|All I can fee l is gratitude . . . and love.|
Twelve years ago, our youngest daughter was a Junior in High School.
She was a promising newbie on her rugby team.
An accomplished musician, playing both the trombone and accordion.
She loved to dance and was a superb and natural stage actress.
With a quick and wicked sense of humour.
Then, her life changed.
When she was 15, she went on a trail-riding camp with her class to the Rocky Mountains.
Something the school sponsored every year.
All had gone well.
Then, as the group made their careful way along the ridge of a high coulee, a rider in front of her lost his hat.
It landed on the ground directly at her horse’s feet.
The animal spooked and reared back.
And the two of them, horse and rider, went over the cliff, landing, with our daughter beneath, on the rocky streambed some thirty feet below.
The horse, shaken and confused, but relatively unhurt, immediately scrambled to its feet and took off.
Our daughter remained where she had fallen.
Her friends and schoolmates rushed to her side.
She was conscious and reassured everyone that she was fine.
Though in a great deal of pain.
They hauled her to her feet, set her on the back of an ATV and took her back to camp.
From there, she was piled into a vehicle and driven to the nearest town, Rocky Mountain House, and taken to the hospital.
By this time, she was confused and asking the same questions over and over.
The doctor there at the hospital gave her a cursory examination, ran a hand quickly down her back where her pain seemed the most intense, and sent her back to camp.
For three days, she slept on the hard ground and generally tried to move a little as possible.
Finally, the camp ended and everyone piled into the busses and vehicles to head home.
When I first saw my daughter, I could see she was still in intense pain.
I immediately took her in to our doctor, who ordered an x-ray.
And called us as soon as he had seen the pictures.
“Get her in to the hospital now,” he said. “Right now. Don’t stop for anything.”
Bewildered, we did as we had been told, arriving in the early evening.
She was immediately admitted.
A specialist appeared at her bedside. “Has she had anything to eat?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said. “Why?”
“She needs emergency surgery,” he said. “Her back is badly broken.”
The words went through both of us like a bolt.
“One of her vertebra is completely crushed,” the doctor said. “The two on either side of it are mostly gone and only have one side each. They are point-to-point holding the rest of her back intact.”
We stared at him.
“I have to operate as soon as possible. Because she has eaten we’ll have to postpone the surgery until morning.” He sighed. “Well try to make her as comfortable as possible for the night.”
It was an emotional and sleepless one.
Early the next morning, they took my little girl, my promising athlete, musician, dancer and actress in to surgery to try to save what was left of her back.
My Husby and I waited.
Finally, a team of medical people pushed her bed back into her room. She smiled at us groggily.
They snapped the brakes and turned to us. “Look,” one of them said. She folded the covers back at the foot of the bed.
“Wiggle your feet, dear,” she said.
Our daughter did so.
The tears that had never been very far away, began.
They had managed to insert two metal brackets, one on either side of her spine, and fastened them to healthy vertebrae above and below the affected three. Then they cinched the crushed bones apart.
The pain was unimaginable.
And my daughter never even whimpered.
Within a few days, she had been fitted for an external ‘clam shell’ that she could clasp around her to protect her fragile spine.
She was told it would be her best friend for the next six months.
And then she walked out of the hospital.
A few weeks later, we took her camping.
She wasn’t able to do much more than wade in the cool, clear water, but she splashed around in her swimsuit and clam shell and enjoyed the sun and the company of her siblings.
Nearby was a young woman, just older than my daughter, in a wheelchair.
I thought, then, ‘There but for the Grace of God goes my daughter.’
She had to give up her dream of playing rugby, but, other than that, was able to resume her normal activities.
And slowly grew new bones.
Her clam shell was discarded after two months.
She still dances and plays music.
She finished high school and college and now works as a carpenter, building stage sets.
She is a wife and a mother.
Today is her 27th birthday.
I see her dancing with her daughter or strapping on a tool belt or competing with her husband at a video game and I forget the grave mistakes that were made after her accident.
All I can feel is gratitude.