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Stunned, I looked up into the branches of the snow-covered trees. Wet snow crystals dropped on my face when the wind shook the branches. Andy was screaming my name, but his voice disappeared into the cold ground. I could taste blood and feel it, fast and wet, filling my mouth. I heard Mom’s shouts and hurried steps down the path. I wanted to move, but I could not. Sun moved over the snowy branches, and then the whole sky exploded into a glowing, sparkling white.

Fading into consciousness I could see fuzzy shapes, hear the beeping of the device delivering the mind/pain numbing drugs and keeping track of my vitals, and my mouth was too dry to taste anything. ¬†Looking hazily around, I could make out the bodies of family members crowded into the small recovery room. This was the basic hospital scene that I would become familiar with over the next seven days: white, hard floors, cold atmosphere, and the sounds of nurses chatting in the hall. I was worried when I looked around at the faces staring at me. These people – my family – were never this quiet. With a scratchy voice from being sedated I called out, “Why is everyone so quiet?” They all shifted uncomfortably and didn’t attempt to make conversation with me. I would later be told that nobody could understand what I was trying to say and they assumed I was moaning in pain. As another buzz/beep sounded off, my eyes became heavier. The drugs were working, and the pain of my newly made spine was nowhere to be felt. As I drifted back into unconsciousness, my last sight was of my step-grandfather, with his long, blond beard and pot-belly stretching a redskins football shirt, looking at me with worry and relief all mixed in his face. ¬†My eyes closed before I went back under, but I could still hear the nurses chatting, the beeping of the devices, and now the taste of saline flooded my senses leaving a clean, strong taste in my mouth for days to come.

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