“What day is my surgery, Mom?”
“How am I going to drive to campus Monday?”
“Ummm, you’re not. You might have to get a prosthetic arm and you can’t walk on your foot for four months.”
“Like I said, how am I getting to school Monday?”
Girl’s surgery lasted many hours and we finally got to see her about 9:30 PM. My sisters and friends waited all day and night with us; expecting worse and worse news as the night wore on. When we were able to see her, the surgeon said , “good news!” and let us know she should expect no more than 50% use of her arm and very limited rotation from the elbow to the wrist. My heart dropped. All she wanted to do was get back on her horse and join the university’s equine drill team. I guess 50% is better than none . I immediately stretched my arm out to 50% and cried…desperately whispering, “that’s not enough”. But there was more news that none of us, even the surgeon, were prepared to hear. He pieced together her elbow , repaired her ulna and radial, anchored her muscles and tendons to her shattered bones and closed with the most beautiful scar ever. Did you know they could suture from the inside? If you saw her on the street you would never know how extensive the repair was. It took so brutally long because he just couldn’t give up on such a young girl with many giant dreams. Her arm is all pins, plates, screws and wire anchors. But it’s her arm and I couldn’t wait to hold that perfect hand. He prepared us for a year of painful rehabilitation, months in a wheelchair and encouraged her to take the semester off. Drunk on anesthesia and pain meds, Girl rolled her eyes with a defiant ‘whatever’ and sought out the only answer she wanted. When could she get back on Trooper. His answer to that was the most devastating. “If”, he said , “and very long time from now”.
Monday morning we loaded her wheelchair into the bed of her truck and off we went. She was high on drugs but determined to start, and finish, the Fall semester. And so we did. I pushed her around campus and sat through every class on Tuesday and Thursday and my sister covered Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We learned what she learned (or didn’t learn). The first day of art class I hear this from her Professor “…and do not ever fall asleep in my class”. I knew who that was directed at. Keep talking , Mr. Professor, and you’ll be in a shiny wheelchair with a face cast. Girl fell asleep next to Alice, who woke her up and is to this day her best friend. Then we would go to physical therapy for a few hours and mercifully to home. Home to rest I had hoped, but we went home to do homework and her PT exercises. I had to pull her freshly patched arm as straight as she could tolerate, for 1 minute- 20 times. Three times a day. I cried more than she did. In between all of that- she would sleep. Sometimes for 10 minutes and sometimes for a day. If she slept through a school day then Alice, me or my sister would go to class for notes. Exhausted, drugged, in pain and full of frustration and fight – she pushed on. I reminded her that C’s get degrees and that we would be incredibly proud of her if we saw Ds or Fs even. I mean, who is so mighty that they can pull off a semester at university in her condition? I couldn’t do it! I was worn out just pushing her chair, watching physical therapy, getting new casts every week and helping with flash cards!
She is that mighty.
All As and Bs.
She limps still and her arm hurts. But she rides Trooper, plays fetch with her dog and does every single thing that none of us thought she would ever do again. Her laugh is rich with confidence and mischief…she feels every single second of life now. She actually asked me years ago when she would stop being a kid in my eyes. I’m pretty sure I told her some BS like , “when you’re a mommy, too”. Nope, I was wrong. WAY wrong. That Monday morning when she was ready for school and I was pleading with her to rest…that’s the moment. Every time she was crying from pain but still went to take tests and notes…it was then that she grew up into an adult. It was when she took her first steps five months after her accident, every single one since has hurt, yet she still walked and navigated campus.
It was four weeks after her surgery and I wheeled her across a pasture so she could try out for the Six White Horses women’s equine drill team- she couldn’t ride but she could do the interview and prove her horse knowledge. With other girls and parents smirking at her- Girl held her head high and proceeded as though not one thing was out of the ordinary. It was in that moment that August stole my girl and returned a beautiful, fiery woman to me.