Mending Wounded Hearts

Chapter Thirteen ***Horses and heroics I

Sunday, I left the three younger boys to amuse themselves and took Brandon for a ride. 

I introduced my horses to Brandon. Coco and Dragon were quite friendly to Brandon and he seemed to have the same winning way with horses as he did with kids. 

Once they were saddled I hung my bags and a canteen on Dragon. He was a spirited gelding and smart as hell. If he didn’t want to go down a particular trail I would trust his judgment.

We walked the horses through the tunnel and mounted up on the other side by our gate.

I let Brandon lead off so I could watch his form in the saddle. He was very relaxed and guided Coco with authority and confidence. Coco responds well to a steady hand and I could see she would become a favorite for Brandon to ride.

I selected the medium trail to gauge his skills and pointed out the turning. We were having a pleasant ride until about a half mile up the trail a panicked horse ran past us riderless. "Man, I hope that means someone didn’t tie him up properly," I growled. 

As we rode further, we reached a large fallen tree and found hoof prints headed back the way we came with blood leading away in the same direction. I walked to the downhill side of the trail and at the very end a youngster was pinned under the limb.

"Brandon, get your rope off your rig and tie it to that big Ash," I instructed.

Brandon tied off and asked what to do next.

"Let’s get the rope from my horse and tie off to another tree. I’ll need you to stand by with the horses while I go down and assess the victim."

"Okay, I’ll rig the rope."

I went through my saddlebags and stuffed the hammer and nail cutting pliers into the one with the first aid kit.

I cut a length of rope from mine and fashioned a rappelling harness. 

Once I was ready, I ran the line through my loops and prepared to descend.

"Please be careful Rob, that slope looks dangerous."

"I will Brandon, you stand by and I’ll yell up instructions. I may need you to ride up to the road and call 911 if he’s hurt bad. They’ve probably seen the injured horse at the stables so they may have already called.

I went to the edge and stepped off. The incline was about forty-five degrees and muddy. Slick and steep, just what we needed. 

The victim was about seventy feet down from the trail. He was alert which was good. He turned out to be a bit younger than Brandon but not by much. 

"Are you hurt badly?" I asked.

"I don’t know. I think my ankle is broken but I’m coughing up blood. None of that is going to matter in fifteen minutes."

"Why’s that, Son?" I asked.

"You see how the edge of the ravine is about thirty feet away?"

"Yes, why?"

"Cos’ when I landed here it was sixty feet away."

"Okay, I understand. How badly are you pinned by the tree limb?"

"I’m not, I'm holding on so I don’t slide the rest of the way down. I don’t want to die, Mister, please help me," he pleaded.

"If you go I go, Buddy; let me see what we have to work with."

I saw a big slab of bark about fifteen feet away, so I yelled for Brandon to toss down the other rope. I used the hammer to punch two holes in the bark and ran the line through them. I kept the excess to make a harness for the boy. I slid the bark down even with the boy’s position. I would need to move him laterally about eight feet.

There was a sickening noise and another fifteen feet of cliff fell away into the ravine.

"I don’t think we have time to immobilize your ankle, Buddy. I need to slide this harness up your legs so I can get you to the sled. Once you’re in it the horses can pull you out, okay?"

"I hope it works; whatever happens, thanks for trying," he rasped.

I slid the harness under his damaged ankle and then moved the other foot and slid it up until it was supporting his hips. I didn’t want it around his chest in case he had a punctured lung.

I heard an engine just before I started to move him. Then I heard Dennis’ voice asking what I needed. 

"Can you rig the rope for the sled to the Gator and get ready to pull us out?"

"Will do, is Espen hurt bad?"

"I’m not sure; but the cliff is collapsing and we need to get him out really quick."

"Okay, I sent Brandon to the road to guide the rescue team in."

"Good, I was going to suggest that!" I yelled up.

Ten minutes later, I had the boy in the sled and tied off to the rope.

I tied my red bandana above the knot that made the "Y" in the draw rope. I yelled up that we were ready and I was relieved to hear Cammie say, "Okay we’re ready here too. I’m going to drive the Gator and Dennis will spot me."

Then I heard Dennis yell that they were ready.

"Watch the red bandana, when it reaches the edge stop pulling." I yelled.

"Got it," yelled Dennis.

"Let’s go!"

Cammie let gravity start the show and then added power and the six-wheel drive Gator gently pulled us toward the trail. The bark sled worked better than I hoped and the muddy ground made the pulling easy. It wasn’t long before we were at the edge and Dennis gave Cammie the cut off sign.

We gently slid the boy over the edge and I scrambled up beside him.

I saw Brandon riding down to meet us. He pulled up and slid out of the saddle like he was born to it.

"Hi Dennis, is the horse okay?" the boy asked.

"She’s fine, Espen, a little scratched up but she’ll heal just fine. How about you? Where are you hurt?"

"My ankle is hurting bad but the scary thing is I’m coughing blood. I have a real bad pain under my left arm."

"Hi Espen, I’m Rob, we really didn’t have time for introductions before. Can I get a look under your arm?"

"Sure, just be careful." Espen pleaded.

Before I could answer, there was a roar and the tree and the terrain that we had been on a few minutes earlier went crashing over the edge.

Espen’s eyes were wide with terror. "What was that?" he asked.

"That was your last position sliding over the edge, tree and all."

I gently lifted Espen’s left arm and saw a piece of tree branch sticking out of his left chest below his armpit, even with his nipple.

"The ambulance is up there but they don’t have a paramedic." Brandon advised. "There was a really bad accident on the 33 near Wheeler Springs and most of the rigs are up that way according to the EMT."

"That's good to know Brandon, thanks. I'll call in when we get up on the road and cancel any further response on this incident." I told him.

"Okay, let’s get that tarp and transfer him to that straw in the bed of the Gator," I directed. As gently as possible, we slid Espen onto the tarp and then Dennis and I lifted at the top and Cammie and Brandon lifted his legs. We had splinted his lower leg and ankle to make the transfer less painful. Once he was safely in the bed of the tractor, Brandon sat with him as Cammie drove and Dennis and I left the ropes and rode up behind the Gator.

As soon as I had a signal, I called Doc Briggs. "Jerry, I have an emergency. We have a youngster that has a tree branch speared into his left lung. He’s coughing blood and he also has a badly damaged ankle from the sound of it."

"How big is the branch?"

"Around three eighths of an inch."

"Where will I find you?"

"The ambulance is parked by my stock gate across from the tunnel."

"Okay, I’ll be there as quick as I can put some tools together. See you there."

Cammie drove slowly to keep the jostling to a minimum.

We reached the ambulance and they had the gurney and oxygen all set up.

"Rob?" Espen called.

"How can I help buddy?"

"Can you take my phone and call my Mom? She doesn’t know what happened yet. And I really need to pee." he requested.

"You make the call Rob, I’ll help him." Brandon suggested.

He snatched the Gatorade bottle out of the ambulance driver’s hand and dumped the contents. He poured half a water bottle into the jug, shook it and then dumped that. He told the EMT to help him roll Espen to his right side. Then he unzipped the boys fly, fished out his penis and told him to go. Espen filled the Gatorade bottle about three quarters full.

"Thanks man, that’s so much better. I think it actually hurts less to lie on my right side.

Cammie had led the horses back to the stables and told someone to tend to them. She returned about the time Doc Briggs arrived.

"Hi Jerry, thank you for coming, Espen is a great kid and he needs your help," Cammie fretted.

Jerry began asking questions of Espen and examined the puncture. He asked the EMT for tape and immobilized the twig in Espen’s side. Then he took out a pair of Pruning shears and nipped the twig closer to the wound.

"Okay Espen, I think you may have a punctured lung. I don’t think it’s severe or you would have more trouble breathing and the blood you’re bringing up would be frothy. So we need to get you to a hospital really quick. How are you with helicopters?"

"I’m fine sir; I fly all the time but this will only be my second helicopter ride."

"Okay, we can sedate you if you’re anxious about it. How is your pain level?"

"Pretty high but I don’t want to be put out right now. As long as I don’t move my ankle I don’t hurt much."

"Excuse me sir, do you need a urine sample from him?" Brandon asked holding up the Gatorade bottle.

"Well, not that much but they will want to know if his kidneys are damaged." He joked and asked the EMT for a flask.

"I rinsed it out with bottled water before he peed in it," Brandon offered.

"Good thinking, they will only be looking for blood so it needn’t be sterile."

I took Espen’s phone up to the road and tapped the number marked Mom.

"Hi Honey, are you ready to come home already?" a woman’s voice chirped pleasantly.

"Hello, are you Espen’s mother?" I asked.

"Who is this, is Espen okay?" she asked.

"I’m Deputy McKenna from the Sheriff’s department. Espen has been injured. We are about to transport him to a medical facility. We’re going to have an air ambulance helicopter meet us at the high school football field in Ojai. Do you have someone who can drive you there?

"Yes, how badly is he hurt?"

He has a possible punctured lung and an injured ankle. A doctor is with him now and will hand him off to the helicopter crew. We will know more once we get him to the field and the paramedics have him. He’s conscious and he asked me to call you."

I could hear her suppressing her tears and anguish.

"I will get my neighbor to drive me; I’m in Santa Paula so I shouldn’t be long. Thank you, Deputy." 

She disconnected and I went to check with the Doc. He had already arranged for the helicopter and would ride with the patient to the field.

I knelt next to Espen who was again on his back but elevated presumably to avoid aspirating any blood into his good lung. "I talked to your Mom; she’ll be at the football field where we’re meeting the air ambulance."

"Can Brandon come with me in the ambulance? I could use someone to just be there with me." 

"Let me check with the Doc." Jerry thought it would be fine. 

I asked Cammie if she could keep an eye on my boys and hers. She agreed so I asked Brandon if he would mind keeping Espen company in the ambulance on the way to the field.

"Sure, I don’t mind, he seems pretty nice."

Brandon walked over to Espen and took his hand.