A “Symphony of Your Life” blog with Mark Hardcastle
Standing at the fork in the road
You can stand there and agonize
Till your agony’s your heaviest load
Get used to a country mile
When you’re learning to face
The path at your pace,
every choice is worth your while
In the silence of that moment Fortune presented her challenge in great big letters across the sky: Your neck may be broken. Your right arm is gone.
How are you going to respond?
The next group of riders came along, found me lying there, pulled out their cell phones, called 911, and got an emergency response. So began the rescue that involved getting the ambulance up to me on the trail, me on to the back board, into the ambulance, and then back down the hill to the Moab emergency room where they took x-rays. And we found out that indeed my neck was broken.
Because x-rays can’t tell us everything we need to know about soft tissue, the doctors couldn’t know how badly my spinal cord was damaged. With a broken neck and a paralyzed arm they thought they’d better figure that out. So they decided to evacuate me on a flight-for-life helicopter up to Grand Junction and put me in an MRI machine.
Back on the gurney, out to the helipad, loaded into the chopper and strapped down again. As the helicopter lifted off for the short flight to St. Mary’s hospital the chaos of the rescue melted away and I found myself thinking about the gravity of my situation.
The question that came rushing in – that I couldn’t push away – was ‘how much worse is it gonna get?’ I knew my neck was broken and my right arm was gone. Was I gonna lose my left arm, too? What about my legs? Were they gonna stop working before I even got to Grand Junction? And if you go just a little bit further down that line of thinking you come to a pretty dark place. I won’t say it here – I’ll let you get there on your own. But suffice it to say I knew for the first time on a gut level something I’d known in my head for my entire life:
Tomorrow is not promised.
That’s me on the gurney being loaded into the helicopter in the picture above. That’s my then 18-year-old son standing beside me, saying goodbye before I began my journey.
The image of him standing beside me, doing what needed to be done, being the adult in the situation, was burned onto my psyche during that gentle cruise beyond the LaSalle Mountains, northeast toward the Grand Mesa. I wasn’t finished raising him, his sister and two brothers. But tomorrow was no longer promised.
Why did you do the things you did today? Are those really the things you should have been doing?
Is there something you need to say to somebody close to you that you haven’t said yet? Are there things you need to do with your kids, your grand kids that you haven’t done yet?
The helicopter landed at St. Mary’s. They wheeled me into the MRI machine, did the test, and wheeled me back out again. The neurosurgeon came over to give me the news: “Yeah, Mark, no fooling, your neck is broken – in five places. That’s the bad news. The good news is that there’s no spinal cord damage.”
“No spinal cord damage? But doc my arm is paralyzed?”
“Yeah, Mark, the nerves that control your arm are badly bruised way back up at their roots. But the bruise is outside the spinal column, which means your arm will likely recover.”
Sure enough, it was only a matter of hours before I began to regain function in my right hand.
At that point I was given a great gift from the Universe. Now it’s not what you’re thinking…