snap, crackle…POP!

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned it, but I don’t think I’ve ever really told the whole story of how I broke my back…it was a life-altering experience, that’s for sure! Let me take you back a few years….

During college, each summer was spent working out at Pine Cove, a Christian camp located in Tyler, Texas. Split into camps based on age, Pine Cove consists of elementary, middle school, high school, and family camps. I worked at The Ranch, which was our middle school camp. I ADORE middle schoolers. They are at the age where they still look to you for advice and comfort, but are just beginning to discover their attitudes and I’m-too-cool-for-you instincts. It’s this crazy battle between loving you and hating you, and I find it ohhhh so fascinating! My time at The Ranch (arrrrrr!) was precious, and each summer I arrived exhausted and left refreshed. You’d think it was strange (7 days a week, 10+ hour days, with 24 hours off TOTAL?? ummmm, what?), but I know why…Pine Cove is amazing. ’nuff said. 🙂

Each day at Pine Cove was themed (I know, right? LURVE.) On Thursday nights, we played a night game called “Commando”…and NO it had nothing to do with boxers or briefs! Commando consisted of camouflage, dried beans, and hiding in the woods from the Rambo Force…okay, so maybe adding that little description didn’t quite help my explanation…it’s a lost cause, really…

All you need to know is that during the game, I was usually situated on a wooden platform that stuck out from a tree 20 feet in the air. On the platform I would hold a megaphone and shout out little jokes, quips, musings, etc at the kids. My fellow emcees and I loved to razz on the kids and scare them (in a safe way!)…it was a blast!

Well, halfway through the summer, Commando just so happened to fall on July 3rd. Each summer we liked to have a “surprise” 4th of July fireworks party, and since the 3rd was our night game, we decided to REALLY surprise the kids and have the party that night. Enter the chaos that is planning firework shows around a night game all the while trying to keep the kids entertained and safe. Oh, and most of the staff consist of college students. Crazy, party of 50? Your table’s now available!

That night was nuts, and everyone was rushing around like mad trying to get the game set up so we could still manage the surprise-surprise party. During commando (I giggle every time…teehee!) there are about 5-8 people stationed up in trees. Myself, and one or two other emcees would hold fort in the main tower, while about 3-4 others would be individually manning posts with buckets of water balloons. What are the balloons for? Well, those, my dear readers, are for dropping on unsuspecting children below! My, what pretty camo you have on, my dear……SPLAT!

In order to get up on the platforms, ladders are placed up against the trees so the person can climb up and on to the wooden base. Being the last one up into the trees, my team quickly placed the ladder against my tree, and I began to scurry up the rungs, megaphone slung over one shoulder, flashlight hanging from the other. **Let us pause now for a brief PSA:

Ladders. The pathway to greatness. The Stairway to Heaven. The climb of death. Whatever you may call them, please realize: One out of every four ladders has the potential to be a dangerous weapon. You never know when you will come across a grumpy ladder. We have no way of knowing how they operate. Their minds are like a steel trap, shrouded in metal and plastic. They have no eyes, no window to their soul. They are deadly. And they also do not like baggage. So please, the next time you climb a ladder, leave the megaphone at home. And try not to carry any babies.

The more you know.

(all statistics were based off of the Becca Davis Center of Knowledge)

Now, bringing us back to our regularly scheduled program…So there I was, climbing up the ladder with my gear. I reached the top, slung both arms over the edge, and was about to scoot myself over the platform when I felt a little bounce, a little give, and then nothing. The ladder had slipped on it’s unsteady foundation and given out, falling to the ground, and since I do not have forearms of steel, capable of keeping me on the platform, I fell as well. All 20 feet to the ground. I landed like a cockroach, back first, feet in the air.  Crack! At first, I thought the snapping was just the twigs underneath me…I later learned in the ER that those twigs were also mixed with the snapping of vertebrae.

When I first landed, the wind was knocked out of me, leaving me unable to speak. Since it was dark, it took the people around me a good minute to realize what had happened. As soon as reality set back in, everyone leapt into action. As I struggled to breathe, tears and blood streaming down my face, a friend kept my head steady while others shined flashlights on me in order to examine my body for outward injuries. In the fall, the megaphone had landed on my head, cutting me at the top of my forehead. From my waist down, all I could feel were pins and needles, and since I still couldn’t breathe, I had no way of telling my fellow staff members this startling revelation. My friends held me and cried on me for a solid hour and a half while we waited for the ambulance to come. Luckily, the game had not started yet, and the kids were safely diverted to the opposite side of the camp in order to deter them from the impending craziness. As we waited for the ambulance, I remember laying there, feeling ants crawl up my clothes and bite me, and thinking, “I can’t move. I can’t breathe. What just happened?” I was in such a state of shock. However, I later found out that apparently I still had my wits about me enough to flirt with the EMTs that came to get me….what can I say, I LOVE a man in uniform! 😉

At the hospital, accompanied by my dear friend Lindsey, I learned that I had, in fact, broken my lumbar vertebrae. At first, being the worried daughter, I didn’t want to disturb my parents with all of this right away if it wasn’t anything serious. However, as soon as I heard the words, “well, it’s broken alright!” (why are doctors so chipper??), I realized I had to call my family. One problem: my parents were in London, and not coming back to the states for weeks.

giving the thumbs up after hearing the bad news...

I called my dad anyways, and when his phone rang in his office at 9am (3 am our time), he said he immediately knew something was wrong. He actually waited an entire hour before telling my mother, knowing that she’d freak and try to get on the next plane back to the states. She took it surprisingly well, though, and instead, got on the phone and began arranging people to get me, take care of me, love on me, feed me, etc.

I returned to camp the next day in a temporary brace, given to me until I could get my new one from my doctor back home. Sadly, I had to leave camp immediately, being the HUGE liability that I was, and thus had to cram in last minute good byes with all of my dear friends. It was heartbreaking. I wanted to stay so badly but knew that since I couldn’t very well walk, it was impossible to think I could stay.

underneath the "tower of terror" on a trip back to camp

My sister came up from San Antonio, taking time off of work to stay with me. I was bedridden for the first couple of weeks, only allowed to get up to pee. After that, I moved to walking 5-10 minutes a day. I was relegated to feeling like a baby, reduced to being changed and bathed like a child since I could no longer move like an adult. I also got fitted with a robo-cop looking brace, which was to be worn at all times, except when showering. My pain meds didn’t even help at first, and I suffered from severe, dibilating migraines for the first few weeks until they realized I was allergic to the hydrocodone. Oh, and I had suffered a pretty bad concussion. Excellent. So on top of losing a half an inch in height I also lost some much needed brain cells! Not fun!

All I did for the remainder of the Summer and that Fall was sit, eat, watch the entire Gilmore Girls series with my mom and do crossword puzzles. Oh, and I wrote letters. LOTS of letters. I wrote to everyone at camp, telling them how much I missed them. I wrote to college friends, asking about their summers. I used my hands since I couldn’t use my legs. It was one of the hardest times in my life. I was immobile, and left to stew in my own thoughts and sometimes destructive mindsets. All I wanted to do was get up and walk, and instead, I had to sit there and think about everything I was missing…

When I was finally able to walk with the brace, the embarrassment of wearing it started to bubble up inside me. I mean, people stared, it was only natural…some people whispered, some people just outright came up and asked, but I could ALWAYS feel the eyes of everyone around me…I hated it. And then I knew what my sister felt when she lost her hair to cancer. Then I knew what amputees felt when they went to the grocery store. Then I knew what my childhood friend felt who had the large birthmark on her face. It slammed me right back down to Earth. I no longer felt sorry for myself. Breaking my back broke a lot more of me than just my vertebrae.

my first trip after the break...wearing my super cool walking brace!

It made me realize how life is so precious.

It opened my eyes to my inability to trust, and encouraged me to begin doing so with others.

It gave me a newfound love of writing.

It showed me that no matter what, good always comes from every situation.

I’m actually very grateful for July 3rd, 2008. Without that night, I would have never stopped my life in order to examine my priorities. I would have never had to move back home to Texas, where, I learned, was the place I was supposed to be. Everything that has happened thus far in my life I attribute in some way to that day.

So, the moral of the story? Breaking my back was a life-saver…I just wish I could have learned those lessons an easier way…say, falling into a bed of fluffy kittens? Oh well….you win some, you lose some! 🙂

hearts and back-breaking hugs,

B.

 

 

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Comments

  1. wow that’s such a scary experience!! but you sound so strong; you definitely had the right attitude and courage to get through it and learn a lot from it. thanks for sharing!

  2. I ALWAYS thank God for breaking you. Because that’s when he showed you such grace that he wasn’t going to let you wander anymore. Coming to care for you that summer was the scariest and sweetest time for me, because I knew you would truly heal after that. I praise Jesus for bringing you back to me. I love you, sister.

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