However, through faith, prayers, perseverance, good care and a supportive wife, President Tilleman was able to continue serving the Lord throughout the trial and has experienced nothing short of a miraculous healing.
In February 2012, several months into their mission, President and Sister Holly Tilleman met with some investigators. President Tilleman asked if he could pet their dog, a Bull Bastiff, which was on a leash and calm.
“The dog attacked and got both of [President Tillman’s] hands in his mouth,” Sister Tilleman explains.
“Miraculously, he got his hands free, and I helped him quickly wash the wounds. He wanted to hurry and go to the hospital but, as we left, he passed out from the shock and loss of blood and fell extremely hard against a concrete wall.”
President Tilleman awoke on a stretcher with a cervical collar on his neck.
Sister Tilleman says, according to the medical staff, he had “central spinal syndrome” and may never walk again.
“He should have been in the hospital for two to three months and in the rehabilitation facility approximately nine months in order to re-learn how to move, walk and care for himself.”
Yet, President Tilleman was hospitalized for only 17 days.
Missionaries in British Colombia, members of the Tillemans’ home stake in Arizona, along with many family and friends across North and South America prayed and fasted for him.
“President Tilleman received a priesthood blessing that had promised a full recovery at an accelerated rate,” adds Sister Tilleman.
She says, since the beginning of the incident, “Miracles have not ceased. I saw it all first-hand. I am a witness to God’s power.”
The healing started immediately, as the paralysis left bit by bit, day by day. “First his feet, then his legs, then his torso, then his hands, then his arms and shoulders. After a few days, he started walking a little bit and then doing stairs,” says Sister Tilleman.
President Tilleman chose do what he could in spite of his physical challenges. He had missionaries bring files to him at the hospital and started making phone calls for the mission.
President Tilleman decided early on that he wouldn’t complain, even though his spinal injuries were excruciating. Sister Tillman says he held true to his resolve and, at one point, he said with a slight smile, “This wasn’t in the job description, was it?”
As a former two-time Olympian, President Tilleman is familiar with hard work and dedication in all areas of his life. He represented Canada in basketball in Los Angeles and Seoul Korea Olympics. He even guarded his favorite player, Michael Jordan. Prior to that, he played basketball for the University of Calgary and has been named the Greatest Dino of All Time.
This time, though, he seemed to have added incentive to improve.
With a mini-gym set up in the mission home, President Tilleman worked daily toward a full recovery, doing missionary work, physical therapy and then taking another walk in the evening. Sister Tilleman says, “After a particularly long day, I said, ‘Aren’t you exhausted? You are working at this like you are preparing for the Olympics.’ He said, ‘Oh no, this is way more than the Olympics. This is my future life that I am concerned about.'”
Another time, she commented, “Look how far you have come. You are the most amazing man ever,” President Tilleman quickly opposed, saying, “No, this is not about me. The Lord has been so kind to us.”
The owner of the dog was the first person President Tilleman baptized after the accident.
“President Tilleman has shown incredible patience through this all and a submission to God’s will. He knows it is truth what we read in the scriptures…that the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away … but all things shall be for our experience and good,” says Sister Tilleman.