By Accident

By Accident

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Stories of Faith

By Accident

Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.

~Christopher Reeve

The instant my horse bucked, I knew I was going to die. As the reins were wrenched from my fingers, I felt myself thrown violently over his head and onto the ground. With sickening clarity, I heard my bones break. I thought of Christopher Reeve.

“Help me,” I cried. “Please, someone help me.” Searing pain in my chest and back strangled my words into a whisper. I’m alone, I thought. No one heard me. I raised my head, and the movement sent an electric shock coursing down my right arm. And then the arm went numb.

In a daze, I struggled to my feet and crawled through the arena fence. You are strong, I told myself, and you can do this. Pain contorted my posture, but I forced myself to walk the distance back to the ranch house. Doctors told me later that I’d done all of this with seven broken ribs, a fractured spine, a bleeding lung and a broken neck.

“Mary, I fell off ‘Nate,’” I groaned into the phone. “I think it’s bad. I can’t feel my right arm anymore.” I’d called my coworkers at the hospital, knowing they would be my lifelines.

An hour later, I lay strapped in the CT scanner with a stiff foam collar around my neck and oxygen tubing in my nostrils. I was no longer a nurse; I was a patient in my own emergency department. An unexpected wave of fear washed over me. Confusion compounded the pain—fear? Hadn’t I conquered fear? Buoyed by morphine, I let my memory drift back some four weeks.

“Okay, just roll out,” Duke commanded. As I crouched in the doorway of the plane, the wind whipped against my face. I squinted down at the ground, thirteen thousand feet below. Today I would prove how strong I was. Today I would be a skydiver, not a cast-off wife and an empty-nest mother.

“Let’s do it!” I shouted back from the plane’s open doorway. I gave my instructor the “thumbs up” and I jumped.

The jolting stop of the CT scanner table interrupted my memory. I let the medical team, my friends, do their jobs while I was forced to do my own personal evaluation: Why did this have to happen to me? In the past eighteen months, I’d survived the loss of a twenty-four-year marriage to infidelity, and the ravages of a flood that had threatened to take my home. Was this some sort of cosmic triple play to make me prove how strong I could be? Or three strikes and I’m out? Again, that shadowy fear surrounded my heart. What was I afraid of?

I took inventory: I was a single mother, a veteran emergency-room nurse, and a sturdy ranch woman who could haul a horse trailer, stack hay and deliver a foal. The misfortunes of the past two years had required me to stand taller, to be more assertive and, when necessary, to take it on the chin.

And now that chin was tucked into a foam collar, and there were whispers of “spinal cord injury, permanent weakness.” I began to realize what that icy, nameless fear was—I was losing control. A strong woman stays in control and doesn’t have to fully trust anyone. After all, I’d trusted my husband, and he left; I’d trusted the security of my home, and the floodwaters came. I had to ask myself the big question now: Did I trust God? I prayed to him, I worshipped him, but did I really allow myself to depend on him? A little card on my dresser mirror read, “Let Go and Let God,” yet how desperately I’d fought to keep life’s reins in my own hands. Now those reins had been yanked from me.

In the following months, as I worked in physical therapy to regain the full use of my arms, I had time to ponder and to pray. I wondered about my need to feel strong. Was it simply armor to ward off other unimaginable hurts? My cavalier leap from the skydiving plane certainly hadn’t left fear far enough behind. I began to set new priorities, to evaluate success and survival in different ways. With great relief, I let God take the burdens from my sore shoulders; I began to trust again.

I hadn’t been alone that day in my riding arena, and someone had heard me when I cried out. The accident stopped me from being strong, long enough to find my strength.

Months later, I returned to work at the hospital to find I’d become a local legend. The story was told and retold. “She walked into the hospital with a broken neck,” they’d say. One day a new employee heard the story—heard that I’d been alone in the riding arena—and he asked me, incredulously, “Who picked you up off the ground out there, after you fell?”

I felt myself take a deep breath—it was warm and alive in my chest. “Who picked me up?” A knowing smile spread across my face. “Think big,” I told him, “really big.”

~Candace L. Calvert

Chicken Soup for the Nurse’s Soul

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners