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Going down the mountain, the hard way

By Gene Maynard
May 19, 2002

Chapter 1

Gene met a girl by the name of Svetozara at the place where my daughter Sasha is learning how to dance. Svetozara likes to be called Zara and so this is what I will call her for the rest of this story. Zara wanted to talk to Gene to improve her English skills. Zara and Gene would talk during the time that Sasha was having her dance instructions. After three different times of talking together, I asked Zara if she knew this place up in the mountains of Vratza where there was a waterfall and she said she had been there a few times. Gene asked Zara if she could take him and Sasha there. Zara did tell me that it was difficult climb, but I really didnít understand just how difficult it really was. I suggested that Sasha go with us and Zara would bring a couple of her girl friends. That was O.K. with me.

This spring has been rather wet, so we had to wait for the weather to be good and on the 15th of May it was raining about 7P.M. and so we didnít think we could go the next day. But when I woke up, I could see that the weather was going to be good, this was the 16th of May and I called up Zara and she said for Sasha and I to meet her at Sumi Market at 9:40 A.M. and be ready to go.

Sasha and I did meet Zara at that market and we went to the traffic circle in Vratza to meet a friend of Zara called Maria and to catch a taxi to the big village where this trail to the waterfall begins. Also there was another girl friend of Zara who lives in this village - Zgorigrad. The girls name is Petia and these girls were all about 18 years old. All three of these girls had just graduated from the Vratza high school.

Chapter 2

After getting to the village and finding the third girl, we went to a small store (Called a magazine in Bulgaria.) and bought some food for lunch, as this trip up the mountain was going to take most of the day. We walked on a road for about one mile till we come to a bridge and then took a Goat path for the real start of the climb up that mountain. The first part of the climb was not too bad and we had to step over several mountain springs and watch out for the sheep shit. After about one mile again the climbing got much harder and we had crossed two log bridges that went over a mountain stream with big boulders in the stream. The path was now on mostly real small rocks and difficult to keep a persons footing. Sasha was ahead of me and so were the three young girls and I was just about to shout at the one girl called Zara and tell her that this climb was too, too hard for Sasha and me. Thatís when I miss-stepped and went tumbling down the side of the mountain.


I knew that I landed on my head once and on my neck once and then on my lower back before I stopped. When I tried to get up, my glasses were gone and I could feel the blood pouring out of my forehead. There was a rock, right where I stopped falling, that I could sit on, boy the blood was dripping all over my shirt and pants. Sasha yelled and this attracted Zara and in less then one minute Zara was by my side. Zara was crying and telling me how sorry she was to have brought me up this very difficult path. I was just thinking of how I was going to get out of the mountain, before I bled to death. Zara was able to stop the blood flowing with a roll of toilet paper that I had brought with us, just in case Sasha needed it, as Sasha is only five years old. Zara shouted to Maria and Petia to come back, as I had fallen down and I was hurt really bad. As soon as the other two girls got back to where I was sitting, they knew that they must go and get the Mountain Rescue Squad.

While the two girls went for the rescue team, Zara was still trying to get the blood flow stopped, as it kept starting up again. I was fully aware by this time that I had a major problem as I was sitting there without my glasses and could see nothing. I told Zara that she must find my glasses as I am blind without them, but she thought that I should not worry about them. I was finally able to convince Zara that I really must have my glasses. She found them, but they were completely covered with blood and had to be cleaned.

Everything that I had been carrying was all over the place and I told Zara that she should try to find my things as I wanted her to take some pictures of me for a story I wanted to write about this accident, if I ever got out of the mountains. As luck would have it my camera was broke and maybe, just maybe I got one picture. Is Gene stupid or what. Here he is worrying about writing a story for his Web Site and not even out of the mountains yet. We had to wait at lest 30 minuets, before the rescue squad got to were I was and all this time Zara was telling me how sorry she was. The way I think is that there is no use crying over spilled milk or blood and you canít go back in time, so what is to be, is to be.

After getting my glasses back on, I looked where the main pool of blood was and where I had stopped rolling around. One foot further along there was another 10 foot drop off into a mountain stream and it was filled with big boulders and if I would of fell that extra 10 feet into the water, I would have either drowned or broke my back or neck. Let me tell you my fall was bad enough, as it was, for sure!!

Chapter 4

Sasha was crying and was real scared, but I was not feeling so bad. It must have been that I wanted Sasha to be alright, that keep me going, but I was in shock and didnít realize at the time how bad I was hurt. To get Sasha to stop the crying, I sang a childrenís song to her. Now Sasha did stop the crying and there was nothing for me to do but wait. When the two girls that went for the rescue team, got back, they took charge of Sasha and started to take her down the mountain, these are good people. I am so happy to know these people and it is my feelings that the people who live in Bulgaria are great, on average!!

But I did ask Zara if she had a mirror and she had a small one. I looked at my face and it was not pretty!! As I said, after about 30-40 minuets, there was a female doctor by the name of Karina Salova, very famous for her hikes in Himalayan mountains, at my side and also a nurse. The doctor was a real hero as she made a very big effort to get to me as fast as she could. She asked all the standard questions about my being able to feel my arms and legs and she listened to my heart and took my blood pressure and made sure my liver had not been shattered and made sure my eyes were tracking. The doctor also talked to me to see is I was making good sense. I told the doctor that it had been some time since I had made any sense. The doctor just laughed. The nurse had given me two shots, one in the butt and one in the arm. One of these shots was for pain and the other one was infection. Also the nurse cleaned all my abrasions and put a big bandage on my head. It was just like a white turban. I looked like a Muslin.

About this time I looked around and saw four men with a very special carrying stretcher to get me out of the mountains. They had to put this thing together and try to get me laid down on it without moving me too much, just in case I had broken my back. Also they put a neck brace on me and strapped me down tight, so I would not move all over while they were carrying me down the rough mountain trails.

To my great surprise it only took two men to do the actually carrying, as these men are in superb shape and they didnít even break into a sweat. The other two men were only needed to ease me over the big rocks. Itís a small, small world. As one of these men who were carrying me was a brother of my computer programmer, Roumen Ivanov. The brotherís name is Ilian Ivanov.

When I got down to the village where the ambulance was there were a lot of people from the village to see me as I am the only American living in Vratza. I made a diversion for the local people, as their lives in the villages in Bulgaria is rather dull.

Chapter 5

Now I am in the ambulance bouncing all over the very bad village roads of Bulgaria and I notice that my back and neck, because being tied down real good are not going every witch way. Thank God!!!! Everyone in Vratza knows Gene and the doctor called ahead and told Dr. Lily Sivtcheva (My wifeís sister.) who is one of the head doctors in the hospital of Vratza, that I was on my way to the hospital and Lily called my wife Yura at her work who is also a doctor in one of the Polyclinic's of Vratza, to tell her to get over to the hospital as I had had a bad accident in the mountains. So it was not too long after arriving that Yura was at my side. Yura had no idea that I was going up into the mountains and would have tried to get me not to go. Gene always knows better, or so he thinks.

Chapter 6

Just as soon as I arrived at the hospital, the doctors started all the normal tests that are given in these types of cases. I had x-rays, cat scan, blood tests, pee test, etc.. The nurses in the emergency room gave me sugar water to help stop shock and another shot for pain. Also after finding out that my neck was not broken, they took off the neck brace as these things are very, very uncomfortable. Meanwhile I was taken to surgery and my scalp on my forehead was put back together.

I was put into one of the best rooms that Dr. Lily Sivtcheva is in charge of, at the hospital. Yuraís uncle Dr. Sivcho Sivtchev come from Sofia to see me in the hospital. I also had Dr. Lily Sivtchevaís husband come and visit me, as he is also a doctor in the Vratza hospital. Now that it looked like I was going to survive, most of the doctors disappeared as in all hospitals and now I was attended by nurses. Now I can take a look at myself and I found 13 abrasions, here and there around my body and this doesnít count the ones on my forehead and which I have been told has about five, plus the doctor had sewed that flap of skin back in place. So no wonder I hurt. I did a major hurt to my muscular system, also probably I have bruised a few bones.

Now this is when I really, really start to hurt as the pain killers wear off, which is very normal. May 19th they change the bandage on my forehead and this hurt worse then falling down the mountain!!

Chapter 7

Now it is the 19th of May and they let me go home, because in our apartment building there are four doctors. My wife, my sister-in-law, my brother-in-law and my father-in-law are all doctors. I am trying to be positive and not complain but it is very hard because I hurt so much. Now it is May 20th and I had to go back to the hospital for a bandage change again and after that I will have to go back for another change on May 23rd. I have been trying to help Yura by doing some of the work around the apartment that I normally do. But so far I am tiring easily, and I hurt so bad I can only work for a few minutes at a time. Right now I feel 346 years old, not 30 years old, like I did before the accident.

Except for hoping that my muscles get back to normal again as I am walking like that 346 year old man, I really hurt all over my body and I donít like how I am walking down the street, all bent over. I really am wondering if I will walk like I use too, before I fell down the mountain. People in Bulgaria always told me that I look 10 years younger then I am. Now I feel all those years.

I donít like all those shots and pills I have to take now, but thank God that they are available. It will be some time before I am back to normal and I can only hope normal, will be that I can enjoy life again!!

End of story.

The Aftermath

Now when I fell down the mountain, in May of 2002 I stretched a couple of ligaments and now I was afraid that I was going to have the same problem on my left shoulder. But I worried for nothing, as a ligament is not a tendon. What I did when I fell down was to land first on my head, (Thank God, as my head is very hard.) and then onto my left shoulder and then on to my butt. What I did was stretch two different ligaments and after a few months they should heal and I will be somewhat back to normal.

At age 69 years old, nothing is ever going to be back to a real normal. But I should be able to carry on and still enjoy life some, as I can still look and talk to the many, many hundreds of the very pretty girls of Vratza. Life will carry on!! The Bulgarian girls still want to talk to me, as my mouth works just fine. The girls donít care that I now walk a little funny and have a scar on my forehead. The girls want the information that is in my head. Yes they are using me, but why should I mind. They are not after my body.

Now it is March, 2003 and the tendons still hurt and I feel that the tendons are going to be a problem for the rest of my life. But look what would happened if I never felt down the mountain, I would not have been able to write this story.

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