I volunteered to write a short history for a patient at a community care center. I dressed in pink, trying to appear friendly, and drove further than expected. Mask on, and temperature checked, then enter. Immediately someone called out, “Toni is that you?”
The administrator took us to wait to move another patient from the private visiting room. As we waited, she had a seizure. With my medical background of 6 weeks as a Candy Striper in 1963, I was of no help. It seemed like hours but was about 3 minutes. I offered to run for help, but she kept shaking her head no, and we were so deep in meandering halls I had no idea where to run.
She settled and apologized, which I refused that I didn’t deserve an apology; this is where I learned she had cerebral palsy since childhood. I got the okay to continue, and we settled to begin. We started our conversation. Her earliest memories were of hospitals, but within minutes, she told me of a neighbor riding past her home on a horse. My new friend lit up, talking about love at first sight.
Before long, she had two trainers and TC, her first horse. Her memory would fade from time to time, but when she spoke of the horses, her eyes shone, and she became a girl again full of love and joy. All seriousness was gone as she told me of falling under TC and how she looked at her, stepping around as her mother ran towards them. Luckily I had some personal horse stories, and we laughed and shared., Her trail rides and all of the shoveling and brushing. Then she told me of Magic and Head High (she has no idea where that name came from). We laughed about mucking stalls and how great a trained horse can edge around the lawn. The life with horses showed her memories of the only time of being free.
The director came in to take her back to her room, and she said, “No, not now.” Next week, I promised to be back.
Contributing Author: Toni Kief