Just Breathe, It Was Only the Best Day of Your Life...
September 22, 2012
Sean and I woke up early to the crisp mountain air. The dogs were all spread across one big dog bed in front of the living room window, overlooking the orange and red trees that seemed to go on forever. We were both like giddy little kids and immediatly started cooking breakfast. It was fun to be in a new place, as we reached and stepped over one another grabbing pans, silverware, plates and seasonings. We were in a condo at Brianhead Resort which belonged to Sean's good family friend and which he had access to whenever he wanted. I briefly imagined how many other girls he impressed with this same getaway, but quickly shook away the thought, as all that mattered was I was there now.
Our board game was still on the dining table from the night before. I absolutely love board games and think there is something oddly romantic about them. I think it has to do with the innocence of feeling like a kid again. It keeps you present in the moment and strips away the need for fancy dinners or expensive dates.
We cleared off the table, ate our homemade breakfast of pancakes and bacon, and then got the dogs ready to go out. We had brought all four of our dogs on a trip for the first time - Kaya the Great Dane, Larry the Chihuahua, Jenna the Rat Terrier and Petri the Mini Dacshund. We got them all into their leashes and harnesses, and headed out into the fresh mountain air. They were just as excited as we were and couldn't wait to go explore. We had decided to take Sean's truck up the road to find some good hiking spots. Sean led the way and I gladly followed in his footsteps. At one point we took off the leashes and let the dogs tackle the trails on their own. Along the way, we found numerous pieces of beautiful, bright white granite, and as we picked up the best ones, my mind was already racing with ideas of what to do with them once we got home.
I felt like I was floating. I was so consumed with love for everything about that moment, from having our whole little fur family along for the ride, to watching this man take the reins and show me the time of my life. I was swept off my feet and fell more and more in love with him with every step. I was not the outdoorsy girl by nature and everything about the trip was out of my comfort zone, leaving me feeling a little scared, yet excited, at every turn.
We finished up our little hike and jumped in his truck to find the next spot. We drove along the winding road and pulled off at a lookout point. There was a small wall that lined the edge and when you peaked over you could see the sudden drop off, making me wonder why the wall was so short. Beyond the drop off was an endless view of red rocks that seemed to erupt from the earth in crazy formations. We took turns taking pictures of each other with our dogs in front of the extraordinary backdrop .
We were the only ones there and spent some peaceful time just quietly staring out into the vast rock formations. I broke the silence and said something I will never forget, "At this moment, my life is exactly perfect. I have the best boyfriend, I have my dream job, I make great money, I love my family and I'm just so happy. There is nothing I would change." Sean smiled, held me from behind and kissed me. It was perfect. My life was perfect. It was the best day of my life.
We got back into the truck and drove down the road to the condo, where Sean's buddy, Jim, his girlfriend and his teenage son were waiting for us. They had also driven down from Salt Lake and were spending the weekend with us. Jim happened to be a mechanic, working primarily on boats and ATV's, and he brought down four 4-wheelers and a dirt bike for us all to use. The weather was perfect and we planned to take a nice scenic ride around the trails, check out the beautiful fall leaves and have a picnic. We packed up the cooler and got ready to leave. Out of the 4-wheelers, there was one that was much bigger than the other three. They decided to give that one to me because it would be more sturdy and safe. Everyone else in the group had basically grown up doing this sort of thing, and I had been on maybe a handful of ATV's. Sean helped me onto my vehicle, showed me how to use the gears, secured my helmet and then strapped the cooler on the back. Jim, his son and his girlfriend were on the other ATV's, and Sean hopped on the dirt bike. And off we went.
I remember being so scared, not of the 4-wheeler, but of not impressing Sean. I wanted to keep my cool and stay up with the group. I quickly got the hang of it and felt pretty comfortable. It helped that everyone was so patient, going at a really relaxed speed, keeping things just super easy and fun. We ended up finding an access road and followed it up the mountain. With it being wide open, we picked up some speed. At that point, my fear was no longer of not impressing Sean, it was the thrill of the ride. I shifted as I'd been shown, gave it gas and was flying down the trail. I was scared shitless - and loving it! Although, I will admit, I wasn't complaining when the rest of the group slowed down and took a little break. We could see the road went up a hill, but we couldn't tell if it was safe on the other side. The guys all decided to go up to check it out, and us girls stayed behind to wait.
After a few minutes, we could see Jim at the top waving us up. I took the lead and we proceeded up the hill. What we didn't realize, was Sean had decided to come down the hill to get us. Sean and I were unknowingly coming towards each other and both came around the bend at the same time. I saw him and froze. Now let me be the first to tell you this road was definitely wide enough for us to pass each other with ease, but my inexperienced brain told me it would be safer to get off the trail. I turned to the right and squeezed the throttle, thinking it was the brake. I squeezed so hard wanting to stop the machine, but instead it bucked with force and sent me flying. My wheels caught the ditch that my eyes didn't see and sent my vehicle flipping forward. The speed was just right, causing the machine to make two 180 degree flips, landing on me each time. Everything slowed down. Everything was silent, everything except for the crunching sound of my bones losing their fight against the weight of the ATV. I was screaming, but no sound was coming out. I saw the ground, the sky, ground, sky. Why was it moving so slowly? Why couldn't I stop it? I held on for dear life, completely paralyzed with fear and no instinct of what to do. Then it suddenly came to a stop. It was over. Now what? Am I ok? Am I in pain? I couldn't tell. My brain wasn't registering anything. All I could think of was my gradeschool teacher telling me horror stories of injuries occuring after an accident because the person was moved the wrong way, paralyzing or killing them instantly. I could hear her telling me "Don't move. Call the paramedics and just wait". I saw Sean who was running to me with utter panic written all over his face. I could tell how far I had flipped by how long it took him to reach me. Why was he running so slowly? Why was everything moving in slow motion?
It was difficult to breath, almost impossible to speak, "Don't move me!" I screamed as loud as I could muster. "Call 911! Call Life Flight!" I yelled, as if he wouldn't know what to do. "How's my face?" I cried to him. "Your face is beautiful!" he said through tears, "it is so beautiful" he continued to reassure me. At this point Sean was in pure panic mode. He couldn't sit still and began pacing back and forth, his hands on his head, pleading, "Oh my God! Oh my God!" He was completely beside himself, unable to truly comprehend what was happening. We were all in disbelief. Luckily his friends were there, who were able to stay a little more calm considering they were more removed emotionally. Of course they were worried, but it's different when you don't really know the person. Sean and I, on the other hand, had just begun our whirlwind romance 6 months ago and were in the peak of our new relationship. At that point I could only imagine what was going though his mind, but all I could think was "Great, there goes my perfect relationship. It's over, there's no way he's going to stay with me after this. It's definitely over". I felt like an idiot.
I had been thrown against a fallen tree, and landed on my left side. I was using my right hand to hold myself up, attempting to relieve some of the weight, as I could feel something crunching under my left shoulder. I couldn't tell exactly what it was, but I just knew I didn't want to make it any worse. I told myself I had to alleviate as much pressure as I could, while keeping myself as still as possible. Jim's girlfriend held up her sweatshirt to block the sun from my eyes and Sean put another one under my head to help with the weight of the helmet. We had all agreed the helmet should be taken off by the paramedics in an effort to not add to any of my injuries. I could hear someone giving our coordinates on the phone. Good, help was coming soon and they will know what to do next. I kept thinking of my mom and how disappointed and worried she was going to be. Who was going to call her? What a horrible phone call to have to make to a mother. My mind was all over the place. Breathing was definitely difficult, but I just kept telling myself to stay calm. Just breath. Help is coming. Just stay calm.
Sean was pacing and I told him to come sit with me. I told him everything was going to be ok. He kept telling me how sorry he was and how beautiful I looked. I told him not to be sorry and just be calm with me. He was sobbing and I remember falling more in love with him. I could feel how much he cared about me and it made the pain somewhat bearable. We were both crying at this point. I don't even remember the pain other than the crunching feeling in my shoulder. My body was buzzing, and the sun was making me so hot. I had worn a sweatshirt and jeans that morning thinking I would get cold on the drive, but now all I wanted to do was get my clothes off. One of my shoes had fallen off and Jim was pinching my toes, testing the feeling in my feet and legs. He knew something was terribly wrong when I didn't respond to it. He kept it to himself in an effort to not make things worse in that moment. We would all find out soon enough.
It felt like hours had passed when we finally heard the helicopter an hour and twenty minutes later. Everyone jumped up waving their hands in excitement. This is about the time things got really blurry for me. The chopper touched down, and a frenzy of people got out, going straight to work. I was amazed how each one of them knew their part as they began to inspect my injuries. They were reassuring me as they carried on, but I could tell from their tone that it didn't look good. They got my helmet off and stabilized my neck with a huge brace. I was happy I didn't have to remind them of my teacher's instructions, as they were diligent in keeping me stable.
Then they prepared me for the backboard. "This is going to hurt. We need you to stay strong," one said, "OK, one, two and three", I could feel my body shocked with pain in every direction as they rolled me onto the board. It was as if the ATV was flipping on me a third time. They continued to assess my body before getting me to the helicopter, and I remember just wanting to tell them to hurry up. "Let's go!" I wanted to yell, but decided against it. My mind was still racing in every direction, anxiety filling my head as I thought of worst case scenarios. They finally all lifted together and carried me onto the helicopter. Then I was told Sean couldn't come with me, God, I was so scared. I just wanted him to hold me, make things better, the way he always did. He gave me a kiss and then continued to kiss my hand, telling me he will be right behind me and everything was going to be ok. What else can you say to someone as they are boarding Life Flight? Not much.
On board, they quickly administered an IV and began the morphine. They proceeded to talk me through what was going on, but I couldn't focus. I was terrified, I missed Sean and I was still in shock this was even happening to me. I tried to focus on their discussion of where they were taking me. I heard "Las Vegas" and was so confused. I just wanted to go home. Why would they take me further away? I couldn't understand the logic. More morphine. Ok, I can do this. Vegas it is. And good night. I was out.
I slowly woke up to the steady beeping of my pulse on the monitor. My eyes were extremely groggy and I couldn't quite figure out where I was, although I felt completely alone. Where was everyone? I felt like I couldn't breathe and realized there was something in my throat. Oh my God! Why was I alone? I can't breathe, I need help! I wanted to scream, but the sound was blocked by whatever was in my mouth and down my throat. I couldn't move my legs or sit up so I began banging on side of my hospital bed, trying to get someone's attention. Somebody help me! I banged louder on the bed. I couldn't breathe and felt like I was going to die. Then a nurse came towards me and told me to just breathe normally, that I was intubated and it was helping me breathe because my body was not able to on it's own. "Just breathe," she said calmly, "Just breathe".