This piece of fiction was conceived from a school project. The project was to write a story based on a famous person who went through a struggle. Our options were limited, and I choose Bethany Hamilton. While not to brag, I enjoyed the story. I thought it had philosophical resonance, so I thought I would share it with you. I edited it as best as I could to decrease the word count, but I could not dispose of anymore without losing something. Enjoy!
My Hand is Tied
Dear pen pal,
I hope you’re well. The last letter you sent filled me with satisfaction during a time when I needed it, but I’m getting ahead of myself. I have so much to tell you. My hand shakes like a washing-machine as I write this. My whole life has changed forever.
As you know, I am quite the athlete, and have a special place in my heart for surfing. Well, my love of such activities is the reason I am a changed woman. I always knew swimming and surfing came with some dangers. You do not swim during a storm. Don’t go too far away from land. My parents trusted me to understand these safeguards, and I didn’t disappoint. But as John Lennon said: “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.”
It was a typically warm day. My father, elder sister and I went surfing shortly after breakfast. Naturally, I used up my energy quicker than the they, so I just relaxed. My surfboard was rocking back and forth, I on my back, and my limbs dangling in the H2O. What more could one think but “Je suis content”?
Suddenly, several stabbing pains came rushing through my left arm. A shark’s teeth were sinking into my fragile arm! Funny enough, I did not start screaming or thrashing violently. I have a high pain tolerance. Besides, I thought if I did that, the shark might become agitated. What I did do, though, was try to pull my arm out of the shark’s mouth. This causes even more pain, and soon the shark won its prize: most of my arm. I called out to my dad about the shark and my injury. Even if I wasn’t yelling in agony, I had my teeth clenched the whole time. My whole left side felt numb, and my heart was pounding. Almost none of my left arm was still there, so my dad and sister helped me get to shore. The blood loss was making me weak and disoriented.
My dad came up with a great idea. He used the surfboard leash as a tourniquet; you know, something to put pressure on a wound to stop the bleeding. Next, he started driving me to a hospital. When we got there, many people were swarming around me, checking my vitals, and bandaging the wound. After that, memories evade me. I came to the hospital and soon I was put under for surgery. Apparently, I was in “hypovolemic shock” by the time I had gotten to the hospital. When I woke up, part of my left side was still numb. I looked down at it, and all the memories came flooding back. I had a stump instead of my left side. It was one of those situations you wish was a dream but you know full well it isn’t. I simply breathed deeply. My family was there of course, which made me happy.
I was in the hospital for an entire week. The doctors did not want me to leave until they knew I would be okay. Nothing much happened, but I did get a little irritated being in bed most of the time. I am use to almost constant activity. Anyway, Eventually I did make it home.
I still spent most of my time relaxing, taking care of my injury and recuperating. It felt like a time when mindless escapism–i.e. fiction–was warranted. A few friend even came to visit it. There is nothing more pleasant than friends visiting you when you’re sick. I did tried my best to get out of bed when I could. It was not as if I had lost one or both of my legs.
Sadly, a lot of my emotional energy was gone. It took a while to get use to not having a left arm. Occasionally, I still felt my left arm was there; “Phantom Limb,” I was told, is the correct term. I learned how to do everything with my right arm. Thank the lord up above I’m right-handed. It would have been much harder if my dominant arm had been bitten off by the shark.
I managed to figure out a new normal. My teachers send me all the work I was missing, so I spend quite a bit of my time at my desk learning about how to graph functions and what a nomenclature is. My friends tried to come over when they could. We played board games, or simply just talked. But to be honest with you, I was feeling really depressed. The one thing I stopped doing was surfing. I was almost afraid of the water.
I did walk along the beach a lot, though. I walked along the beach usually alone, sometimes with a friend or a family member. I became very withdrawn, which is not like me at all. Typical adjectives you might use to describe me are boisterous, outgoing, and confident, but I stopped feeling like my usually self. It seemed like everything I was and wanted to be disappeared when I lost my arm.
Months passed by and I finally went back to regular school. My dad had to take me out a lot, of course, for doctors appointments. I was told I could get a prosthetic arm and I was quick to agree to that, as were my parents. I have had my prosthetic arm for a couple weeks now. It is just another change I have to get used to, but it is nice to have an arm of some sort. But even after I got a ‘new arm’, I was still avoiding getting into the ocean. I continued walking on the beach though.
It was funny, I almost felt like spirits were drawing me to the beach. I wanted to be near the water. Most of it did not make sense to me intellectually, but emotionally it did. It makes even more sense to me in retrospect. And I took a huge step this morning, which would make you proud.
I ate my breakfast. It was a Saturday, so there was no school. I had done all the weekends homework the night before. My urge to go to the beach had not wavered. I even brought my surfboard with me. It just felt right. And yet, before I knew it, I was getting in the water. I got on top of my surfboard and I started swimming out. I was not even thinking about it. I just swam and swam and swam. Then I heard a familiar voice.
“Bailey! Bailey!” called my sister. “Bailey, it’s-Oh my! Bailey! What’re you doing?!”
“I’m doing something I have needed to do for a long time!” I called back to here.
“But-but-that is how you lost an arm! How can you go swimming after all that?” She replied. At that, I started swimming back. My sister had a look on her face that was a mix of confusion and annoyance. When I got out of the water, I grabbed my sister and hugged her tightly. She laughed. “Ew, now I’m wet!”
“I didn’t think I could ever get back in the water.” I explained. “But I knew deep down I had to eventually. It’s my comfort zone, even if I lost an arm there. I know it might not make sense, but it’s what makes me happy. Want to come swim with me?” My sister smiled.
“Sure, but it’s lunch time!” She told me. I nodded. We did just that after our meal. I never felt closer to her before. And now, as I write this to you, I feel whole. I will sleep well tonight.