Sunday, March 25–
I leaned forward out of the saddle, gripping the horse’s flanks with my calves, his powerful legs thundering beneath me. His hooves danced over the surface of the sand as we flew in the shadow of the Great Pyramid.
An equestrian since the age of 10, there are few places in the world where I am happier than on the back of a galloping horse. A grin stretched across my face as my hair blew in the wind. Cliché, I know, but if any of you have tried it, you’ll know it was every bit as romantic as it sounds.
I urged the horse on with my legs as we raced up the dune. Ahead, I could see a paved, asphalt road cutting through the sand. Maybe I should slow down, I thought. I knew the pavement could be slippery under the horse’s shoes. But I was flying and I didn’t want to stop just to cross 15 feet of asphalt. We could cut across that in one stride, my horse and I. Free, free, I’m flying free.
Then, slam. Blackness.
The world around me went quiet and my eyes opened slowly. I felt disoriented. What happened? My horse was getting up and I was on the ground. I tried to raise myself to my knees but as I did so, I looked down to the pavement to see big drops of blood, my blood, falling like rain. I fought panic and pivoted myself to look for my friend, Raustin who had been riding beside me.
“I’m bleeding!” I called to him, thinking of nothing else to say.
I’m bleeding. A lot. I didn’t know what to do. My mind went numb, so I laid back slowly on the pavement, trying to remember to breathe. (I think looking back on it that I went into a mild state of shock at this point that lasted the rest of the ordeal). Raustin (who is trained wilderness guide) appeared above me and took charge of the situation, asking me questions, wrapping my head in my brand new scarf, calling for water. I laid there, hearing myself answer his questions, swallowing water as he commanded, aware of sharp pain all over my body, and yet, removed from the situation somehow, as though I were only half-present.
My friend Charlotte and our guide Said also appeared over me. I heard a car approach. They helped me to my feet and my vision blurred.
“I think I’m going to pass out,” I heard myself say.
“Don’t,” Raustin said. “You can’t pass out.”
He helped me into the car, and I leaned on his shoulder, wanting very much to just lose consciousness as he applied pressure to my wound. Charlotte (who is a trained lifeguard) began to talk about stabilizing my neck and put me in something resembling a full nelson (a wrestling move my dad taught me), wrapping her arms around my neck and shoulders. We drove down to the exit of the pyramids where I was transferred to a horse carriage that took off at a brisk trot down the street. A few minutes later, I was transferred to a taxi (yes, this is mode of emergency transportation number three) that drove me the rest of the way down the road to a tiny, hole in the wall clinic.
The nurse didn’t seem too phased by the gaping hole in my head, so I guess this must be a fairly regular occurrence in these parts. Without a word, she laid me down on a medical bed and poured some iodine on my wound. Then, the doctor came along and, also without a word, jabbed me a few times with some local anesthetic. I continued to sit there in a daze as Charlotte and Raustin engaged me in conversation and the doctor pulled stitch after stitch through the gash—somewhere around 15 in all.
No more than 20 minutes later, I was all stitched up, my various scrapes had been properly doused in iodine, and I was ushered to the reception where I was asked to pay 350 Egyptian Pounds (around 50 dollars or so). At this point, Said, who had been quietly overseeing this whole process, stepped in to object.
“I’ve brought people in here before and they never pay more than 150!” he said in my defense.
I chuckled to myself. Out of context, it would have sounded like he was a tour guide bargaining for rug for me in the souk. Lesson learned: there is nothing you can’t bargain for in Egypt—not even emergency health care. Dear Said managed to bring the final price down to 250, which was still, I’m told, a rip-off, but I wasn’t too concerned at the time.
He then brought us all back to the room where he lives at the stables, cleared off a spot for me on his bed and brought us a feast of chicken and tea—an incredible act of generosity for someone of whose livelihood has been all but eradicated with the terrible drop in tourism lately.
Incredible generosity: that is what I experienced in Egypt on Sunday. Incredible generosity, tender compassion and unbelievable grace… Friends and strangers alike stood by me and cared for me with pretty unconditional love.
And I cannot overlook the grace of my God who protected me and cared for me pretty supernaturally. A large horse fell on my leg which could have broken it, but it’s only just a bit bruised. My head bounced off the asphalt, but I have no brain damage, or even a concussion. My neck and back and undamaged. My stitches are healing nicely and I am completely without pain in my head, though I haven’t taken a single pain-killer. I have to give Him glory for taking such good care of me 🙂
So there you have it. My first injury and my first trip to the ER: a gallop through the pyramids, an emergency carriage ride through Giza, a few stitches, some pretty heroic friends and a very gracious God.
Post script: Right around this very same time, back in Chicago, a very dear friend of our family who is about my age was also hospitalized for some sort of heart failure. He, like me, was in full health, in the midst of exciting growth with great adventures ahead. However, unlike me, for reasons I don’t quite grasp, he was not given the grace I was given. My heart breaks for his family. May you rest in peace, Graham Stevens.