Recently my motivation for writing has been zero. Part of it is due to being stuck on a scene and taking time to work it out. The other part is that last weekend while rafting I got injured—severely.
How did this happen? It all begins with a certain section of our rafting river some dare to float through without a raft. And 99% of people make it through just fine. This is my lucky 1% story:
The BFF and I swim out hard. The current is swift. You must hit this rapid in the center for the best possible ride. We center up, aim our feet down river, and whoop our excitement.
As we approach the plunge, my foot finds a rock. It flings my leg forward into the rest of this rock, the bash leaving a paralyzing throb in its wake.
Even with a life jacket, being unable to use a leg to swim is terrifying. As I’m cast into the rapid, I choke and gasp on gallons of water washing over my head. I feel gratitude for my life jacket. I never would have attempted it without one, but had I gone without it, sustaining that injury, I certainly would have drowned.
After the rapids we were to swim to river left quickly. The BFF is already there. Since I’m not moving toward the shore, BFF asks if I’m okay.
“No,” I say, shaking my head, and making a feeble effort to swim toward her. Being the strong swimmer she is, she’s immediately at my side, pushing me to shore.
I hadn’t seen my leg yet. It aches, but being a martial arts practitioner, I’m thinking the ache is simply because I’ve hit a nerve. Eventually the pain will fade.
I get my first look at the damage.
I gape at the deep, finger-sized hole. The flesh around the edges is sickeningly white. I’ve never had an injury like this before, so I lose it. Wailing, sobbing, crying—genuine freaking out—though more from the terror of seeing the wound than the pain. The river, after all, is only 61 degrees. My wound is nice and chilled.
I calm down with encouraging words from the BFF. I also have an uncanny trait for realism in intense situations. After my brief episode of terror, I’m facing reality. If I want to get off the river, I’m going to have to float another 45 minutes to where the cars are parked. That’s the only option. (Unless I’m cool with a $10,000+ helicopter ride. I’m not.)
A man kayaks up to us, asking what happened. He’s a doctor. (What are the odds?) He notices my shivering and recommends we get out of the water. He says I’ll definitely need medical attention in the form of stitches and possibly a tetanus shot. (Actually, how he worded it was,”When was your last tetanus shot?” To which I replied, “Um, never.”)
I always take a certain precaution whenever I’m away from civilization, whether camping, rafting, rock climbing—whatever. I bring my lucky bandana. True, this time it hasn’t been as lucky as I would like. But I have something to bandage the hole. A small part of me feels elation in being prepared—a very small part.
Some very nice gents help us float down in their small raft to where we’ve stashed ours. We switch. I sit in the back, and we go through the rest of the river. We pass through a few rapids, but hardly threatening in the back seat. I stay quite dry.
Whenever my wound gets hot and stingy, I stick it back in the cool river, managing the pain until we get to the ramps.
The nearest clinic? Twenty minutes. I bid farewell to most of my group, driven by two friends to the clinic. It’s Saturday, however, so it is closed. A very nice local woman informs us in a kind of hick drawl, “Aw, honey, our nearest hospital is about half hour that way. Best of luck.”
Ugh. Emergency rooms. Except this is a remote area, so perhaps the waiting time won’t be long.
In fact, it’s zero. The nurses seem a little stunned to see us, as they they’d never encountered the emergency part of emergency room. They take me back, fill my leg with burning-at-first, but delightful Novocaine.
You may have only experienced this wonder drug at the dentist’s office and hated it. But trust me, when you have a throbbing limb, you want that syringe depositing it everywhere.
They irrigate and scrub it—something I probably would have refused without the wonder drug—especially as the nurse gets the scrub brush close to the edges of the numb zone. Then I receive my stitches. Four interior absorbent types, ten I’ll have to get removed in a couple of weeks. The tugging sensation is strange and unsettling as the doc stitches me up.
I hobble out to my friends with ice pack in hand and return to camp. The first day and a half are easy breezy, but as the Novocaine wears off, so does my good temperament.
Now I understand why they wrote House so grumpy and grouchy. Dealing with pain like that drains patience immediately.
In the present it’s been a week. I’m still using crutches, still icing a tender leg, still a little grouchy. My kung fu is out of the question. Basically my life amounts to sitting around or wishing I was sitting around when I’m on my feet. I give full props and deep respect to those who deal with this sort of thing on a more permanent basis. Knowing it’s temporary is the only thing keeping me going.
I’ve certainly gained more appreciation for handicapped stalls, the grocery go-karts, but especially the strength of character of those I know with a disability. It’s hard to show anyone any kind of patience and kindness when you’re struggling to move or make it through the day. I’m grateful for their cheerful examples to show me what true strength is.
Have you ever been through a difficult challenge, whether physically or mentally? What did you learn or how did you conquer it? What advice would you give others?
My advice: don’t float the river sans-raft on purpose. Ever.