It just hit me at 4:30 am (Tuesday morning, Dec 16th). I’m in the hospital. My finger, now cradled in a sausage-like roll of gauze, was at one point no longer attached.
I’m no stranger to the peculiarities of God’s way of answering prayers, so I should really know to be more specific when I ask for things. Still though, through this weird and woeful experience I’ve seen God’s face more than ever. But His choice in this case seems surreal right now. Maybe its the morphine but I haven’t been able to catch my breath between each close encounter with the holy spirit since yesterday morning. Please excuse the wild emotional rollercoaster that will surely play out through this post, as I haven’t been able to write it all at once, so you are reading one large collaborative over several weeks of writing.
Now, as I rest in a hospital bed with strange devices massaging my legs to keep a clot from forming, the events which took place in the past 18 hours seem like just another bad dream. However the pulsing pain in my hand reminds me that it was much more than that.
It hurts to tell this story even though I’ve recited it so many times today. My mind still yearns for a state of denial. I feel that trying to convey each sensation into text is an entirely new form of storytelling which requires so much concentration and eloquence that it becomes impossible to numb my conscious to every agonizing detail. On top of that, tapping out each letter with one hand, on a touch screen that’s having a hard time recognizing me as a human being adds a whole new level of excitement to this process.
(Passed out from the drugs, fast forward to Thursday, 9:30am)
As time progresses, reality continues to sink in. As does the detailed image of the inner workings of my finger which is being so accurately painted in many different shades of pain.
So let’s get this over with, shall we? I know you’re probably mildly annoyed that I haven’t spilled the gory details yet. Well, this is going on my horse blog because the incident was horse related.
On my way to work Monday morning, December 15th, around 8am, I was listening to some important church person tell the detailed history of the real Nicholas so-and-so who became ‘Saint Nicholas.’ You can call me a scrooge but I really don’t care at all for the hallmark holiday or any of their representatives with questionable backgrounds. But that’s a discussion for another time. Anyways, it was unusual for me to listen to something like this but I was. I was particularly captured when this fellow said that Nicholas came from a wealthy family but felt that all of his wealth belonged to God and his sole purpose for existing was to serve God. I remember thinking how cool it was that he woke up every morning with no other concern than to please God, and every choice he made was made with God in mind. I began to think about how distracted I had gotten by ‘responsibilities’ and adult decisions that really should have been ‘God decisions’ or things that I trusted Him to take care of and asked for guidance about. A big one was my job. I was so inspired by this environment because I saw God’s plan and path for me made possible by this place and these relationships. I was so on fire for the opportunities that I had lost sight of what was really important; God’s plan which He has brought me here to fulfill.
(Fast forward again to December 30th)
I had even begun to become depressed because I felt so ill equipped, useless, and out of place. I felt like I was just too stupid, too young, and too undertrained to be at all valuable to my wonderful bosses and co-workers, nor adequately equipped for my customers. I had become blinded, I had walked away from the peaceful light of His constant reassurance and love. I felt like I was floating aimlessly in a life raft amidst an ocean of possibilities, with my goals and dreams in sight, but no paddle to row with, and a form of steering that left much to be desired.
So I asked God to make a change in my perspective so that I could work on living more for His purpose and clinging less to my own interpretation of what my life should look like. I begged Him to either affirm my place here in this position and that I was meant by Him to be there, or to shut the doors and remove me to a different path; whatever would fulfill His wishes for me. I wasn’t sure how God would do it, but I knew He and He alone was capable of dragging my stubborn butt back into His arms again. Little did I know my request was not only heard, but had been put in motion long before that lonesome prayer in the morning fog.
I walked into work with a “get it done” attitude and got straight to it. Amidst the ringing phone, bathing and grooming of muddy horses, communicating with my co-worker and reassuring my over-stressed boss, it was controlled chaos and all things considered we were doing pretty good. My brain was whirling, I was firing on all cylinders and running down my mental to-do list, grabbed a horse and led him to the hitching post. He wasn’t even that dirty, awesome! I grabbed a brush and flung his lead rope over the hitching post, knowing that he was an ass about tying. There were already horses in the catch pens where we usually stick our non-tying counter parts. Out of the necessity to get things done on this jammed morning, I decided to just get him groomed and saddled quickly and not fuss with switching horses around to get him into a catch pen.
Brush, brush brush….yank…
That turd, he always knew the worst times to decide to be uncooperative and not ground-tie. I grabbed the rope and looped it through the metal ring on the hitching post so that it would stay out of the mud, but if he really set back, it would simply pop out of the ring, avoiding tragedy. I quickly returned to brushing.
Brat. I grabbed the rope and looped it through again. Before I could even turn back to brush him, he had pulled the rope back out. I grabbed the rope and growled, “stand!” He just stared at me like I was a crazy lady. I turned back to the hitching post, made a loop in the rope and pushed it through the metal ring, quickly grabbing the loop with my left hand to pull the slack through so that it would hang just enough to stay on, but again not so much that he couldn’t get free.
(Starting again on December 31st through January 3rd)
Suddenly, the horse set back hard, flung his nose in the air and began to backpedal. I felt my arm tug. I pulled down on the rope, confused as to why it didn’t just come undone. I pulled my arm away, felt my pointer finger come loose, but for some reason my arm still wasn’t free and the rope was still taut in the air before me. I watched as his hooves slid in the mud and every time his nose flew up and he yanked back, a strange pulling sensation rippled up my arm, through my elbow and all the way up to my shoulder. I just stared at him as he flailed, gripping the braided yellow nylon lead and waiting. I knew these ropes; once they were caught, they didn’t come out. The force from a 1200 lb+ horse sitting all his weight back on one of these would wedge it into such a knot that we had to pry them apart with a screw driver. My mind didn’t process what part of me was stuck, it didn’t panic nor try to get free. I just stared and waited for the longest few seconds of my life. It felt like ten minutes has passed, but I’m sure it was more like ten seconds. Suddenly, something gave. I heard the “ping” of the metal ring and watched the rope go slack and sail past my face. Something rested in my hand, I assumed it was the broken metal ring. I watched the horse move away.
A small, calm voice told me that something was wrong and I needed to be very concerned.
As I stood there, assessing the events what had just occurred, I thought to myself, ‘there is no way I just came out of that unscathed.’
Okay, I will just take one quick look to make sure something is wrong before I call for help and make a scene.
Tentatively, I glanced down at my hand.
Red and white. I saw the pink glitter of my nail polish on my middle finger bent towards my ring and pinky fingers. Suddenly, I realized the cold thing I could feel resting on my hand was not the metal ring which I thought had broken off and landed in my palm; it was my own flesh. My pale white skin gave way just about at the middle knuckle to a large area of red with a long white object suck straight out in the middle like a stripper popping out of a red velvet cake.
I looked away as quickly as possible and shut my eyes, but there again was the carnage plastered on the back of my eyelids. Photographic memories are really great at taking snapshots of things that you were trying not to see. Alas, the image was instantly burned into the back of my mind and I saw it whenever I blinked. My eyes bulged open. I had just seen my own bone.
At this moment, two voices became present in my mind.
The first was the calm, reasonable voice that told me that something had been wrong. This voice is the same one that had told me that I was not going to get out of the rope and held me there without panic. This voice, which I’ve heard many times before, is the voice that helps me understand things that are vastly beyond my scope of knowledge. I cannot take credit for this voice because there is no way I could possibly be that organized, mature and reasonable, especially in situations like this. This voice, I believe, is my connection to God.
The second voice was my frazzled conscience, reeling in terror and confusion. This voice sounds a lot more like me; ‘That was my BONE that I just saw. My finger is not on my hand. Is this seriously happening? There is no way I just saw the inside of my body…on the outside. I JUST SAW MY BONE! What do I do now, what do I DO!! Hey, I’ve never broken a bone before, this is kind of exciting… Oh God, it’s going to hurt any second now. And it’s going to hurt BAD. Where is the pain? What do I do when it hurts? I think I’m going to pass out…’
‘You are not going to pass out. You broke your bone. It’s the first bone you’ve ever broken. People break bones all the time.’
‘Pay attention. Your finger is open and could get dirty. Be careful with it.’
‘OH CRAP MY FINGER!’
‘You need to ask someone for help. You’re not going to be able to handle this one on your own.’
At this point, I dropped the curry I was holding in my right hand and gripped the wrist and lower palm of my left hand.
Suddenly, my co-worker’s voice cut into the chaos. “Anna, are you alright?”
“HEATHER!!!” I meant to call for help, not scream for it, since she was literally only right on the other side of a horse. Yet so much tension had built up that as soon as my mouth opened, it all rushed out at once.
“Are you okay?!” Another co-worker, Audrey, called from the other side of the office.
“Uh, no!” I called, trying to not sound as frantic as I had moments before since somewhere on the ranch I knew there were customers.
‘You need to go to the hospital’
‘OKAY!’ I turned and bolted towards the office, thinking I would grab the phone and call an ambulance. I forgot that the phone was in my back pocket.
“Anna, STOP!” Heather yelled. It cut straight through the fog. I jerked to a halt exactly where I was standing. “You need to calm down and sit down.”
“Okay” I mumbled and plopped down on the ground where I was…right behind a horse.
“Not there, go sit in the office.” She clarified.
“Okay.” I twisted straight up off the ground, power-walked to the porch and threw my butt straight down on the edge of the landing.
“Put your hand up above your heart.” She told me as she caught up to me.
“Okay.” I lifted my hand up as high as I could get it (now both hands above my head since I was holding my left hand with my right hand) and rested my arm against the edge of the railing right in front of me.
“Just breathe, you need to calm down.” She hummed.
‘You need to listen to her. You need to calm down and stay conscious so that you can think clearly and handle this.’
I immediately began focusing on my breathing. I tucked my head between my arms and breathed carefully, in through my nose, out through my mouth…or was it supposed to be the opposite. ‘Whatever, just breathe.’
“Here, put your hand on this.” Suddenly, a saddle stand appeared beside me. I moved my hand carefully, still avoiding looking at it.
“Is there something we can wrap it in?”
“There’s a first aid kit in the office on top of the fridge.” Charlie, one of our ranch hands, slipped past me and Heather and into the office.
Heather rubbed my back and continued reassuring me. “You’re doing great.” She said. “You’re going to be ok, just keep breathing.”
‘She’s right, you will be ok.’
I heard footsteps and looked up. “What happened?” Audrey asked.
‘I don’t know if I can handle talking about it…’
“Sarge pulled back and my finger got stuck in the rope.” I tried really hard not to think about what I was saying.
‘That wasn’t so bad.’ I was feeling pretty good at this point. There was little pain and a massive but containable amount of fear. Everyone around me was so helpful that I could really focus on just staying calm.
Charlie came back with some gauze and asked me to lift my hand. I felt my broken finger rest in the curve of my ring and pinky fingers and shuddered. Charlie wrapped my hand as effectively as he could without moving too much, and covered all of the blood. Just then one of the customers, who I knew where somewhere nearby, turned the corner. The woman glanced at me, and mumbled something. She made eye contact and I knew she was praying for God to help me. I smiled and nodded, saying “yes God,” in agreement.
Seeing a customer made my brain click over into ‘professional mode.’ After that, things got much easier. Because of my line of work, I’ve become something of an expert at staying calm and saving face even when sh** hits the fan, excuse my language. Funny enough, I also become mentally incapable of cursing when customers are present.
I sat on the porch, snuggling and petting Heather’s dogs (which TOTALLY helps!) while she talked to me and reassured me and Audrey called the ambulance. Since I was young, I’ve known the power of animals over pain management. I’ve had chronic IBS since I was 9 years old, which is unheard of for a child so young and especially to the extent that I had it. When I was a pre-teen, I began riding horses way more often than before. My mom and I noticed that I never struggled with being ill when I was around horses. When I sat down on the porch clutching my hand, my first instinct was to go to my horses. Since I knew no one would allow that, I latched onto the dogs as an alternative. Their relentless joy and warmth helped to keep me optimistic and distracted.
If I talked about it, my hand would suddenly begin to hurt. At one point, I managed to push out a curse word, at which point Heather let me know it was a perfectly acceptable time to do so, but past that I couldn’t manage another. For the most part though, there was almost no pain. Everyone commented on how calm and mature I was being, but in reality I knew it was all due to the quiet and constant voice in my head and the unexplainable and unnatural sense of peace I had. I wanted to tell them that it was all God, and that I could hear His voice and feel His love not only in my heart but in every word and action of each of them around me.
In that moment, I wasn’t afraid, I didn’t care about my finger, but I could clearly see each of my blessings folding out before me. I felt like a poor witness for not jumping up and praising God out loud like I was every moment in my head. Instead, I sat there and smiled with worship music in my earphone. While I sang each word, I knew that God was using me for His purpose and I remembered that He works best through subtleties.
After a good half hour, the paramedics finally arrived. I was not impressed with their expressions. Maybe a normal person wouldn’t be able to see their muted horror in their faces, but I could. Yet, I just smiled and cooperated.
“Do you think you can walk?” The one taller, thinner paramedic with dark hair and light eyes and chiseled bone structure (we will call him ‘Slim’) asked. He reminded me a lot of Dillon in his stature as well has his blunt personality (and slight squeamishness).
“Yes,” I chuckled. “It’s my finger, not my legs.” I stood and took a deep breath as they led me to the stretcher.
“Do you want to take your boots off?” Slim asked. I peered down at my black rubber muck boots, noticing the blood on my left toe for the first time.
“No, I don’t think so. They’re keeping my feet warm.” I replied. “However, I do want to take this sweat shirt off; I don’t want them to cut it off.” I began to wiggle free of it.
“Wait, hold on…let me…here…” He began to try to slow me down (in vain, I’m stubborn as a mule after all) and I just glanced at him and thought he’d better either make himself useful or get out of my way. When he realized he wasn’t going to stop me, he changed to helping which was much more productive.
They loaded me up in the ambulance and Audrey climbed up into the front seat, toting my overweight purse. After they’d gotten me into the ambulance and asked me a million questions, I got dizzy and explained that I do tend to get car sick. I decided to see what would happen before we made a big deal out of it since I was pumped full of adrenalin.
Slim began prepping my IV drip while the other paramedic, whom I’d barely noticed, began asking me questions from behind my head and filling out my information on a form.
Slim struggled to find my vein, not sure why since its usually gigantic on that elbow. After he’d managed to get some morphine into me, he sat down on the bench beside me.
“Now that you’ve got some drugs into you, I want to talk about something.” He began. I just smiled and waited. “Your finger…is in pretty bad shape. I mean, it’s pretty mangled…”
“I know,” I chuckled. “I’ve already been thinking about it for some time now. I know I may not get to keep it.”
“Oh…” He looked at me, sort of perplexed. “Well, that’s good that you’re prepared for that. I mean there’s a chance that they’ll be able to fix it but…”
“I don’t really care.” I smiled. “It’s just a finger, after all. It could be a lot worse. I don’t even use that finger for much. I use these two and these two for holding my reins,” I pointed to the space between my thumb and pointer finger, and my pinky and ring finger. “I can still ride just fine without that one. The only thing the middle one is any good for is flipping people off and I don’t make a habit of that. And anyways, I have a spare on the other hand.”
I think I intimidated him because he sort of shut up after that. I was not impressed, again, with his lack of optimism. I personally didn’t find it very professional to be telling people that they may lose body parts, especially when I might have still been at risk of going into shock. But I knew that God was bringing me through this for a reason and in some way, He was influencing every person I passed.
The rest of the ride to the first hospital was pretty easy. They didn’t even turn their sirens on, so I knew I wasn’t bleeding to death.
Stay tuned for the next part of the story!