It started all so innocently. With the tow rope between her skis, Hannah sits ready to skim along 80 degree Kennebunk Pond in Lyman, Maine in late July.
An accomplished water skier as a teenager, she could ski on one ski, ski backward, jump ramps, and probably could have done loop de loops. On the other hand, though modestly athletic, Dan shakes, rattles, and wobbles when he last skied. No skiing for this boy today. Today he sits in the boat with Hannah as the center of attention.
The tow rope slips out of Hannah’s hands and she feels a whack against the side of her knee as if the tow bar hit it.
She’s game for another shot, but says, I’ll let go if it doesn’t feel right. Immediately, it doesn’t feel right. Unable to put any weight on her left leg, Hannah has us carry her from the boat to the cottage deck; there we all diagnose the injury as a torn ligament, despite our lack of any medical training.
Hannah is in good spirits and assures us all that this could have happened anytime and anywhere. She does the “Hannah thing” making us feel better despite her predicament and, no doubt, pain. We remember RICE for an accident: rest, ice, compression, and elevation and make her as comfortable as possible
Earlier that afternoon, 500 miles south in Arlington, Virginia, our daughter Molly, who is expecting her first child any day now, has called Hannah saying she is feeling “crampy and more uncomfortable.” Hannah knows the time is close and we are thrilled to soon be Omi and Papa. By midevening, Molly’s contractions are five minutes apart and she’s shuttled off to the Alexandria (Virginia) Hospital by dear friend Amelia and her son Justin.
At about the same time, Hannah has to be carried to the car and tenderly placed in the front seat. Calls to friends get her a pair of wooden crutches and ace bandages; thoughts of going to the York Hospital emergency room are not even considered, as the pain isn’t that bad and the Walk-In Clinic is open at 730A tomorrow. She wants to wait and not miss the likely birth of our first grandchild.
Throughout the night, we get updates from Molly’s husband Tip and it’s clear a grandchild is on the way. Molly and Tip are doing it old school; they don’t know the gender of their child. Waiting to hear the good news of a birth of a grandchild, Hannah doesn’t focus on the dull pain in her knee. Her sleep and mine is hit and miss.
At 430A, just before dawn’s early light, Tip calls that they have a son. Owen Daniel Rawding has come into the world at 7# 10 oz., 20 inches long at 356A.
It’s the Best of Times and the Worst of Times; both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. There’s the high of a son for a Molly and Tip, a first grandchild for Hannah and me; the low of a left knee that can’t bear any weight with an unknown diagnosis.
Unable to sleep further, we rise focused on being the first ones at the “walk-in” clinic. There, we are blind-sided with sobering news: x-rays reveal that her tibia is fractured and possibly the femur. The CT scan that is scheduled for later in the day will confirm exactly what is broken. We sit silently, stunned. We never considered a break at all. We never thought a benign afternoon of water skiing could end with hospital surgery. Placed in a foam brace, Hannah says she’d like a second opinion and we leave the clinic sobered, saddened, and with a green malaise of Dr. Seuss goo infusing every part of our bodies and souls.
You see, we were heading to Virginia to see Owen, Molly, and Tip as soon as they came home from the hospital. We now know that we are not going south any time soon. We learned while googling the night before that recovery from a torn ligament would have been 8-12 weeks, but this could be much worse. We are heart-broken and tears come easily throughout this Monday. Not seeing Owen, Molly, and Tip is crushing news, mixed with concerns for Hannah’s long term health and the effect the injury will have on her future physical activity.
Once home this Monday, she gets an email suggesting that perhaps now she’ll finally slow down. Emphatically she emails back, I have no plans to slow down. I have too much life left to live. That’s my girl. As her husband, I can’t protect her from life’s uncertainties. I trust her and encourage her to live fully. She’s been a master at encouraging and trusting me during our forty years of marriage. I trust her intuition and inner sense of knowing.
We sleep poorly Monday night.