Athens Review, Athens, Texas

September 27, 2012

My wife has bravery most people only dream of

Jeff Riggs
The Athens Review

Athens — I think I wrote a column once about how I was tossed from the back of a galloping horse when I was a child in Waco. 

I was about 14 or 15, and was playing football during that time period in my school.  As a result of the toss, I was temporarily partially-paralyzed, and had to walk on crutches to football practice or anywhere else.

This taught me that I didn’t want to do anything that might hurt me as that did.  Here I was, crutching my way to football practice every afternoon after school, standing at the sideline, watching everyone else have fun.

Also, I wasn’t for sure from my doctor if the paralysis would leave, or stay with me for the rest of my life.

It came out that after a short period, say about a month, I was back to normal, and doing things that I had once done, and like any 15-year-old might wish to do.

I am so thankful that I was ever able to shake off the paralysis.

So, I grow up, and get married to someone much braver than I.  She has a concussion after falling from a horse in Oklahoma.  She spends a couple of days in ETMC Athens. I hear her doctor say, in no uncertain terms, that she should definitely consider giving up the horse activities.

My wife Jean, later falls in a parking lot, and has spinal column injuries.  She goes back to  the Houston area to the same doctor that planted a metal plate and six screws about 15 or 20 years ago after she saved a child from falling off a performance stage during my wife’s employment as Recreation Supervisor with the City of Deer Park. The stress of the weight of the child caused damage to her neck and back.

That doctor, a neurosurgeon,  during this last surgical move, did his stuff again.  She had to be very careful not to strain her back in any way, including horses or any other activity.

She obeyed the doctor (somewhat).  She relaxed (somewhat), until the time was safe for her to return to more strenuous activity.

Then, when things were better, she took a couple of her horses to a horse doctor, got back home, and began chasing a horse that still had its halter affixed to its head.

She felt for its safety, and chased it.  She then stepped in a hole, and twisted her entire left leg, breaking a bone in that leg, making it impossible for her to walk.

She then realized she had left her cell phone in the vehicle that had pulled the trailer that took the horses to their doctor.

She had to crawl about 50 feet or more through sand, ants and rocks in a temperature of about 102 degrees.  After she got to vehicle, she strained her body to reach her cell phone, and called me.

She calmly said, “Jeff, you need to come home now.  I need your help.”

I went home, and we went to a local doctor for assistance.  That was about a month ago, and the pain remains.

She has guts.  Much more than I do.  She is able to return to the horses, which she will again.  She is already speaking with people on the phone about her next trail ride.


Me?  I never rode motorcycles, because I heard in the news of people mangled during accidents.  But, then, I heard of that happening to people who drove cars (even sober people), and it happened to them too.  Yet, I’ve been driving for several decades.

Just after we married, Jean set me up for skydiving school, because I told her that was one thing I would love to do before I took my last breath.

I went through the school, enjoying every minute.  Then, just before the big day of taking that first jump, I remembered my mother, who had emphysema, who probably wouldn’t be around long.  I said to Jean that I couldn’t let her die, knowing that her son had maybe died jumping out of a plane.  If, indeed that would happen.

Jean understood, and said we would take it back up at some point in the future. 

Note that my mother has been gone since 1994, and I haven’t jumped yet. Maybe there was another motive when I did not jump.

Yet, Jean has the guts in our family.  She is solid rock, a real trooper.  She’ll be riding those horses that are stronger than she and I combined in a very short time.

She really has the guts!

Jeff Riggs is Editor of the Athens Daily Review.