Word Wrangling Woman, Stories, Novels, Blog, Writer

Taking A Break

Posted on | April 16, 2013 | No Comments

IMG_8481 I hit the ground hard—my head, my back, my shoulder, my breath knocked out of me. I lay on the sand trying to draw air into my lungs. This fall felt different.

My horse was standing over me and seemed to be jumping back and forth over and over again. I could feel my eyes banging from side to side in my skull. Finally, using pure cowgirl willpower I was able to stop the visual ping ponging. And then there was only one of him, quietly looking down at me with a concerned eye. About that time I realized there were people all around me too; friends and fellow riders. I closed my eyes. I wanted the whole thing to be a just a small mistake.

Don’t move I heard them say, and truthfully my legs felt as loosey goosey as jello. I didn’t want to move. It seemed as though no one of my body parts was attached to any other. I began to feel a searing pain in my torso with every shallow breath I took. My mouth was full of arena sand. I could feel the grit in my teeth when I tensed against the waves of discomfort that were slicing through my torso. I felt like I’d slipped into a strange time warp. Maybe the mistake wasn’t so small. In the distance I heard the howl of an ambulance.

I knew it was for me when I opened my eyes and my line of vision was filled with young uniformed men, some standing, some kneeling next to me and asking me where I was, my name…. lots of questions I tried my best to answer. Move your feet they demanded and I heard an audible sigh of relief greet my successful attempts to wiggle my ankles. I remember thinking this is silly. Of course I can move my legs. Panic, riding on how hard it was to breathe, was all I felt when they lifted me onto the stretcher.

The ambulance sirens wailed all the way to the trauma unit of the nearest hospital. My saviors in blue made me comfortable. They gave me oxygen so I could draw breath and relax, and meds to push the pain away a bit. I felt them cutting my clothes off me and attaching IV drips to my arms. It felt oddly like some sort of television stage set, unfortunately a reality show starring me.

Bruising to the temple, my doctors said. Anterior ribs five through nine broken and displaced. Rib number three broken and displaced in the front and right side, One puncture and a partially collapsed lung in the same area. I thought the list would never end. They CAT scanned my head–the good news was my brain wasn’t bruised just all shook-up.

I lay in my bed of pain for a couple of days, in a haze of no nonsense opiates. Family and friends hovered. Their presence gave me a different reality to focus on. My daughters brought the gift of mirth and had me snorting with laughter while I attempted to keep my rib cage from doing the excruciating chortle dance.

On day three my cheerful medical team arrived at my bedside and unceremoniously told me to “get up.”

“Surely you’ve got to be kidding,” I said, frowning, staring at them through a curtain of drugs and discomfort. “What about my punctured lung?” I squeaked. “It hurts to move even a little.”

They stared back at me, faces serious. “Get up.” They insisted.

I dug in my heels under the white hospital sheets and stuck out my chin. Only the doctors’ threat of imminent death by pneumonia was enough to make me take to the hospital hallways, one agonizing step at a time. In a few minutes, however, I found that I was functional from the waist down. In fact, my feet wanted to speed walk down the corridors of Floor 5. My ribs were not as cooperative… I had relentless pain–but now I had the most powerful drug of all, I had hope!

By day four I was walking, albeit hunched over and doing an old crone shuffle, but without the assistance of a walker. The staff and doctors prepared me to go home with various medications, a lesson in navigating steps, a rented hospital bed, and a long list of instructions…..it would take six to twelve weeks for the many breaks to heal, and longer for my muscles and tendons to knit. “Only time will make you whole,” they said. It has become my mantra.

I write this as I head toward the end of week five. I’m able to function, sort of, even visit my horse regularly–if someone else is willing to drive–and ask his forgiveness. He still refuses to nuzzle me, or to let me press my cheek against his soft, muzzle so I can breathe in his warm, sweet, grassy breath. Rider error is a terrible thing, even for a horse.

I’m counting the days until I can drive my truck, and finally climb into the saddle, Sundance under me, my feet in the stirrups, my legs resting cozy against his lovely sleek sides. Meanwhile I’m taking another kind of break. Meditation. Time is making me whole. Oooooommm.


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  • About

    My name is Patrice Garrett. I'm a writer harboring the soul of a cowgirl. I have a penchant for the Old West. I believe, as do many others, that I lived another life and experienced the California Gold Rush first hand. My first two novels reflect my connection with the era.
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