After sustaining some what could have ended up life threatening and what have become life altering injuries doing what I’m most passionate about, raising livestock, I have learned things about myself I didn’t know and seen the things I did know magnified.
Somehow, I see my life more clearly and I have a different perspective of myself.
My life could have ended, I could have been paralyzed. The doctors are still puzzling over that one. I’m not. Though I’m not an exceptionally expressive Christian (or person, for that matter) most people have found evidence of my faith in my quiet moments. The way I treat people, being the first to apologize, the first to forgive, the first to offer a helping hand, the first to say thank you, doing the right thing when no one is looking and my characteristic straightforward approach is what being a Christian is about for me. Christianity isn’t a religious bunch of rules, it’s a lifestyle. I’ve never had use for legalistic pragmatism and I’ve never seen a rule that didn’t have a loophole.
I’m certainly not perfect, I’ve made and continue to make mistakes and testing boundaries is a part of my nature, if I follow a rule it’s because I have found a valid reason to. I do however believe in Jesus and what he stands for, I believe in God and I believe I’m alive with the use of both legs because he’s not done with me yet.
I am a rather challenging person, beneath my free spirited nature is a will of iron and a backbone of steel. I’m pretty sure you can blame the free spirit on my Dad, the backbone on my Mom and they will have to take equal responsibility for my stubborn streak. I am almost certain I have caused them both more grey hairs than my two brothers combined. A naturally curious, risk taker who’s deep thinking, private, independent nature which disdains rules, is hardly a recipe for an easy child/parent relationship. It’s also not the earmark of a naturally ‘good’ Christian by human standards. Fortunately, my parents raised me in spite my restless, defiant nature and God made me as I am for a reason.
After finally being cleared to drive, as I often do on a Sunday, I slipped into church a little late, found an empty pew and slipped into it to observe, pray and try to see God’s fingerprints in the service; I then silently slipped from the church at the end of the service. Church has never been a place I find good fellowship and I suppose my lack of socializing doesn’t help but church is a place where Christians are on their best behaviour; they say and do all the right things and I resent the lack of authenticity.
I started my silent ritual protest, in my faded blue jeans, coffee cup in hand and I prayed. This Sunday, I couldn’t shake the feeling Jesus came and sat down next to me; I felt as though if I turned I’d see him sitting there. I can’t help but wonder what I’m still here for; I know I make a difference but I’m hardly the world changer type. I have leadership qualities in the least traditional sense of the word, I tend to lead by building leaders. I’m not exceptionally charismatic or really exceptionally anything except bull headed, yet here I am.
The unshakable sense I had was that Christianity is like being family and with the hundreds of people around me, I could see the cracks in the veneers. Disjointed, imperfect, stumbling, bumbling Christians no matter what picture any of us put on display. Though I often find fellowship, in the everyday tasks, fireside chats or mountain excursions I do with people; Church is a place to develop the opportunity to get to know people and make room for them to have the opportunity to be unapolagetically human.
If I am here for anything, it’s because above all things I am one of the most rational, impartial, accepting people I know. I’m here because as much as there are rules to this being human thing there is also room to be human. Being human means realizing your mortality, though I’ve had several close scrapes, more than any other time I realize the value of moments. There will always be work to catch up on and things that need done but you run out of moments at some point; either someone else will finish what you left if it’s important or leave it undone if it no longer matters. The hope is that you fill your life with tasks that matter and pour into the people around you that will finish what you start and may not get a chance to finish. The hope is that you continue to develop, no matter how old you are, or what limitations you have because the things you do impact the people around you and they are what really matter.
And to answer ‘What happened!‘ once and for all, based on the true story:
A nice simple day running Bulls through the chute. Myself, the Vet, Vet Tech and another farmer set to the task of moving the Bulls in and the day went relatively smoothly and we only had three more Bulls to go when the accident happened. As we closed the gate the Bulls swung back and rammed the gate popping it out of the catch and swinging it back at us. The gate missed Murray but slammed into me sending me sprawling headlong into the panel behind the gate.
I made a desperate dive to get out of the way but I was just a little too late and the gate slammed into me, pinning me between it and the panel.
The Bulls kept pushing on the gate attempting to get it open. Somehow in the shuffle, my body found its way into the fetal position as if someone had wrapped their arms around my body to protect me. The gate drove against my left arm, which was tucked against my left side; my right arm was tucked against my right side and was pinned against the panel. The crushing force ran through my whole upper body; the pain was sharp and all consuming, I felt a pop in my right shoulder.
For an instant, there was release of pressure, only to have the gate slam into me tighter than before. I felt a snap radiate through my spine; after what felt like an eternity, the gate released me. I watched the Bulls run up the chute, they realized the gate wasn’t going any further. I realized I was screaming. I hardly recognized my own voice as I desperately grabbed hold of a panel to steady myself.
‘What hurts? Is anything broken?’
I heard the questions but I had no good answers. I started to mentally identify what didn’t hurt, it was a shorter list. My head and neck are fine. I’m standing. Suddenly I felt an overwhelming need to sit down with my head between my knees.
‘I gotta sit down.’ I say tersely as I began to get light headed.
‘Are you ok here for a minute?’
‘Yeah, just run the last of them through.’ I said through gritted teeth.
I sat with my head between my knees trying to grasp at any part of consciousness I could.
I mentally checked myself over. ‘Toes? Wiggle and are still warm. Fingers? Tingle but still move and are warm. Spinal cord, intact. Vertebrae, probably broken. No internal bleeding. Left arm? Throbs, probably broken. Right arm? Bruised, might be broken. Right collar bone? Broken, no doubt. Left collar bone, feels ok if I don’t move, possible muscle tear. Shoulder blades, sternum and ribs? Bruised, some possibly cracked. Ok, I’m not dying. I feel like I am but I’m gonna make it through today.’
I then created myself an to do list. Text the boss, I’m not making it to work for a while. There’s a new text from a friend. I take the distraction and use it to calm myself. Shallow breaths were best. I watched the Vet and Tech running the last three Bulls through.
I hear the farmer I was working with say:
‘I have a vehicle out front now, you ready to go to the hospital.’
I was beyond eager, I gingerly used my legs to get myself up. ‘Yup lets go.’ I started walking.
‘Should I carry you?’ He asked.
My mind replays the snap that radiated my spin, my whole body recoils at the idea. ‘no, I can walk.’ I say with determination and desperation.
I watched the farmers two sons running to the vehicle and open the doors. I realized they were watching us work and saw the whole accident. They are 9 and 12 years old, I’ve watched them grow up and I’ve never seen either of them look scared before now.
The walk was excruciating, a single tear rolled down my cheek as I climbed in to the vehicle. I attempted to wipe it away so the boys couldn’t see, only to find myself screaming in pain. My right arm had become a traitor. A second tear rolled down my cheek and I managed to stop them both with my left hand. I look over at the youngest of the boys sitting beside me, he looked upset. I forced a smile. ‘I didn’t want to go to work this week anyway.’ I saw some of the tension in his face relax. I focused on the boys and trying to keep myself from scaring them any more than they already were.
My arrival in at the hospital started rather undramatically as I held it together for the sake of the 9 and 12 year old boys who had already had to watch the accident happen. I joked with the boys and gave the front counter my information until the receptionist started asking questions I no longer cared to give answers to.
Shock finally hit me, the floor seemed to fall out from under me. I tried to catch myself with my right hand on the counter and it betrayed me again. The searing pain through my shoulder snapped me back from shock as a nurse and the farmer caught me before I hit the floor.
I caught a glimpse of the boys as I am seated in a wheel chair. I forced another smile: ‘maybe we can have a wheel chair race in Emerg, hey guys?’ The boys faces relax and they almost smile.
I relaxed my own face as the wheel chair rolled me down to the ER. Willing myself not to move, or think, and focused on breathing gently, very gently.
An upbeat nurse met me at the ER. Strange place for perky but I was more than willing to play that game; my greatest strength is hiding behind a smile.
‘So, tell me what happened?’ She asked in a warm friendly way that made me smile a little in spite the waves of stabbing pain radiating through my upper body. She started to whisk my wheel chair into an exam room.
‘Well, I got in an argument with a few Bulls and they crushed me with the gate. I guess I lost the fight.’ Despite my best attempt at a free spirited lilt, the smile on the nurse’s face disappeaeds and she seemed visibly paler.
‘On second thought, we’re gonna put you down the hall.’ She said, as she wheeled me back out of the exam room, pushed a button on the wall which set off a loud buzzer and wheeled me into a room labeled ‘Trauma 1’ in bold red letters. In my history I’ve made my share of Emergency Room visits, stitches, fevers and the occasional broken bone but I’ve never been in this room hooked up to as many machines, with as many nurses and doctors scrambling around. Scissors cut my favorite work sweater off because I couldn’t raise my arms, my injuries are examined.
‘Where does it hurt?’ The doctor asks. My silence as I try to sort out an answer and the look on my face answers the question. ‘Everywhere.’ She answered for me.
‘I was working on an alphabetical list but that about sums it up.’ I replied.
She half smiles and offers me morphine. I wince at the thought, I’ve had bad reactions to prescription pain killers; vomiting with the throbbing mass, I think used to be my rib cage, seemed ill advised.
‘I’m really pain tolerant, I’m really fine if I don’t move.’
‘Yes , I see that, considering how lucid you are, but you really should have something.’ I explained my fear and she quickly found me an alternative and some Gravol just in case.
X-rays followed pain killer and as I repositioned and moved for the X-ray Techs and radiologist, who stayed after their shifts to get my X-rays taken and examined, I thanked God for the pain killer. As pain tolerant as the hospital staff said I am I didn’t want to move even with the pain killer.
I was moved back to the quiet trauma room to wait for results. I made some small talk with the farmer and his boys but the pain killer began to make me drowsy and I struggled with basic conversation. My parents arrived and sat and waited with me.
The doctor came back in: ‘Well, I have good news.’ She said. ‘The only obvious fracture is your collar bone, everything else is clear. As the swelling goes down some other fractures may appear, so I recommend some follow up. I’m going to put you in a butterfly sling for now, give you some pain killer and send you home.’
I instantly smiled: ‘alright great, let’s get me out of here then.’
Weeks passed; follow up appointments, secondary X-rays and physiotherapy showed partial fractures (bone bruises) in both arms, several ribs and three vertebrae; a torn ligament in my left shoulder and that my rib cage had been dislocated a few degrees to the left. The healing continues with several forms of secondary care but it’s expected I will make a full recovery in a few months, only time will tell the rest of my story. What I know is: doctors are still wondering how I got up and walked away from the accident; the way I ended up physically orientated in the panel saved my life but it was not how my headlong sprawl should have landed me; and if I ever questioned the existence of angels I don’t now, I may not have seen them but as a girl, who by all accounts should be dead or paralyzed from the neck down, who walked away with a few tender reminders of her mortality I know they are there.
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