10:03 PM

Life is full of change. Change can be good and it can be hard, but inevitably it will happen. There are subtle life changes that happen over time such as aging or the process of learning a new talent. Then there is a ‘BAM’ change. A change so powerful that it could have only been initiated by a catalyst – an external influence great enough to induce a life-changing moment.

My life changing BAM catalyst was a head injury. Maybe that is why I describe it as a sound because that is what I heard when my head hit metal. Actually, it was a loud thud which vibrate through my head. I will never forget what it felt like to hear that noise from the inside of my skull.

It was April, 2004 and I was so excited to have found a pair of real snake-skin boots at the local thrift store, along with a pair of boots for each of my daughters, 8 years and 11 years. They had just started riding lessons at a nearby arena and needed them for the next day. I had bought all three pairs of boots for less than $30. I had experienced shopping success! I remember seeing my mother and baby daughter smiling at me from the waiting car. It was a rare and carefree, happy moment.

I decided to stop at a tree lot where my previous husband was boarding some horses he’d recently purchased. The horses were young and not ready for riding but the girls wanted to see them and help feed them.

We didn’t expect to ride that night. However, the man who owned the lot had just purchased an old rodeo horse for his grandchildren to ride. My oldest daughter rode the horse first. She was just sitting on the horse as it walked around the circular corral with the owner holding reins and leading them both. It all seemed so safe to me. When I approached the corral, the man asked if I would like to get on and go around a few times. I resisted at first and then the girls started encouraging me to try.

“Come on, mom! You can do it!” I did have my new second hand snakeskin boots in the car I thought and life had been so extremely stressful lately that the thought of doing something spontaneous and fun sounded so inviting. Next thing I know the reins were in my hand and I was on the horse as it walked around the corral. It felt like a simple kid's ride at the county fair. I never would have imagined the drama that would unfold in the next thirty minutes and how altered my life would be after my decision to get on that horse.

I had parked my car near the corral and positioned it so that my mother could care for the baby and still watch us all from inside the vehicle.  I remember waving and smiling to her and the baby. My 8 year old daughter was anxious for a turn on the horse. She was watching from the outside of the fence and had climbed half-way up. She was smiling and shouting, “Can I get on? Can I have a turn?”

The owner of the horse helped her climb over the fence and lifted her onto the horse behind me, not on the saddle but on the rump. It didn't feel right to me. The few times that I had rode double, the extra person always sat in front of the person with the reins and behind the saddle horn. The man assured me that we would be fine and his grandchildren had been riding like that all day. I will always regret not listening to my intuition and inspiration as a mother and asserting myself. I gave in and we began riding around the circular corral.

Within 10 seconds the horse began bucking, kicking his legs up high into the air. I instinctively dropped the reins and reached one arm behind me and around my daughter trying to keep her on and away from the horse's stomping feet. I remember screaming for help and looking at the man directly in the eyes as he backed away from me. The horse bucked one or two times more before both she and I went off the front end. The top of my right forehead hit hard, and blunt on the metal corral bar on my way down. I landed partially on my daughter and was surprised at how quickly I jumped up and off her. I was so worried she was injured. The moment my feet hit the earth and I reached up to feel my head, my knees buckled and I was back down in the dirt again. Staring up at the dark sky and holding the large, grape-fruit sized hematoma that had already formed on my forehead, I knew then that I was in trouble.

My young daughters were hysterical and I was incredibly scared as I could feel my head swelling quickly under my hand.  I remember asking them to pray with me. Someone was calling 911. We said a prayer then and again in the ambulance ride. I said a lot of prayers that night as I fought to stay conscious. I was so afraid that if I passed out, I wouldn't wake up again. I prayed for to God that he would keep me alive to raise my babies.

The swelling continued and was pushing down on my right eye and eyelid making it difficult to keep my eyes open. The pain on the back of my head (opposite of where I hit it) was so intense and sharp I though for sure I had cut my scalp open. There was no laceration. Later the doctors would tell me the pain I felt was from my brain hitting the back of my skull.

I remember holding hands with my daughter in the ambulance. I couldn't see her because we were both strapped to boards staring up. She was no longer crying. I was actually afraid she was going in shock because she was so quiet. I was assuring her that it would be OK and the paramedics had assessed that she didn't have any obvious injuries but would need to do some x-rays and further evaluation of her leg and hip to be sure that nothing was broken. I had peace knowing she would be fine. However, something told me that my life would be different and I was fearful to find out how.

My head injury was the catalyst that helped me to see how important it was for me to change my life. Up until the point of the horse accident, I realized that my children had mostly seen me sad or scared. When I did seem happy, it was forced and fake for the children. So, when I was lying on my back and staring at the dark sky on that spring night in horse corral. I thought to myself, if I die now my children will have never known me to be truly happy. That thought caused me to feel a deep sadness for my children. I wanted a chance to make that not be true and that is when I started to change my life.

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