Featured Stories

Norwegian Woman Joined the Church Exactly 21 Years After Becoming Paralyzed

A diving accident left Eirin Cecilie Gjedrem a quadriplegic, but she was ‘reborn’ 21 years to the day later when she joined the Church

Eirin Cecilie Gjedrem smiles as her friend Gabriella Geddes gives her a hug. Gjedrem joined the Church exactly 21 years after becoming paralyzed in a diving accident at age 14. Courtesy of Eirin Cecilie Gjedrem, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.


This story appears here courtesy of TheChurchNews.com. It is not for use by other media.

By Kaitlyn Bancroft, Church News

Four years before the 2001 diving accident that left her a quadriplegic, Eirin Cecilie Gjedrem attended an interfaith event at what she thought was a Catholic church.

Then a 10-year-old, Gjedrem recalled how at-home and peaceful she felt inside the church building. In the years that followed, she’d ask her mother to drive her past the church just so she could be close to it.

Years later, as an adult, Gjedrem connected with sister missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But rather than having them visit her home, Gjedrem felt she should meet them at their church. And as she approached the destination, she realized her GPS was guiding her to the very church she had felt so much peace in as a child.

Gjedrem, who recently spoke with Church News about the challenges and blessings that led to her baptism, became emotional while sharing her experience meeting with the missionaries.

“It just felt like coming home,” she said.

Choosing to Live

Gjedrem was born and raised in Norway, where she took an interest in faith from an early age.

At the interfaith event she attended as a 10-year-old, she was particularly struck by the artwork of Christ and by a “presence and energy” she had never felt anywhere else.

“I thought ... ‘If this is faith, then I want to have faith,’” Gjedrem said. “And I think that’s what sort of kick-started my journey into finding out what is between heaven and earth.”

She faced some difficult challenges before that journey was over. At age 14, while visiting her grandparents, Gjedrem was swimming at a beach when she dove off a stone pier that she had jumped from many times before. But on that occasion, Gjedrem dove straight into a rock that had likely been shifted by ocean currents.

The accident completely crushed her fifth vertebrae and left her paralyzed from the neck down. Gjedrem woke from surgery to a “brutal” new reality.

“It was hard enough just being a teenager,” she said. “... And then suddenly, my world was about everyone having to do everything for me. I didn’t want them to touch me. I didn’t want them to help me. ... I wanted to basically be left to just die.”

It took several years and a difficult recovery process for Gjedrem to rediscover that life was worth living. Her mother later received a loan to build a wheelchair-friendly addition to their home. Gjedrem has limited movement in her shoulders and arms, and hiring some personal assistants helped her regain a sense of balance.

“All of this helped me see the possibilities ... so I decided to try to live,” she said.

Being Reborn

Eirin Cecilie Gjedrem smiles for a photo. Gjedrem joined the Church exactly 21 years after becoming paralyzed in a diving accident at age 14. Courtesy of Eirin Cecilie Gjedrem, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.

Gjedrem retained her interest in faith as the years went by. In 2012, she took an online test that matched users to a church most aligned with their personal beliefs. Gjedrem’s result was The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“It sounded both completely unknown and familiar at the same time, and I had no idea why,” she said.

She found the Church’s website and requested a Book of Mormon, thinking it would be mailed to her. Instead, “a couple of really sweet girls who spoke half Norwegian, half English” called and introduced themselves as Church missionaries.

They offered to bring her a Book of Mormon, but Gjedrem felt she should pick it up from them at their church. As she approached the building and recognized it as the peaceful place from her childhood, “I was so overwhelmed. It was so special for me to be back there.”

Though Gjedrem was excited about the Church, it wasn’t yet the right time for her baptism. That changed in 2020, when she felt ready to officially become a member; but her husband was concerned she didn’t fully understand what she’d be jumping into. Not wanting to go forward without her husband’s support, Gjedrem continued attending Church and waiting for the right time to be baptized.

Then, in December 2021, Gjedrem suffered a stroke that blinded her in one eye. Though her vision eventually returned, she was unsure at the time if her eye would recover, and the experience left her shaken.

The one thing that got her through, she said, was her faith.

“Coming into the Church of Jesus Christ was the first time I learned about a Heavenly Father that’s alive, not a biblical figure that’s 2,000 years old and is dusty and in a corner somewhere,” she said.

The stroke brought Gjedrem to the realization that no one’s time on Earth is guaranteed, and that she didn’t want to die before being baptized. She told her husband how important the Church is to her and asked him to support her baptism. In February 2022, he said yes.

Gjedrem said her first thought after her husband agreed to support her was, “What [day of the week] is July 3?” The accident that paralyzed her happened July 3, 2001; and in 2022, Gjedrem chose Sunday, July 3, as the day she was confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“I was reborn on the [date] that sort of took my life away from me,” Gjedrem said through tears. “... I knew that it was meant to be. It was a time when I understood what the baptism covenant is all about. I understood what the sacrament was about. And I was just ready. I wasn’t before, but I was then.”

‘He will Send Angels’

Gabriella Geddes sits on a beach while smiling for a photo. Geddes, who served her mission in Norway and now lives there, says she’s been deeply blessed by her friendship with Eirin Cecilie Gjedrem. Courtesy of Gabriella Geddes, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.

Gjedrem’s faith is now blessing the lives of her fellow Church members in Norway.

One of those members is Gabriella Geddes, who’s originally from Utah but served her mission in Norway. She’s now living in Norway with her husband, who’s attending graduate school in the country.

Geddes said she’s an esthetician — a trained technician who specializes in skin beautification. But while searching for jobs in her field in Norway, nothing felt right.

Then a local Church member told her about her experience working as Gjedrem’s assistant. Though Gjedrem wasn’t looking for a new assistant at the time, the local member thought Geddes’ personality would click with Gjedrem’s.

Geddes reached out to Gjedrem at the beginning of this year. The moment they met, “Our souls just connected,” Gjedrem said.

It wasn’t long before Geddes began working as Gjedrem’s assistant, and every moment of the job was “magical,” Geddes said. Though she’s not currently working as Gjedrem’s assistant, “[Gjedrem] has become my family. I’m just so grateful for her because she’s literally changed my life.”

Geddes said she met Gjedrem at a time when she was struggling a bit with her testimony. It was Gjedrem who reminded her, Geddes said, of all the things she’s grateful for.

“She helped me remember why I love the Church so much and why I love my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ,” she said, growing emotional as she spoke.

Gjedrem was quick to add that her friendship with Geddes has been “a very mutual blessing. It felt divine.”

Meeting Geddes taught her that Heavenly Father works in “masterful” ways to bless individual lives, Gjedrem continued.

“We healed the wounds of each other, and I think that that’s why we were brought together,” she said. “... When we’re hurting, when there’s something that’s not right, He will send angels into our lives.”

Copyright 2023 Deseret News Publishing Company.

Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.