How Yoga Saved My Life
The doctors told me basically the same thing, but in a way that was meant to prepare me for life as an amputee. I had a "Grade III, Class B, barnyard open compound fracture" of the tibia and fibula. Only a Class C, a crushed limb, is technically worse, but the severity of my injury increased exponentially because it was done by a hoof: There was a high risk of infection, complicated by the fact that I lay in dirt and mud for more than an hour before the helicopter could reach me. A titanium rod was crammed down the center of my tibia to join the disconnected parts; it still runs through my knee and ends at my ankle, bolted in place.
The doctors sounded definite in their prognosis, and I had no cause to doubt themthey are well respected orthopedists. Even if the bone united, and the chances were not good, the soft tissue damage was extensive. Infection could take the leg, and maybe kill me in the process. A latent infection could occur even years down the line and, again, take the leg. Blood supply had been seriously compromised. I was told not to expect feeling in a large part of my leg; too many nerves and veins had been cut. I would never run again, that was for sure. In fact, there was a very good chance my limb would be a stiff, nonfunctional appendage even if no other complications arose.
The only bright news they brought was about the wonderful advances in prosthetics. I could run with a prosthesisdance too, maybe. New prosthetics weren't bad-looking; I could even ride with one, they said. All I could think was, "What do you know about it? You don't ride, and you've got two good legs."
It was under these prospects that I returned home to face long months of lying in bedwaiting, as I would tell friends, for my leg to fall off. I had the feeling that the reattached leg was not me but an attachment, something "other than" or "in addition to" me.
Four months after my accident, finances required that I start working again, which was only possible because I was able to do all of my freelance writing from bed. I received an assignment from a celebrity magazine to report on martial arts and yoga as fitness trends of the stars, all of which I did by interviews over the phone. And then I contacted a certain Sikh yogi named Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa.
"Why don't you come down here?" was the first thing out of her mouth.
"I just have a few quick questions," I told her.
"Oh, I hate to talk over the phone. It's so much better if I can show you," she replied.
I don't know why I didn't tell her that I had not been farther than the grocery store in six months, or that I walked with the aid of a leg brace and crutches, or that pain was constant despite the Vicodin I took every six hours, or that I felt exhausted even though I slept 14 hours a day. Maybe I was just too tired to argue. I got dressed; my clothes hung on me like laundry on a line. I drove the 40 minutes to her house, as directed.
Even before she opened the door, the scent of incense wafted through the open windows into the courtyard. A statue of Ganesha stood near the entrance; I grinned at what I thought was a kooky little elephant. I couldn't remember the last time I'd smiled other than to put on a happy face for visitors. Gurmukh opened the door and didn't bother with hello.