Falling off a Waterfall

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Many ask how I got to the point I’m at in my life. Sadly I don’t have much to show for it at this point, but what I have experienced in my first nine years of adulthood is quite a bit. I would call these years more of a rollercoaster if anything. Great times, beautiful times, even upset and depressing times, but these times are what have made up who I am today and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Directly after high school I experienced a few life changing events from a detrimental knee injury to joining the military and even getting married to being deployed overseas. All this happened in less then an two year period at which at a later point I will go into more detail.

Over the years of my service, I grew and became more wiser. I learned life at its greatest and lowest points. After my service I ended up getting divorced while in the midst of having two kids and completing a college degree while working two jobs. My hands were nonetheless full during my entire adult life. That is until the past year when school finished and I ended up on my own, kids two to three days a week and only one job. No solid residence of my own, but living once again with my parents, just how everything started. Just like that life starts all over again, but with two wonderful kids in my life, to guide me along the correct path this time and so far they have. What is to come is something I ponder on everyday and I know it will be nothing but greatness and success.

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On January 21, 2005, a day before my eighteenth birthday, I was informed that if I truly wanted to enlist in the Marine Corps, I had to come down to the recruiting office where I would be transported to the local MEPS, Military Entrance Processing Station. I was unsure if I wanted to join but at the same time I wanted the challenge. The challenge I faced was that I was told there was no way that I could accomplish what would be laid in front of me while in boot camp, let alone active service and that my running capability was never the greatest. Nonetheless, I was not going to allow these minor things stop me.

That morning I did go through with it and the tests that they had us do were nothing short of awkward. The obvious physical fitness check and the medical check ups, including something they called the ‘Duck Walk’. Obviously at the time I passed all these tests, because I’ve always been injury free and from that day forward, I would wait until my departure date to Marine Corps boot camp. This was located at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. The date I was given could’ve been any other date then my own mother’s birthday but it had to be August 15, 2005. This was just a month after graduation from high school was scheduled.

Once I finally came home that day, I was welcome to a warm surprise to a few friends that were at my house to celebrate my future changing decision. Unfortunately, no one knew what was
to come that would not allow me to go on to boot camp on that day, not even I. What happened would force me to have to wait longer because of an incident that would change my life forever.

What is there to say about this day that could be described as a bi-polar day? What I mean by that is that when I woke up, I knew what the plans were for that day but when I would go to bed, the image of the plans I had in mind did not reflect what I thought it would be. That morning my recruiter was scheduled to show up at my house to pick me up so that we can join all the other pre-recruits, also called Poolees, in an event that would allow us to bond with the recruiters. This event was water rafting but not the normal kind you hear about the tourists going on. This was going to be combat water rafting! The rules were simple, you get in a raft with your recruiter and all of his poolees and the object here was to attack other rafts and take their oars from them. The rapids were mild at most points but when they did pick up, the activity was suspended until the waters would calm down. This event took place out near Madras, Oregon, that some NW natives will be familiar with known as Deschutes River.

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Everything started off very well and quite entertaining. We were one of the first rafts to get attacked by another and lose a few oars but it was just a matter of time before we would regain some oars. This went back and forth for quite some time and mind you that there is roughly 30 rafts out here with all these highly fit, soon to be Marines. Taking an oar from someone was difficult and you had to use a technique to get it from them. About a half hour in on the activity, the rapids started to pick up and there were people on the river sides announcing a timeout during these moments. Unfortunately for us, I was the only one on the raft because everyone else got thrown off from wrestling with others. Better yet, I had the only oar and it was broken in half. This happened right before the rapids picked up and someone leaned over to our raft, or my raft at the time, tried to grab the oar out of my hands but I would not let go. I had my legs wrapped around the metal bars on the raft to hold my position and after enough strain on the oar, it snapped in half. As I recovered I notice that we were in a high rapid zone so I just sat up and enjoyed the ride but being the only one on the raft, I forgot how imbalance it made it.

I thought I could see the end of the rough rapids at the bend of the river ahead but I did not see what was around that corner that would cause a life altering injury. Up to this point in the trip, everything was very exciting! I was there with a great friend from High School who ended up enlisting into Coast Guard and we were enjoying ourselves greatly. He at the time was not on the raft when I hit the rapids, in fact I had no idea where anyone was that had originally been on board with me.

As I came around the bend in the river, I saw a good 15-20 foot waterfall; part of the course was to go off that but to go off it the correct way. There I am, sitting in the raft, all by myself, half an oar, facing this waterfall sideways and nothing I could do about it. As I went off the waterfall, I was catapulted off to the side and landed directly onto a few rocks, right on my left knee. At the time I did not notice anything, probably from the adrenaline going through my veins but that was the last thing on my mind. After I hit the rocks, I rolled off back into the water. Somehow, my right leg would end up getting caught under a rope that went around the raft. Now imagine those old western movies when they would drag someone behind their horse by the rope, and how painful it looks, yah that was happening in this situation but over submerged water carved rocks (sharp). Suddenly my leg was let loose and I pulled myself to the side of the raft and then up on it.

Once I got up on the raft, I noticed that a miracle had happened, but a few minutes to late. The raft was filled again with my fellow pre-recruits, and they had no clue where I had been, just that I came up from under the water. Right when I got up, everyone instantly noticed my knee. I had sustained a pretty painful injury of two puncture wounds right above my left knee, in the lower quadriceps, and a laceration on my lower knee that stretched a few inches in length. Needless to say that there was blood, quite a lot of it. Thankfully someone on a raft had a wrap they were using for their knee. She took it off and gave it to the recruiter who would then wrap my knee up instantly to help the bleeding stop.

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After the bleeding had slowed down, we then noticed that we were in a mini canyon and the only way out was to ride to the end and just go out of commission to the game that we were playing. This was about a two mile raft ride but thankfully it was quite calm waters the rest of the way. As we got to the end, I had two guys help me out of the raft and onto the bus that everyone was getting on. We then proceeded back to where we got into the water when we began the day. What I did not know was that the pain of the knee that I had already experienced had not even started yet. What was to come was so painful and would make this incident even worse; when I thought there was no way.

After we returned to the starting point where we took off into the water, I was helped out of the bus on laid down on a flat bed trailer when I noticed another person bring a medical kit to my recruiter who then opened it. He grabbed this bottle with a dropper at which I had no idea what it was. He looked and me and told me that this will hurt and that it was Iodine. If you have never experienced this pain of this stuff being put into an open wound, you have no idea what pain is. it is basically liquid salt so that it will clean out and dirt or future infections. I literally had to bite down on some clothing just to help reduce the pain… some. After this was done, the recruiter wrapped it back up with a clean bandage and then we loaded up back in the vehicle that we arrived in. Since the bleeding had stopped and everything was under control, besides me being light headed, we started to head back to Portland to a hospital near the recruiting station. That ride was the most uncomfortable ride in ages, mostly because I could not bend my knee at all. Anyone that have been in any type of car know that putting your leg straight is near to impossible, so my leg was jammed in there pretty well. Once we finally got to the hospital, some 2 hours later, I was to the point i could not even walk. Thankfully there was someone that could carry my big ass until we found a working wheelchair. We rolled into the hospital to find out that I would have to wait because there was an elderly lady who just came in as a stab victim and that everyone was tending to her needs at the moment. I sat their and waited and during that time, my father showed up to see how I was doing and to relieve the recruiter from having to sit there all night.

From this point on it became a little foggy and not because I forgot, but because when I finally got to see a doctor. He then had me lay down on a bed and gave me three doses of morphine, because the first two were not enough. After that point, all I remember is the doctors stitching up my battle wounds, running x-rays, and telling me that nothing was broken or torn but ligaments were being held on my hair size threads and that I needed to take it easy for the next few months. After that, I just remember waking up the next morning in my bed in mass amount of pain.

Needless to say that I was not going to be going to boot camp in 11 days like I was scheduled. Instead, my departure date was postponed until further notice. A few days later I was then taken to an orthopedic surgeon to get looked at and he basically told me stay off it and put me in a full leg cast. Now come on, I am 18 years old, am I really going to listen to this or am I going to want to get up and do things still? That is right, that same day I went to a rock concert at night with a cane. Probably one of the best concerts I have ever been to as well and possibly one of the worse decisions ever. Thankfully I did no extra damage to the knee but just made it hurt a little more. What was a little more pain anyway when it was already at its peak?

The only thing that irritated me about going to see this orthopedic surgeon is that he recommended no physical therapy for me or anything. I am not sure why but once that full leg cast came off, I had to learn how to walk all over again. what I mean by that is when I got the leg cast off, I could not remember how to bend my knee, even though I still had one good one. It was such a weird feeling to forget such a thing. Basically I had to use my arms to bend it and get used to that feeling once again and when I finally was able to, I still could not support my own weight on it. After weeks and weeks of rehab, I started wearing ankle weights and going for walks and slow jogs. I started to get the feeling back but what was worse is that my recruiter got me cleared to go to boot camp, from my doctor who never saw me. only three months later after the incident, I was slotted to go to boot camp, November 7th 2005. Needless to say I was not ready physically for this and I was not in any kind of shape to even think that this would be possible. I knew that the first few days there, I would be required to run 1.5 miles in fifteen minutes or less, which was not fast, prior to my injury, but post injury was a different story. My boot camp experience was a different one but never something I would change. It made me who I am today and I am honored to be a United States Marine and what I was put through.

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11 thoughts on “Falling off a Waterfall”

  1. What a harrowing experience! I nearly drowned on a rafting trip a few years ago getting tangled up in one of those cords and getting bashed up against some rocks, but suffered no major injury, thank goodness. Your pre-boot camp experience sounds really interesting, though. I went to OCS after college – only for two weeks, shoulder injury – but most of my time beforehand was spent one on one with recruiters doing PT, not group stuff. Can’t wait to hear the rest of the story!

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