By Susan Ford Collins
I received a text message that severe thunderstorms were moving into our area. A moment later the sky opened and we seemed to be in the midst of a hurricane punctuated by flashes and crashes. My dog Honey was shaking. An hour later the storm had passed but the power was still off so I decided to walk Honey before it got dark. A quick jaunt around the block and we headed into my side gate and across the stepping stones in my banana jungle just as we had hundreds of times before. But this time was different.
Midway across the water, my right foot suddenly slid out from under me. There must have been algae on the rain-covered surface. The next thing I remember was the thunderous sound of the back of my head cracking hard against the edge of the round concrete stepping stone.
I wasn’t aware that I had fallen in the water until my eyes opened and I saw a bright circle of golden light with glistening air bubbles rising from my mouth to the surface. I realized in a flash I would drown unless I could raise my head and take a breath... now!
Knowing how hard my head hit and the sound it made, I was unsure whether my arms and legs were still working. But with one life-intending push I lifted my head out of the water and breathed! The banana pond is 5 feet deep and the bottom and sides are sharp coral rock. How would I get out before I lost consciousness? I realized my shoe had fallen off so I rummaged around until I found it and began grappling my way out of the dark water. Once standing, I remembered I had my cell phone in a pouch around my waist. It was wet too so I couldn’t call for help… besides my husband was away on business and completely unaware of my predicament. When I got in the house, I lit a couple of candles to see how badly I was injured and figure out what to do next.
I pulled off my wet clothes and touched my hand to the back of my head and was shocked to see it come back covered with blood. And that I had “an extra kneecap” on my right shin… or so it seemed because of the rapid swelling in that area. Was I neurologically OK? I tried talking and I could. I tried moving my arms and legs up and down and they worked. I seemed to be mentally alert and functional but I was so used to speed-dialing people that I couldn’t remember their phone numbers, and it didn’t really matter because, with no power and an internet phone, I had no dial tone. Now what?
I was focused on one thing… getting to my friend’s home 10 miles away. Barbara is a doctor and I knew she would know exactly what steps I should take. She had been my medical savior in the past so I was eager to get her input this time as well. I found Honey’s leash and made sure I had my wallet and medical cards, then climbed in my car and carefully headed south to where she lives. They had a new gate installed that afternoon so her first thought was, oh good, Susan’s here to see the gate. Then her teenage son met me at the door and noticed blood streaming down my neck. “Are you okay?” And I said, “No. I’m not, and I began to explain why I hadn’t called from home so they could come get me (the power was off), why I hadn’t called from my cell phone either (it went in the water with me). Then someone handed me an ice pack and a blanket and Barbara came up with a plan. She would drive me to the Urgent Care Center where she sometimes worked. I felt bad about sending her back to work after ten straight exhausting days, but this was a crisis and she assured me she wouldn’t sleep a wink if we didn’t get my injuries assessed.
When we arrived at Urgent Care, I felt safer. After filling out forms and handing over my insurance cards, we were guided back to an examining room and Barbara checked to see who the radiologist on duty was. A friend she deeply trusted so we both relaxed as the nurse took my blood pressure which is typically athletically low but had shot up to 202. The doctor came in and parted my still-wet hair so she could see where I was cut and whether I would need stitches. Yes, but first a CAT Scan of my head and a plain film of my suspected broken right leg. I kept saying, “No, I can walk fine.” But, by the looks of “that extra knee cap,” the evidence seemed to indicate otherwise. When Barbara’s colleague read the X-rays, and she glanced at them too, my right leg was whole and there was no bleed in my skull. Whew!
All that remained was cleaning the wound and stapling it closed. (Barbara said they look just like office staples. And they do.) The bleeding stopped and they gave me a tube of antibiotic cream and told me I could take a quick shower when I got home… one of the advantages of stapling she added.
On the ride back to Barbara’s, she told me how much better she felt now that the worst possibilities had been ruled out. I was blessed! I would spend the night at her home. Her younger son stayed at a friend’s house so I could sleep in his bed. I was exhausted and sleep sounded wonderful, but when I tried to lay my head on the pillow, a sudden new reality set in. The very place where my skull touched was the very place where the staples were, and turning my head to either side didn’t work any better. I had wrenched my neck too. It ached and pulsed. I drifted off for a couple of minutes but suddenly woke up in terror again.
I had left two candles burning in my house! I had to drive home and check! So I woke Barbara and told her I needed help turning off their alarm and finding my keys. I gathered up Honey and headed home with a clear agreement… I would call her as soon as I arrived home.
But when I got there, the power was still off even though I had been told it would be on by 9 pm. I tried plugging in my wired phone… a painful process involving moving the bed, bending down and plugging the phone connection in tightly so the circular cover would snap closed… but there was no dial tone. I kept praying for the sound of the AC going on, or the sudden burst of light from a lamp I may have left on when the power went off. But nothing.
At daylight I walked Honey, hoping to see a neighbor so I could use his or her phone but no one was up and no lights were on. When I started a second loop, a friend came out of his house to pick up the paper and I waved and shouted, “I need help.” I used his cell phone to call Barbara, but she had finally fallen asleep and didn’t answer. At least I had done everything I could to keep my agreement. An hour later the power came on and the air conditioner and those lights I had left on. And I could finally call to explain what had happened, that I was safe and OK. The candles had burned out on their own, leaving a long wine-colored trail of wax on the table as evidence.
Now I could look back and rethink what had happened. I walked over to the stepping stones to figure out how I had fallen back-first into the water. And one life-saving memory kept blazing in my mind… that bright golden light-filled image of glistening bubbles coming up from my mouth as I lay in shock in the water. The golden image that alerted me to lift my head and take a breath… now! I wondered where that golden light had come from. When I fell it was dusk and overcast and the banana pond was under a huge leafy sapodilla tree. Why wasn’t it dark when I looked up? With a chill I knew the answer… that golden light was Spirit coming to my rescue, empowering me to take action to save my life. Reminding me that I still had work to do. It wasn’t my time to leave!
(c) Susan Ford Collins. For permission to use this article, email email@example.com
* For more on Committing to Outcome, go to Success Skill 7 in The Joy of Success or Our Children Are Watching.
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