I mentioned here that I’ve recently been injured. It wasn’t life-threatening, although for the first bit I didn’t know how things were going to unfold. There were a few minutes when I had a hard time getting air into my lungs, and if anyone had been close enough to hear me, they would have been alarmed by the sounds I was making with what little air I had.
You may wonder about the cause of my plight. It was, in point of fact, a fine example of a first-world problem: I was thrown off the back of a jet ski (or personal watercraft, if you will) when my 11-year-old niece with a need for speed steered abruptly to the right, leaving physics to take me up and off to the left, and to slam me into the water.
We had been going fast enough that the left side of my body met the water with considerable force, and all the wind was knocked out of me. From a great distance away I heard my young driver ask if I was okay–I don’t know if she could hear my faint reply. I felt like I had been beaten with a baseball bat. Swimming back to the craft felt like a travail of impressive proportions.
Once I got there, pulling myself up and onto the vehicle was another challenge. I had started to be able to breathe a little more freely, but I was still in a fog of pain.
So this is the spot where you can pull out your tiny air violins and play a mournful lament for my first-world problem, poor Lori fell off the jet ski. Tough life, having the leisure time to be at a lovely reservoir in northern Utah on a beautiful summer day, and to be with my extended family at an idyllic family reunion, with a dad willing to rent jet skis so that everyone could have tons of fun in the sun. How many people are so fortunate?
It turns out that my body didn’t take any of that into account when sending pain signals to my brain. It all hurt abominably, even if I was extraordinarily lucky to have been in the position to get myself thrown off the super fun jet ski on that beautiful day, part of a lovely week of leisure with adored family.
As you have this post before you, you know that I lived to blog another day. In the immediate aftermath, I misjudged how it was going to unfold. I knew that there would be no more water sport for me that day, but I hoped to rest up and be feeling well enough to play in the family volleyball games that evening, always the highlight of the day. But this was different than the sorts of bruises and bumps I was used to. Not only was there no volleyball–there was not nearly enough sleep in the night (and nights) to follow, as even a small shift in position caused me to gasp in pain.
I’m 10 days away from “the incident,” and my research into bruised ribs tells me I may still be 10 to 20 days away from being back to normal. While I marvel at how much this injury can hurt, I’m trying to use my first-world problem to build a bridge to understanding: I’ve been thinking about other situations that might put people in this kind of pain.
I’ve never been mugged; I’ve never been beaten. I’ve never been in a serious car accident; I’ve never had to do extended periods of punishing physical work that would injure my body. I know that there are many, many people in the world who can’t say that list of “nevers,” and I know I’m very fortunate.
I hope I continue to be so fortunate. While my ribs are healing, and I am gradually able to walk without hunching over, and to take in a really deep breath without feeling a sharp pain, I’m reflecting. I’m spending some time thinking about this pain and how others have felt it due to more unfortunate causes. I hope I’m developing more empathy for the suffering of others.
I will also say that it’s been a very sobering glimpse into old age–I’ve felt feeble, unable to stand up straight, unable to lift things, needing to lean on others. Unless I die an accidental death, I’m likely to come to an age where I’m not nearly as strong as I am now. My little launch from the back of a jet ski has made me feel determined to do what I can to postpone that day. Once my ribs are healed, I’m going to work on strength training and flexibility. Having given me a vivid glimpse into one potential future, this may turn out to have been a very fortunate accident.
[Images: Kristyn Allred, El Guapo, Robbyn Scribner]