Thursday was supposed to be a nice, calm, gentle day. One in which boys went mustering and preg-testing heifers and I washed and packed for a few days away. I had also planned a quick, quiet visit to town to do a TV interview at lunchtime.
(Channel Seven were doing a story on some of our local pubs, and wanted some footage of the photo exhibition I have showing at one, with some chat with me about my work.)
Because, you know, there is NEVER enough excitement around here.
Here is what actually happened… I was running late (shocking but true) burning some photos of this gorgeous stallion to disc for a friend.
I had just seen Dad off, as he finished work early to head into town for an appointment. I had blow-dried my hair, flossed my teeth (you know, in case of closeups and stray multigrain seeds between one’s teeth!) and was almost ready to leave home myself.
Then the two way crackled into life.
“You on channel there Amanda?” It was my husband.
“Yes hon, on channel.’
“Yeah… can someone come and get me and take me to hospital?”
Well it sounded like my husband? His voice seemed steady, and not in pain, but he was ASKING to be taken to hospital? Totally out of character…
“Uh… sure. Where are you?”
“At the dip.”
“Okay, be there soon.”
I had no idea what was wrong. But he sounded okay. Maybe a bad cut that needed stitching, or a broken bone. He’d called from the truck so it couldn’t be a spinal injury.
I threw the first aid kit, a pillow and a water bottle into the car and drove the ten minutes to the dip.
He was sitting up when I arrived.
“Good,” I thought. “No broken leg.”
He had a hand over one eye, and looked up as I stopped the car nearby. Our 18-year-old jackaroo Cal was standing nearby looking a bit stunned. My husband took his hand away from his face. A large swelling on his cheek was covered in blood and his eye was closed.
“What’s happened, darl? Are you okay? Does your head hurt?”
He stared at me. “I don’t know… Why am I here?”
I caught my breath. Then he looked around…
“Where is your Dad? And why are these cattle in the yard?”
He had arranged for Dad to have a half-day that morning. The cattle in the yards behind him were ours. He had mustered them in with Cal half an hour ago.
My heart sank. That broken leg suddenly didn’t seem like a bad option…
“It’s okay, let’s get you into town and cleaned up. Hop in the car.”
Cal and I looked at each other and he shrugged and shook his head. He hadn’t seen what had happened at all. We worked out what he needed to do and, to his credit, he calmly assured me he had it under control.
I got my dazed husband settled into the car and drove off carefully, still none the wiser about how my husband’s obvious concussion had occured. I won’t go into the detail but let’s just say the next 45 minutes was a little confused – lots of repeated questions (from him), a few from me (to see how much he recalled of the day – not very much) and some observations (by him) of things I couldn’t see. I admit to being a little stressed, but trying to remain outwardly calm, just hoping he didn’t get too upset. I called my aunt on the two-way and asked her to alert the hospital by phone.
By deduction we worked out that he had been on his horse, a new one who tosses her head a lot, and that she had probably thrown the top her head into his face as he leaned down to open a gate at the yards. He was knocked out and came to on the ground, with the horse still standing nearby (obviously wondering what the heck was going on). Grazes on his face seemed to have been from the timber of the gate, a cut perhaps from the wire. He had no recollection of getting to the truck to call, or anything much after that.
He was very insistent that he should NOT be flown out – I said I’d try, but I knew that anything to do with horse-related accidents and head injuries translated into an almost-certain ticket in an emergency chopper or Flying Doctor plane.
We pulled up at the hospital and I led him into a room . Soon nurses were milling around him, asking the same questions (and getting slightly more lucid answers) and trying to clean the wounds. A doctor arrived and, because no scans can be done at our local hospital, immediately made plans to fly him out to the nearest major centre.
I rang our local pub (where I was supposed to be being interviewed) to explain that I didn’t think I’d make it. My husband, listening in, began insisting I do it anyway and he would be fine. Good Lord. By chance, both my parents were nearby and offered to sit with him. I did NOT want to leave, but then began working out logistics for the rest of the day (and possibly week). There was discussion among medical staff about the possibility of him being sent on to Brisbane if there were eye socket fractures. Dear God.
Somehow I managed to work out a plan… if Mum and Dad stayed with Mr I at the hospital, I could pick up Dash and Violet from school, and pack some suitcases for us all quickly. Then I could get back into town, hopefully see Mr I off in the plane, leave the kids with my parents and start driving to Bundy and meet my husband at the Accident and Emergency section to see what happened next. Do-able.
I was assured they wouldn’t fly him out before mid-afternoon, and on reassurance from Mum and insistance from Mr I, I set off to get that list accomplished, via the pub where the television crew were still waiting.
I suspect it was the most hurried, scattered interview the poor TV host, producer and cameraman had ever witnessed. I was shiny, flustered and my mind was very definitely elsewhere. But I tried. I hoped it was something a bit usable that would help promote our local area and it’s great little pubs.
Then I was off – ringing the school en route to let them know, to the school to grab the kids, home to throw Lord-Knows-What into four separate bags, say thanks to Cal who had made me a coffee in a travel mug (bless him) and reassured me everything would be taken care of at home, then headed back into town for the second time that day (and now with 250km and a fair dose of adrenaline under my belt).
Dash and Violet were a little shocked to see their Dad in bed, trying to hid his wounds under a large padded dressing, but he reassured them he would be okay and home soon. It was just minutes before the ambulance took him off to meet the plane. I offloaded the kid’s gear to my wonderful parents before heading out in our car to track the same journey east.
You know how when you need something IN A HURRY, everything conspires to slow you down? That. I had 1/4 tank of fuel and thought I’d fill up – but massive tankers parked across the fuel bowsers and lineups of vehicles blocked access to both our service stations… I calculated that I would just make it to the next ‘proper’ servo around 150km away, and headed out.
With friends’ voices ringing in my ears: “DRIVE SAFELY, and CALM DOWN” I set off.
I have to admit I don’t recall most of that trip. I know I watched the speedo and the fuel guage and paid intense attention to our often-treacherous, semi-sealed road. I tried not to think about hospitals and concussions. As dusk turned to night, and the fuel warning light came on, the lights of a service station came into sight.
I am not particularly superstitious, but I took that as an omen. As I refuelled the car and myself (toasted ham, cheese and tomato sandwhiches) I felt calmer. The kids were fine, I was almost at my destination safely, and my husband would already be in good hands and with any luck, have been assessed and x-rayed. My sister rang and offered me a bed for the night, and said she had spoken on the phone to Mr I and he sounded good. The x-rays were already done.
As I pulled into the hospital half an hour later, I noticed a car park RIGHT OUTSIDE the A&E doors. Another omen.
I was waved through into the treatment areas, following a meandering green line on the floor as instructed, til I found him. In his mauve hospital gown, eye competely swollen shut, looking groggy. Then he waved and made a joke about everyone needing to look out, the wife that beat him up had arrived.
I was beyond relieved… he was making jokes. A fabulous sign indeed!
It took another two hours for more clean-up, antibiotics and CT scans to be processed. And then the news from our assigned doctor:
NO breaks visible. Eye socket fine, cheekbone fine. Cuts that would have to wait for a while for stitching.
No-one could quite believe it – with the mess and swelling to his face, a broken bone or two seemed inevitable.
Apparently all that milk (straight from the cow) his mother had provided to him throughout his childhood had clearly stood my husband in remarkably good stead – the man has some seriously tough bones!
We arrived back home less than 24 hours after he had been flown out. We even managed to attend the Fathers’ Day event our little school put on – it was funny and fabulous and the kids were so delighted to have him there. He has a swollen, bruised face and is still pretty scary looking. He will still need stitches around his eye but doctors are waiting for the swelling to subside.
We came back to find that the job the boys had had to abandon the day before had been taken care of, with the help of neighbours who rearranged their busy day. There was also an avalanche of calls and messages awaited us, from people trying to find out if Mr I was okay – along with some really sweet notes from friends. It shocked me a little that others had been so concerned – not that I don’t think people care, but that they reached out made me a little emotional. Perhaps it was just relief. All I know it made me smile and want to hold my family very tight.
I am supposed to be going away tomorrow to a conference. I have to say, while I have been looking forward to it for ages, I am loathe to leave right now.
I know my husband will probably insist I still go. I don’t know. We will see.
I know I completely forgot to drop off my friend’s photo CD of stallion photos to him. I know I have a mountain of washing still to do. And ironing to do. And housework and cooking to get ticked off. I know that my motivation levels are very low and I am blogging instead.
I guess I just want you all to know that all is okay here. We had a fright, but we are okay. I hope all is okay in your world, and you have hugged the ones you love lately.
I know I sure have.
It’s also clear to me how much I need to treasure our family, our neighbours, our friends and our little community – today, I am feeling very, very rich in all respects.