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PROVO — Jared Workman and Audrey Buckley have been looking forward to their wedding day for half a decade. They've waited through college, church missions and at times, the challenge of living far apart.
Friday is the date when the couple planned to get married in the Salt Lake Temple. They sent out wedding announcements and set up a website, which is steadily counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds to the time of the ceremony.
But instead of making final preparations for her wedding day, Buckley now spends those remaining hours in a hospital waiting room, hoping her fiancé will soon wake up from a coma.
And so the waiting resumes.
Workman, 29, was injured less than a week before his wedding date while visiting his brother at a ranch in Nephi. He was with his parents, who had flown in from Florida for the week of the wedding.
While at the ranch, Workman jumped onto a horse to try riding it bareback. He was bucked off, and amid the commotion with other horses in the corral, he was kicked in the side of his head and knocked unconscious.
His younger brother, Tyler, jumped the fence and ran to his aid. Eventually, Workman regained consciousness and was able to walk to a car and was taken to the emergency room, where he responded coherently to questions from medical personnel.
Soon after, Workman was flown to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center and underwent surgery for a fractured skull. Since then, he's remained in a coma, and the family has considered the every possibility while they anxiously wait.
"The first thing is, what if he doesn't wake up? What if I can never talk to my brother again?" said his sister, Jenna Workman. "Although the surgery went fine, we don't know what effects it's going to have on his life and his brain function."
To add to the family's worries, Jared Workman did not have medical insurance at the time of his injury. With the wedding only days away, he and Buckley planned to enroll in insurance coverage together once they got married.
But the lack of insurance and having to postpone a wedding are minor concerns, Buckley said, when compared to hoping for Workman's full recovery.
"I actually don't really mind much," she said of having to change plans. "I'm really sad that I'm not getting married to him this week, but at this point, I just want him to be OK."
A lot of things are going through my mind. But I've just been really trying to focus on holding onto hope and pushing away any fears that I have because it's really up in the air with what's going to happen to him. I'm just doing my best to hang in there.
–Audrey Buckley, fiance
Workman and Buckley met while attending Brigham Young University in 2010. Buckley said they "instantly" became friends and started dating. Eventually, she decided to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and was called to the Philippines.
Before she left, Workman proposed to her and she said yes. On the weekend she returned in February, he proposed again, and the two began planning their wedding for May 1.
Those are just some of the memories Buckley has time to reflect on as she spends each day with Workman's family at the hospital.
"A lot of things are going through my mind," she said. "But I've just been really trying to focus on holding onto hope and pushing away any fears that I have because it's really up in the air with what's going to happen to him. I'm just doing my best to hang in there."
Jenna Workman said the family has "set up camp" in the waiting room, and her brother has made steady progress since Saturday. While initially he was totally unresponsive, now his eyes "sluggishly" respond to light, and he squirms when pinched by the nurses, she said.
"Saturday was obviously a day full of really bad news, but since then, I feel like we've mostly received good news in how he's progressing," Jenna Workman said.
Because Jared Workman is not covered by insurance, a Go Fund Me account has been set up to help the family cover his medical expenses. As of Wednesday, the fund had raised nearly $10,000.
"People have been really good," Buckley said.
Buckley and her fiancé's family say they're doing their best to push fear aside, not only because of Workman's strong will, but because of their faith in God.
"We know that Jared's a fighter. That's kind of why it's strange seeing him laying there, so dependent on all of these tubes and so vulnerable-looking. He's so independent and so fierce, so that's why it's weird seeing him hooked up to that. But we also know that he's a fighter, and we have a lot of faith that he's going to make it through this," Jenna Workman said.
"It's been almost all good news that we've gotten from the doctors, but it's just really slow. It's hard to fight off being discouraged about it sometimes," Buckley said. "It's just been a lot of faith, just trusting promises that he's been blessed with and myself as well. Just trusting that he's in Heavenly Father's hands. That's been the biggest thing to help with coping with it."
Contributions to the family account can be made at www.gofundme.com/jaredworkman.
*KSL.com does not assure that the monies deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit to the account, you should consult your own advisors and otherwise proceed at your own risk.