Sandy’s right ankle gave out beneath her as she tripped over a root laying across the hiking trail. She threw her arms in front of her to brace her fall but it was no use, she crashed down to the ground knees first. She felt the earth tear her flesh as her knees hit the dirt but more dramatically she heard something snap. Deep within her right leg. A bone snapped like a dry twig. Crisp. Quick. Undeniably broken.
“Oh my god! Oh my god! My leg!” Sandy cried as she slumped over on her side and rocked back and forth. She was in exceptional pain. Her ankle swelling fast inside her hiking boot as tears tumbled from her eyes. “Owwww!!!” she groaned.
Unfortunately for her, at this particular moment, Sandy was hiking alone. Which is not an uncommon pastime for her. Sandy loves the outdoors. But usually she has a companion with her. At the very least a four legged friend. But today she is alone. And she had been enjoying the solitude. Relishing, before the fall, the beauty of an Osprey in flight. Her eyes on the Cutthroat trout in the Osprey’s talons instead of on the terrain below her feet. She didn’t see a thick root laying across the path, Sticking up and out. Generating an obvious and easily avoidable tripping hazard. Now she is in great pain. And all alone. The Osprey back at his nest.
Sandy sat up and gently pulled her hiking boot and sock off her foot to accommodate the swelling. Her leg was throbbing and her foot was hanging at an odd angle. Sandy almost barfed as she cradled her foot in her hands, an attempt at holding it together. It was likely her ankle or maybe just above it that had snapped. Sandy cried harder. The pain was unbearable and she was quite far away from any sort of help. Sandy didn’t want to panic but she was starting to anyway.
She thought: Oh my god, what am I supposed to do now?
In a frantic voice she screamed out HELP! at least a half-dozen times.
Sandy kept her ankle cradled in her hands, not daring to breathe too hard lest she shift it again. She looked for other hikers up and down what she could see of the trail. She saw no one and worse yet she heard nothing.
Again she cried out HELP! with a voice as loud as she could muster (which was loud enough to be heard by anyone within a quarter mile or so). She waited for a response and winced when her leg involuntarily twitched.
HELP! she shouted again. No one came. Sandy cried some more.
I’m going to die on this trail. Sandy thought with a touch of sarcasm but some sincere underlying fear. The situation might not be that grave, but help was most definitely eluding her.
She glanced up at the sky, not a cloud in sight, and willed help to appear. Just in case an entity floating around up there was unaware of her plight…she shouted to the sky HELP! and begged for salvation.
She focused harder and prayed harder. She knows he exists. Maybe he’s just busy. There’s a lot going on out here in the great wide open, she’ll wait her turn. But Oh God her ankle hurts! Maybe if she has patience, god will answer her prayers in due time, or better yet, a helicopter will manifest out of thin air and drop down a ladder she can climb on and up up those rungs she would go in to the arms of a handsome park ranger before being whirled away to the nearest urgent care center where Dr. Doug Ross is waiting to make her alllll better.
Both scenarios have the same likelihood of occurring. Cynical Sandy thought.
After what felt like ten hours but was more likely just one, no-one had yet come to Sandy’s aid. So she laid down on her back, her lower leg laying cockeyed at the gnarliest of angles and ran every worse case scenario she could dream up through her mind. One particularly happy thought involved vultures picking away at her flesh before she was even dead. The air felt hot. The wind too still. Sandy was thirsty and she was most definitely panicking.
I am going to die on this trail. Sandy thought again. Not one note of sarcasm in her thought this time. As if the pain in her leg weren’t enough, she felt like she was rapidly dehydrating too. She has a water bottle hanging from a carabiner on her belt loop but there’s not much water in it. About two to three miles up the trail Sandy was planning to refill at a natural spring, so she hadn’t been conserving the water she brought with her on the hike. She maybe has half a bottle left. Maybe less. And she is insanely thirsty already. The trail is partially shaded but the sun is baking Sandy like a loaf of bread.
She unclipped the water bottle and took a tiny sip. Just a nip. It did nothing for her thirst so she took a bigger swig. She thought about crawling down the mountain. It really is her only option. No one is coming for her. And this trail, while not entirely off the beaten path, isn’t exactly on the beaten path either.
Sandy cried again, more for her circumstance than for the pain this time. Wont somebody rescue her? Is there anybody out here? Where are all the people she usually encounters on her hikes? Sandy sat there a while and did nothing. But eventually she decided that before she abandons all hope, she must at least try to rescue herself. She took the sock she had stuffed inside the hiking boot she removed earlier, tore it in half long ways and did her best to wrap it around her ankle like a makeshift brace. It wasn’t perfect and it hurt like hell but it was the best she could do so she was proud of herself for her effort. It turns out she’s not completely helpless. She could give crawling a try. It’s worth at least a try.
After all this time, Sandy hadn’t noticed the skin on both of her knees were shredded during the fall. When she put her body weight on her knees, pain shot through her again. She screamed. With both knees chopped up, crawling was an absolute nightmare. It hurt too much. She only managed to drag herself down the trail a few feet before she had to stop the torture.
Why me? Sandy broke down again and had an epic sized pity-party for one. Totally understandable given the circumstances, but completely inappropriate given the approaching sunset. She had to buck up and drag herself down the trail or prepare to spend the night out here.
But she had a hundred reasons for why she couldn’t do it. She tried to scoot forward but that wiggled her broken leg too much. She tried to shimmy backwards and that wasn’t much better. Crawling, with her foot wrapped but elevated behind her was the only way she could get anywhere without screaming in pain the whole time. But her knees were all cut up so it hurt too much. The dirt in them was already bad enough, by the time she’d get to the bottom of the trail, she’d need amputation.
So Sandy sat there, on the ground, in exceptional pain and did nothing to save herself for long stretches of time. Shadows crept along the trail making the temperature dip. Sandy zipped up the light weight jacket she was wearing and let her hair down from a pony tail.
The trail remained empty for hours. As afternoon gave way to early evening, Sandy had made it about 1000 feet down the mountain and had drank the last of her water. Her leg was purple and numb and she was completely exhausted. All hope was gone and there wasn’t the slightest bit of amusement to be had about her situation. She was feeling dire and scared when she heard a man’s voice in the distance. His voice was somewhat soft. Unassuming. Sandy couldn’t tell who he was talking to, it almost sounded as if he were narrating rather than carrying on a conversation. Is he crazy? Some mountain dwelling freak? She thought about Jason Voorhees, The New Jersey Devil, Sasquatch and the Uruguayan rugby team and weighed the odds that the man hiking down the trail is a good guy versus a bad guy. What are the chances that summoning this man to her aid could be worse than dying a slow death up here? She decided her day couldn’t possibly get worse so she called out HELP! as loud as she could. Which wasn’t very loud now that her throat was completely dry.
The voice stopped its one-way chat and shouted back “Are you hurt?”
And Sandy screamed “Yes! Please help! My leg! It’s broken! Over here!”
And the voice said “I’m going to have to call you back – I think someone might be hurt…” and Sandy felt foolish. The guy is on his cellphone. Thank you Jesus! Sandy cried when the footsteps got closer and she could see the man coming through the thicket. He was dressed like a climber. Backpack and ropes and all that crap. High quality gear. A weekender. No one to be worried about.
“I broke my leg!” She shouted as the man scooted between the trees to her side.
“Oh wow. It sure looks like it.” he said as he crouched down beside her and assessed her ankle in its makeshift brace. “How long have you been up here?” He asked.
“I’ve been trying to get down on my own…for hours and hours.”
The man held out his water bottle for Sandy to drink. “I’m going to call for help. But I don’t seem to have service right here. I’m going to walk back up the trail. Ok? Drink some water.”
Sandy felt a worried look take over her face. She didn’t want her savior out of her sight for a minute. Even though she knew that was silly.
“I’ll be right back. I promise.” the man reassured her.
Sandy sat back. Her spine resting up against a large boulder on the trail. She couldn’t imagine what form help would come in. If it were snowing, a toboggan would make sense. But it’s mid-July. The trails are way too narrow for an ATV of any sort. Maybe horseback? She winced at the thought of bouncing up and down on horseback. Maybe she’d be airlifted after all.
A few minutes later the man came back, just as he promised, and he told Sandy help is on its way. She thought he was the most handsome man she had ever seen in her entire lifetime.
“By helicopter?” she asked hopeful.
“That’s only for life and death situations I’m afraid.”
“But I am dying. You have no idea how bad my leg hurts!”
“They’ll be here soon. You’ll be ok.”
Sandy started to cry again. Amazed that there were any tears left to cry at all.
“What’s your name?” he asked her as a distraction. And it was, to a degree, Sandy stared at him for a moment. She wished he would take off his huge sun hat or at least the sunglasses. She could tell he’s somewhat young. Mid-thirties maybe. Outdoorsy. Well built.
“Sandy” she practically whispered “Whats yours?”
“Jared.” he continued, happy to keep her mind occupied with some small talk “I like Sandy. Sandy’s a cute name. It fits you.” He motioned to her dirty legs and sandy blond hair. A little tease to bring some levity to her situation.
She giggled a little.
“You don’t hear your name very often.” she said back.
“I have never met another Jared.” he confessed.
“Me either.” she said then added “There’s that guy … the one who won the oscar last year for playing a woman in that movie with Matthew McConaughey. His name is Jared … somebody… I forget his last name.” Sandy searched her brain for his last name. It escaped her.
“Ah, that guy. Jared Leto. I think his last name is Leto.” Jared smirked.
“That sounds right.” she said.
“I think he’s in a band too.”
“He is?” she asked. “Are they any good?”
Jared smiled. “That’s a matter of opinion I suppose.” he stood up and brushed the dirt off his rear end. When he did this, a tattoo on his wrist peeked out from beneath his long-sleeved shirt (worn to protect him from the sun, not for warmth). It was red and looked like a symbol of some sort. Sandy liked it. She has a few tattoos of her own. All covered but significant.
“Let’s get you out of here.” Jared suggested.
“What? How?” Sandy asked. She thought they were waiting for the park rangers or the medic to come to them.
“You’re going to have to hop on my back.”
Sandy looked at Jared with a puzzled and horrified expression.
“They’ll be waiting for us down the bottom.” he clarified.
“You have to carry me?”
“I’m gonna give you a piggie-back ride down to the bottom of the trail.” he said lightly.
“But I’m too heavy!”
“You’ll be fine.”
“Oh my god I’m so sorry.”
“This is too weird and I’m ruining your whole day.”
“It’s ok. Come on. It’s just a piggie back ride. Not a big deal.”
“You don’t have to. I’ll figure it out.”
“You’d rather keep crawling down the mountain?”
“I’d make it down …” Sandy blushed. “eventually.”
“I already told the medics I’m carrying you out. They’re waiting for us. Here – put my backpack on your back and I’ll help you stand up. But you’re going to have to climb on my back. Do you think you can do that? Can you climb on my back?”
“Yes. I think so.” she said.
Jared helped Sandy stand up by using his shoulder as a crutch beneath her armpit. When she was upright and balanced well enough on just the one foot, he stood in front of her and crouched down so she could climb up on his back, like she were a child. She did as instructed and he readjusted her weight and they walked on.
At first Sandy sat straight up off his back, stiff. But the pain of her ankle swaying too and fro made her nauseous and light headed so she laid her head on his shoulder and willed herself not to pass out. With her legs and arms wrapped around Jared, she felt secure. Not entirely better, but hopeful and safe.
“We’re almost there” Jared said breathlessly more than once. “Hang in there. Almost there.” and then finally “I can see the ambulance.”
“You’re my hero Jared.” Sandy whispered.
“Nothing to it.” he panted.
At the bottom of the mountain, with the sun nearly set, Sandy was loaded on to a gurney and whisked away to urgent care. Inside the ambulance she thought about the man who helped rescue her. So helpful and kind and quite handsome too. She thought about what he might do for a living. Wondered if he had a family of his own. Kids who he’d give piggie-back rides to. Is he a local? Or from somewhere far off?
She was admitted through the Emergency Department. Scheduled for surgery to repair her broken ankle the next morning. She’d be needing pins and a plate to hold three breaks in place as they heal. But that wasn’t what was on her mind as she drifted off to sleep, high on pain medication, it was Jared she thought about. And she, sadly, came to the conclusion that he was way out of her league. Another time … another place … he might not give her the time of day but tonight he was her hero. And that made her smile through the pain and she was thankful to Jared for the distraction ….whoever he may be. Jared … somebody.