Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"Supposed to" or not, Kate and Shawn got their Big View

When you read the new biography "I Am Not Supposed to Be Here" by Kate and Shawn Rickel, you don't believe your eyes. You read about the terribly traumatizing motorcycle accident, and the miraculous survival story, and you even see the pictures of the people who went though it all in living color. And you still don't believe.

Maybe in order to believe, you just have to see her for yourself. Because Kate lost a major section of her brain tissue (the section that governs speech and language) in that motorcycle accident. Once you've read about the collapsing brain stem, the coma, the endless trips to Spalding Center in Colorado and the Mayo Clinic, the macabre deterioration of a normal, happy woman...no one would expect a human being to endure all of that and survive.

So I found myself at Big View Ranch, just west of Denver in the foothills, to see the ultimate miracle: the woman who refused certain death, surrounded by her realized dreams. Big View Ranch is home to an equine therapy program for the disabled and recovering, founded by the co-authors of "I Am Not Supposed to Be Here." Shawn and Kate Rickel, now married, had only been dating for three months before the accident. But already they knew that they shared a passion for horses and the therapeutic, healing tendencies of animals. That passion bonded them as they battled to heal Kate's life-threatening injuries and gave them a light at the end of a tunnel filled with dead-end doctors' appointments and perplexed surgeons.

Immediately upon opening their book, my heart had invested in this story, and in the few hours during which the book was wholly devoured, I sat at the edge of the story like a family member in a hospital waiting room, chewing on my fingernails and praying for the best. Of course, the beaming sunlit lady on the book cover gives away the ending, but that doesn't diminish one's amazement at the adversity overcome by unconditional love and faith.

"I Am Not Supposed to Be Here" allows the reader to step outside of one's daily dramas, which seem so important, and be humbled by the preciousness of life. My copy of this book will stay on the shelf close by, waiting for a time when I think I have a big problem, to remind me that I, too, can endure, survive and emerge resurrected from whatever ashes befall me.

And in watching Kate walk away, back to her re-opened equine therapy clinic, in full swing with helmet-clad children on horseback, I'll tell you what I believe: Colorado is a pretty perfect place to start all over.