A Job Kept Me Home
Nineteen seventy-five was my first year away from home, after transferring to Washington State University from the University of Washington's Seattle campus, where I'd been going to school close to home.
I was looking forward to a new environment in Pullman, meeting new friends, and bringing my horse with me. Seraphim was a dark chestnut, Anglo-Arabian gelding my Dad purchased for me when I was eleven years old. I was looking forward to drawing and painting classes, and taking dressage lessons with my horse over the coming summer.
Seraphim was the last remnant of my childhood and family life.* I felt my heart was breaking, and although it was time to, "go away to school and grow up", I wanted to bring my anchor from happier times. Riding him during the week would be easier by bringing him to Pullman, WA with me.
Only a year earlier, both of my parents, my younger sister Martha, and little brother David drowned in a boating accident. One younger sister, eleven-year-old Randi, survived but had been sent back East to live with relatives. My older sister, Una Stewart, was working in Seattle, preparing to earn her Masters in voice.
Seraphim was boarded in a modest barn with turn-out paddocks right outside of town. The Pullman hills were lovely to ride. But in late spring, my horse came up with an intermittent limp. While riding him in a lesson late in May, my dressage instructor, Mrs. Betty Tukey, discovered my left leg didn't seem to take directions very well. I couldn't manage to place my left leg on the girth where it belonged. This may have been contributing to his way of going, too. She was concerned, and as I was kind of sore down my leg, we both felt I'd probably pulled something.
As summer approached classes were finally let out. I found a house to share with some girlfriends in Pullman for the summer. "Perhaps with a summer of riding the hills in the sunshine, I'll feel like myself again," I thought. One more visit to "Hall Health" to see what was happening with my leg. The pain was getting worse, and Mrs. Tukey said no more lessons until we knew what was causing my persistent leg pain, and Seraphim's occasional limp. I went to see my doctor again, while a veterinarian was scheduled to see Seraphim for an x-ray.
My regular doctor sent me to an orthopedic specialist the following week. The new doctor ran a pin along the outside of my left foot. Nothing. Picking up my leg, however, caused me to feel an awful fire down my leg, coming from my lower back. My stomach felt ill. His expression was serious, and he called the hospital to arrange more definitive tests right away. He told me to call my family. My heart sank.
I called my sister and my home teachers from church. I was admitted to the Pullman Regional Hospital. My sister Una, called me back from Seattle, frantic - instructing me not to let them do anything till she got there. My response to her, already in the middle of a myelogram, was a dreamy sort of, "OK", through a fog, as a team of Doctors was counting my vertebrae at that very moment... "could we talk later?"...seems I had an extra vertebra...
The test results were clear. My doctor explained I had a badly ruptured disc; my riding days were over. He talked to Una, and they called Seattle Children's Hospital, and the doctors agreed, I should come to Seattle for the surgery. Una had found a friend willing to help her come pick me up, who had a small canopied pickup truck, complete with a mattress placed in the back, so I could lay down for the long drive back to Seattle.