The Story

Hi, this is Sterling, today’s guest blogger. (Or maybe you should call me a hacker, since I haven’t officially been invited to blog.) I don’t have any techniques to share or projects to discuss, but I do have a story to tell (and although I’m not much for talking, this is kind of long, but I wanted to tell the whole story, so bear with me. . .)

By now, you know Shelli was in a pretty bad accident on Thursday. On Wednesday, Shelli and I headed south for an endurance ride in the Grand Canyon. It had been raining for the past several days, so when we arrived it was gorgeous—the trees were a brilliant green, the temps were perfect, it was really an ideal setting for a ride that we had been looking forward to for months.

Thursday morning, we did what you typically do the morning of a ride—dress, eat breakfast, gather gear, saddles horses, and head to the starting area. We arrived a little early and enjoyed the feeling of excitement as we prepared to start this thrilling ride. The ride officials started us, and we headed off.

The horses were full of energy and adrenaline, and we were moving really good. About four miles into the ride, we were heading down the trail through the quakies and pine trees at a nice pace, me in the lead, Shelli next, and a third rider behind her, when I heard the guy behind Shelli say, “Uh, oh,” and I heard Shelli let out a little scream.

I looked behind me just in time to see Kadie roll forward with Shelli coming over her shoulder and hitting the ground in a fetal position. I heard her gasp when she hit as the air was knocked out of her, and I thought in my mind, “Oh, that’s not good, but I think we’ll be OK.”

And then I saw, almost in slow motion it seemed, Kadie roll over the top of Shelli, and with that, Shelli let out a painful cry.

I can’t describe how I felt in that moment. All I wanted to do was get to Shelli. I jumped off my horse and ran to her; she was in a lot of pain. I took off my jacket and wrapped her as well as I could. . . the guy riding behind us, who had gathered our horses, handed me his coat as well. Within minutes the next group of riders arrived, and a nurse was among those riders. She took Shelli’s vitals and asked her if she knew who she was, where she was, what she was doing. Through the pain, Shelli answered all the questions correctly; she never lost consciousness and even managed a feeble smile once in a while.

One of the riders had ridden back to meet an ER doctor who was on the ride; he arrived about 20 minutes later. He did a more thorough exam, checking her neck and spine, palpitating her abdomen, and moving her legs and pelvis. When he twisted her pelvis, she said it was tender but wasn’t excruciating, and the doctor determined that, while she definitely had pain in her wrist, shoulder, and hips, we could safely move her.

Shortly after that, the ride manager came barreling up in a Jeep. He’d been notified of the accident and had called 911, requesting a helicopter. Unfortunately, because of the dense forest, the helicopter was unable to land. When the doctor assured him there was no internal bleeding or life-threatening injuries, we decided to drive her out. I hopped in the Jeep and went back to camp for my truck. The drive back down to get Shelli was one of the most frantic four-wheel rides I’ve ever driven, and I was grateful to finally be back by her side.

Once I got there, four of us carefully picked up Shelli and set her in the truck, and then I made my way, slowly—and quickly as possible—out of the forest and to Kanab.

Shelli and Kadie fell at about 8:40 Thursday morning; we didn’t arrive at the hospital until around noon. It took us that long to get Shelli off the mountain, and she was hurting and being positive the entire time! Once in Kanab, they took X-rays and a CAT scan, and we found out that she had fractured her wrist in three places, her pelvis in four (in Salt Lake City, they found a fracture in her sacrum as well), and her left clavicle. They told us she needed to see an orthopedic surgeon, which meant we needed to either go to St. George by ambulance or to Salt Lake City by Life Flight. She wanted to be as close as possible to her daughters and her home, so she chose Salt Lake.

The Life Flight plane landed in Kanab about 4, and she was on her way to Intermountain Medical Center by 4:30. After much discussion, she flew alone—I wanted to be with her, but knew the girls would be on the other end when she landed and I needed to take care of things down south.

After kissing her (very carefully) good-bye, I went back out on the mountain, gathered up the horses, rolled up camp, put everything away, and headed back to Kanab for the second time in less than 12 hours. I intended to spend the night there and head back to Salt Lake early Friday morning. After sleeping for only a couple of hours, I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I got up and drove home around 3 in the morning.

Meanwhile, Shelli was in Salt Lake, where they were taking more X-rays and additional tests. Eventually, they admitted her to the hospital on the trauma floor, where it sounds like she’ll be staying for the next several days. They won’t let her go home until she can stand and walk enough that she can take care of some basic needs.

On Friday, she headed into surgery, where the orthopedic surgeon had told us he was going to try and push the bones in her wrist back into place (they had been displaced in the accident), and if the bones held, he could splint it. If they didn’t, he’d have to put in a plate and set the wrist surgically. Thankfully, the bones held, and they were able to splint the wrist together.

This morning, she had her first physical therapy session—excruciating is the word that comes to mind. Three therapists helped her stand up, move around a tiny bit, and sit down. She can only put pressure on her toes on her left foot, can’t use her right hand at all, and has very limited movement with her left arm because of the shoulder. She had been too nauseous to eat until today; she was finally able to keep a little food down this afternoon and evening.

They’ve told us to plan on at least six to eight weeks of almost no activity and movement, just letting the bones heal. She’ll have limited physical therapy during that time, but the intense stuff starts after the bones heal. They say that what’s in store then will hurt worse than the accident itself, but that it’s essential for her to go through that therapy in order to heal and regain the movement and ability she wants. It will likely be at least January before she’s fully recovered.

And through it all, she smiles. Everyone commented on that, over and over again. When I went back to camp on Thursday evening, everyone wanted to know how she was. About 80 people were on the ride, and most of them had been behind us when the accident occurred, so they had seen her and were concerned. I gave everyone the report, and when the ER doc heard she had fractured her pelvis, he was astounded. Unbelievable was the word he used. He said that normally when he does that pelvis twist, if there’s any damage at all, people come out of their skin. “That’s one tough girl you have,” he told me.

I know.

For the past 35 years, I’ve watched Shelli deal with all the challenges and heartache that life hands each one of us. Some of it she’s shared with others, some of it she deals with quietly and privately. We are blessed in many ways—and we recognize that and are grateful for it. But every one of us has incredibly difficult things to overcome, and Shelli reminds me over and over again how to deal with things full on, never complaining, and with an incredibly positive attitude. She takes every challenge in stride and pushes forward with pure determination and will power, and I’m certain she’ll deal with this most recent setback in that same manner.

She is dang awesome!

And although she has no idea what I’m going to be writing in this blog, I know she’d want me to thank you for all your well wishes, for your prayers, for your heartfelt love and concern. We talk often about how good you all are and how your example inspires us! So many of you deal with challenges and heartaches as well. . .just taking it a day at a time and hanging in there!

A couple final notes: Although these aren’t the pictures Shelli was planning to share with you from our Grand Canyon ride, I’ve included them here so you could see that stubborn smile of hers, as well as the five angels that met her in Salt Lake when she landed.

And several people have asked about Kadie. I’ve added a photo of her as well. She has a big bruise above her left eye, and Shelli and I both feel pretty strongly that when she stumbled, she instinctively did everything she could to protect Shelli, taking as much weight as possible on the left side of her head and shoulder to diminish the impact on Shelli. If Kadie hadn’t rolled the way she rolled, Shelli wouldn’t be with us--I have teared up often over the past few days as I have thought about what might have happened. . . I am very grateful tonight for so many things.