after surgery.”
Both Ian’s family and Salisbury Police Chief Rory Collins think Ian was brought into their lives for a reason.
“I think God just knows special ones,” Angela said. “I think that God uses him and shows that prayer does work, and God does miracles.
“And I think God put the chief in his life, too. He’s a friend, he’s a policeman, and kind and good to him. He has just come down to Ian’s level and made him know that he cares about him and loves him.”
Collins has kept in touch with Ian since his visit to the police department, even taking him to Ichiban for his seventh birthday, and has promised Ian a VIP ride in his police car during the Spencer and Salisbury Christmas parades.
“Ian is special to me and I wish I had the opportunity to meet him a long time ago,” Collins said. “He has served as a great reminder that even the youngest person can make a difference in your life, and that their dreams are real to them.”
Collins says he believes in prayer, and knows God introduced him to Ian at a time when they both needed an extra boost of faith.
“God has a way of unexpectedly bringing people into your life,” Collins said. “There are people who do care for you, and can lift you up in prayer, and serve as a support to you when only God knows that you need it.
“Once they come into your life you realize how special they are. He’s filled that space for me. He’s that special to me.”
Ian’s family hopes the surgery in March will be his last, and his spine will grow straight and not twist into a ball with an 89-degree curve as it was before the surgery.
“I don’t like what’s happened to Ian, I don’t like that he was born with congenital scoliosis, I don’t like that he’s had three surgeries and everything else he’s done,” Angela said. “But it’s brought us closer as a family and brought people into our lives. It’s shown us that all things are possible through prayer, love and compassion for each other.”
Angela said the family continues to work together to make sure Ian is safe inside and outside of the home, and that he rests when he needs to. She said every day Ian feels better than he did the day before.
“Instead of peeling himself up out of bed, he gets up and says, ‘I feel good today. Thank you Jesus for today,’ ” she said.
And before he falls asleep he thanks Jesus again, and prays for Collins and every police officer and firefighter in the world.
“I kneel beside my bed,” Ian said, ”and I say, ‘Jesus, keep them happy, healthy and safe through the night and the next day.’ ”