All the King's Horses: Malachi's Accident

Kym Kemp / Thursday, May 14, 2009 @ 5:16 p.m. / Daily Photo , Family , Our Culture , photo , Salmon Creek


Little Boy Blue

Frequent Photo

Blue eyes and grubby finger nails.

I can write about what happened, about him.  But can I make you feel it, see him?

Can I wrap the warmth of the day, the buzz of insects, the dull thud of lumber stacked on lumber in words and place them so that you can see the ordinariness, the humdrum quality of a working day shattered? And, if I do, will the effort to make you feel and see become a playhouse stage?


That one word splits the skin of ordinary that walls us from the ugly possibilities that lurk beneath the surface of each second, waiting to grab our legs and pull us under.  That one word peels back normal and reveals how extraordinary and lucky life has always been.

I glance  at where my taller-than-me son, Quinn, is looking and from the loft above whirls and wheels a grayish flutter, a flurry that resolves …

into Malachi, my littlest, my almost baby stumbling from the sky…

I might have caught him whirling from the loft above.  I didn’t though. I watched my reality crumble as I stood gaping, useless hands grasping cleaning tools, as he thudded skull and neck into a heavy iron stove.

For some fraction of a second he must have paused— black iron crumpling bone within small skin. My eyes must have closed to try and find some solidness within to steady the shifting world beneath my feet and then the downward force reversed him off the stove and he fell again from stove to floor.

His head bent sideways to his neck.  His blue eyes open…then they closed.

“Kevin, come here now.”  This a second call. The first a quiet prayer for help he didn’t hear. This last a loud demand my husband fix my world as he has always done.  Somehow he was there. We knelt side by side but eyes fixed only on the small bit of broken flesh that was our littlest—our blue eyed pale skinned son.

And then he died.

There was no trickle to indicate the torrent to follow but like spigot turned to full, blood broke down the dam that held it within for almost seven years before and red went spilling thickly down across his lips and onto the floor.

Standing, I screamed.  “He’s dead.”

“Don’t you panic now.” The crack of my husband’s voice slapped across my face  “Run call 911.”  I ran.

Somewhere behind me, Malachi moved and somehow I knew and so I ran and cried.

In a right world, grotesque and death would not be such close bedfellows but in this unreality that was my world the two twined like lovers.  As I raced, our dog, our Touchstone, bounced, delighted in the fun, barking, biting at the ground around my feet.  Screaming and cursing, at this obstacle that never came close enough to touch, I fought my way from barn to house. Inside I gasped, clutching phone and dialing 911.

How oddly unemotional they seem, those voices from far away as they calmly take the information that my little guy with blue eyes closed lies dying.

Facts lined up.  I can hang up.  I call once more.  A friend a neighbor an EMT.  “Come, Malachi fell from the loft of the old funky house.”  Her kids have played with mine.  She knows the spot. “His neck.  There’s blood.  A lot.”

I start to go back.  Like elastic stretched too tight, I’ve been pulled too far from where I need to be.  I want to snap back, zinging close to white skin touched with freckles and now painted red with blood.  But I stop and race to the bathroom for towels.  Incredibly, I wonder whether I should go get rags or use these pale green beauties less than 3 weeks old. Pagan like, I offer their unsullied perfection to the gods- hoping desecrating them will be sacrifice enough to save his life. The elastic pull of time almost sends me flinging back up the hill to him but he might need water and I wring the faucet knob tight to milk the water fast into a silver thermos.

Then I am up the hill and Quinn, my tall strong  son is there.  Hurrying me up the hill even further.  While I’ve been gone, Malachi has struggled up from where the dark was pulling him.  He won’t stay still upon the rumpled iron poles of rebar.  Kevin, like Goldilocks, demands from Quinn and Robin, a friend with us there, a piece of plywood not too small and not too big. And then with one smooth small lift, they transfer him blood, blue jeans and freckles to the wood.  Small son held steady on the plywood bridge between Father and older son, while Robin placed strong hands on either side and used his voice to guide.  Up to our car, back seats down and I am there with towels to wedge him in.  “Don’t move.  Keep your neck still.  Stay down.  Are you okay?

An ambulance will be at least an hour.  We live so far up on the hill.  The dirt roads between here and town make time slow down and that is beautiful when life is good but now, when every second clicks him one bit closer to the darkness swallowing up his light, I want a freeway running to my house.

Then friend, neighbor, EMT… she comes with brace and oxygen and know how— just a bit of knowledge that could save his life.  Expertly she does and asks and does some more.  His neck is braced with steady hands.  He doesn’t like it but Robin leans in close and with a Dad voice commands him still.  Another EMT, this one, Matt has children also that play at school with Malachi.  There is comfort of knowing that those sticking needles into tender skin care almost as much as we.

Malachi is still alive.  As Lisa talks him through the moves, “Can you wiggle your fingers?  How about your feet?”  I breathe and sit beside—jealous of her arms holding him gentle still against the body board that has replaced the plywood stretcher.

I don’t know how but he is puking …blood.  Blood is everywhere.  Lisa’s voice keeps going but I hear her fear for him, for me, for us.  He’s dying again.  I know he didn’t die before but to me he did and he is dying again.  And I can’t hold him one more time and watch the sweep of lashes against his cheek because Lisa needs to do what she needs to do and Kevin’s face is against the car window, watching—not able to be as close as I to son and heart and blood.

Somehow I am outside again.  Yelling and Quinn is holding me and then Kevin and then I am back inside and gently wiping dark red blood with puke from him.  And then from Lisa’s sleeve and far away but really still inside the car Robin wipes his hands against a sheet that I brought up way too long ago.

Where is the ambulance?

After the blood, Matt and Kevin call the helicopter.  And then we drive to a place not far but where the medivac can land.  Somehow the ambulance finds us and time collapses in.  I remember neighbors, firemen and EMT’s –my wonderful neighbors who give up nights and weekends to train for this.  And yet still they aren’t enough.  Like all the king’s horses and all the king’s men, they can’t put Malachi together again.

The ambulance from far away has strange but kind men that ask my son questions which he answers from far within.  He isn’t crying but so still and obedient that I can not see the son I know within the shell that belongs to him.

Above, suspended in air, the helicopter hovers, searching within the sea of grass and trees for the group of cars and people willing it to land.

And it does.

Then like warriors, women dressed in black with helmets rush from its taut belly.  The questions start again.  “Can you hold my fingers? tight…squeeze tight.  Are you okay?”  Beneath half-lidded eyes, between teeth barely opened wide enough to let words move, he mumbles and she lifts her eyes to mine seeking translation.

“Not necessarily.” His words release a grin from me while repeating his words back to her. She smiles swift but then returns to work while I roll in my mouth “not necessarily”—relieved that somewhere inside the white skin splotched with blood, Malachi lingers.


The helicopter took him from us to Redding.  Again, a neighbor, Dan Gribi, saved us with an offer to fly us so we didn’t have to drive 5 hours to get there.  Before we left, we got a call from the helicopter crew chief that Malachi wasn’t bleeding internally.

A friend in Redding claimed she was his aunt and sat by his side—some two plus hours until we were there.

Because they had no pediatrics neurosurgeon there in Redding, the doctors then sent Malachi and I on to UC Davis Pediatric Center in Sacramento.  Kevin and “the aunt” drove in her daughter’s car two and a half hours to follow us.

Malachi ended up with a fractured skull, cheekbone and eye socket. But today 4 short days later, all you can see is a few scrapes and a light bruise around the eye– nothing else.

We drove seven plus hours to get home. Today, he played in the sun in our driveway surrounded by flowers.

Thank you to Quinn, my middle son, Robin Fleckless, friend so long, Lisa Gribi, Matt Stark, Dan Gribi, and all the other wonderful Salmon Creek Fire Crew, the ambulance crew,  Diana Totten with her mother and sister (Aunt) Barbara and Debbie, Calstar medivac helicopter crew, the Mercy Air Crew (especially Randy and Tim—thanks for also rescuing my wallet), the doctors, the nurses, the technicians, my mom, my wonderful friend Debbie Green and her husband, Mark Sanchez, and everyone who called and offered help and support.

My husband took 4 camera photos.  They might be the last we saw him, he thought.

I’ll put those up when we figure out how to load them.

Update:  Photos here.


  • Every mother who knows you was worried sick all day Sunday. I’m so relieved that he escaped serious harm, and amazed that you have the courage to recount the story here already. I share your gratitude for the first responders (especially the EMTs) in our rural hills who have the cool heads and warm hearts it takes to do such a challenging job. I can’t imagine having to wait that long for an ambulance alone in that situation. And thank goodness for air travel; those pilots must have seemed like angels. Welcome back, Malachi!
  • “Not necessarily”…a touch of humor in this potentially devastating incident, provided by Malachi himself. We are all so very grateful that Malachi came out of this hardly any worse for wear. You did a terrific job of telling the story with all the anguish of a mother’s heart and soul. Now that you and Kevin have aged twenty years, go lie down and take a nap!
  • As Malachi’s grandmother, I, also, want to thank each and everyone who stepped outside their own needs on Mother’s Day to make possible our Malachi to return to us (with arms upraised, flashing the V for victory sign and announcing, “I’m still alive.” )

    Once again, the local emergency crews stepped in to help our family. It has just been a few months ago that I had to make that dreaded 911 call that we all hope we never have to make. Much sooner than I would have expected, our driveway was filled with emergency vehicles and wonderful people ready to do what was needed.

  • My god, Kym – I am so relieved he is all right. My heart twisted with each sentence. I have been through too many hospital visits to count and even a Medivac flight, so I know that terror of almost-losing, but not so far away and with so much blood. I’m so glad he’s okay, you’re okay and that you have such wonderful people surrounding you to help. Thanks for sharing the story. I hoped it helped.
  • Oh my gosh Kym! I was crying until the end! I cannot even imagine the pain and horror you went through. I felt it as though he was my own son as I was reading your words. I am so happy he’s ok and that you’ll be ok too. Take care and give that little guy a hug!!!
  • Kym,
    Living here on the back of this isolated mountain, I didn’t know anything about this, although I wondered why you hadn’t posted in a couple of days. When I started reading my heart started pounding, my mouth went dry, and I felt as though I could not breath, as tears welled up in my eyes. Thank God for the happy ending and thanks to the special people we live with.
  • I had to stop crying before I could comment.
    We are all soooo glad for such an outcome! You conveyed your heart’s agony so powerfully, I got rocked and I knew there was a happy ending.
    Further proof I could never be a mother.
    Somehow in the mystery of all this, there is such a powerful healing of the heart for so many who are involved in happy endings like this. The life and death depths of emotions flushes our system, and we live more clearly in the same life we were in, appreciating what we have all the more.
    Much love to your big beautiful heart and to all your family and all those Angels. Bless ‘em all!
  • Oh Kym, I was so afraid there wasn’t a happy ending. Still, a skull fracture and broken eye socket are nothing to sneeze at. Hopefully, as young as he is he will recover without sequelae. I would have gone nuts waiting for the ambulance, with a kid of mine. Big ((((hugs))) to all of you.
  • Kym… I am shocked and so pleased that Malachi is OK. Tui also sends her best regards. These medivac helicopters are wonderful. I know several people who have had their lives saved. Again, we send our best to all of you.
  • Thanks for sharing, we were really worried about you guys!
  • Even though I knew in advance the story ended incredibly well, your words brought tears to my eyes. I am so happy your boy is okay.
    Kym, you write very well. I always know a real person lives your photos.
    Thank you to everyone of our neighbors who saved your son’s life. You all are the very best backups a community could hope to have ready to help us.
    I like your very sweet picture of Malachi.
  • I’m stunned. I’m still holding my breath, and can hear my heartbeat thudding against my compressed chest.
    Thank God your son is alive! What a Mother’s Day present. Your account of what happened was nothing short of breath-taking!
    I don’t think I ever had that close of a call with my three sons. No parent wants to see their child injured. I’m so glad that everything turned out good for Malachi (great name by the way).
    I’ve had my adrendaline rush for the day thank you…
  • Thank you for sharing, Kym. I’m so glad everything turned out OK, and am proud of the community for being there for you.
  • We continue to lift Malachi up to the maker of heaven and earth; that he will heal without any scars to body or spirit. Even knowing the ending of your story, I hung suspended in the moment, timeless, in a vaccum. How tiny is that step from life to death and back to life again.
  • Oh, Kym, I had to step away for a while to let the tears subside and a sense of normalcy return. I’m so sorry that your son, you and your family had to go through that! Thank goodness for friends, EMT’s and the other responders. Hugs to you and your son.
  • I don’t know what to say Kym. I’m so relieved for your son and your family.
  • I shouldn’t have read it, but how could I not? Even knowing he is doing well, your description of the event had my heart pounding as tears flowed. I could see it all unfolding, feel the sheer terror and agony.
    Motherhood, for all it’s joys and wonders, has the power to hurt us with our love in a way nothing else on Earth can.
    Our heart to yours.
  • […] aka “Redheaded Blackbelt,” and her family went through the worst last Sunday.  Kym wrote about it, beautifully as ever.  You might want to head over and wish her family […]
  • How amazing that a day can go from a laugh about Mother’s Day dishes to total chaos. I am so happy that you and your family are well. Much love is being and was sent your way.
  • Kym,
    Janis and I were on our way to Fortuna to visit her mother for mothers day, and I heard the call go down over the very scratchy dispatch frequency. I was just past Weott and I followed the dispatch report that; “A seven year(?) old male had fallen and had a possible skull and neck fracture.” And, something about salmon creek school and the location. The radio was very scratchy and I could understand very little of the transmission.

    My first thought was that it might be one of your children. I took a mental inventory of the people that you have in you area, and the people that had been dispatched. I came close to turning around and coming back. As is always the case with first responders, I started thinking about what I should do to be the most help. Then I remembered what great first responders that you have, the ones that live up your little crick, and I stared to relax a little bit, knowing that your son, if it was him, would have the best possible help.

    Doing the right thing, and knowing what to do is critical at times like your son’s fall. It sounds like you and the people involved did the exact best possible things. Congratulations to you all!

    I am so glad he is Okay. As precious as a child is, maybe this will help you to value him even more. I have a feeling before this is all over, he will be glad he got those bumps.

    Please keep a close eye on him for a while, whether he wants you to or not. Even though he seems okay, he has a lot of trauma to get past. Even if he so much as hiccups wrong, have him checked.

    I’m sure you are as good a mother as you are a writer, so Malachi is very lucky to have you!
  • I am so grateful to read of Malachi’s recovery! I can’t possibly offer more heartfelt words than Sandi, Jim Wilde, or olmanriver. My feelings echoed theirs as I struggled to make it through to the end, dreading what might be. I’ve recently found your blog, with its thoughtful, interesting writing, and inspiring pictures. Your family doesn’t know me, but I suspect I will forever be bonded to yours. Thanks for sharing an intimate and awful experience; may we all take a moment to appreciate the family we hold so dear.
  • Oh Kym. This post made me cry. May Malachi continue to heal and may all you love stay protected and safe.
  • I am so glad to hear he is recovering well I have been worried about you guys.
  • Oh Goddess! I’m so glad he is alright! I send as much healing energy as I can.

    What a strong little one!

    May each and every one of you be well and may Malachi heal well!

    ~ Moonshadow (friend of Eric and Jana)
  • A heavy iron stove? Oh, Kym, what a nightmare! I am so happy that everything turned out as well as it did. I hope Malachi, you and the rest of your family heal quickly. Please give Icarus a gentle hug for me.
  • Everybody, thank you so much for your good thoughts and kind words. We are so lucky. Kym
  • Wow Kym…

    I’m glad to know that the little one pulled through.
  • To inject a little more Malachi humor into this somber thread: his first words to me as he returned to the schoolyard on Thursday were “All the nurses were so nice, and the food was GREAT!” He went on to lament that he didn’t really have a good view in the helicopter, though!
  • I scared the crap at of my mom when I was two and half years old. I too survived a fall from height, and fractured my skull. Today, I see the scars everyday when I look in the mirror. It reminds me of just how lucky I was, and how fortunate I am to be here.

    I am certain that Malachi will be feeling the same way as he gets older and he better understands what he has been through. He and I are members of a very special club.

    Kym, you and my mother would have stories to swap.

  • Kym, so glad to hear he is alive, and ok. Took me a bit, to read it fully. I get nauseated with blood, or description thereof. It will take him a little bit to fully recover, then again he is young. Best wishes, for him, you and your family. God bless.
  • Kym,
    I have been reading your posts daily for about a year now, and I have to tell you thet yesterday, after a few days of not seeing anything from you, I was relieved to see a new post. And then when I started reading, I was having trouble breathing and not screaming out loud… I continued reading and thank God that Malachi is going to be fine.
    You see my son and his young family moved to Southern Humboldt almost two years ago and it has been a heartbreaking experience for me. I am happy to say that the young family is doing well, and I have adjusted to living 500+ miles away from them.
    I visit them as often as I can and through this internet connection I stay as informed as I can with their environment to include reading your post and others along with the local papers.
    So, Kym first I want to send all of my prayers to Malachi for a speedy recovery and to tell you that your posts and others have helped me along with this “empty nest” thing I have been dealing with.
    There is so much I could write to you, maybe another time.
    Thank you.
  • Oh my god how terrifying for you and your family. Poor kid. Amazing how resilient they are. I’m so glad he’s okay.
  • Kim, what a wonderful piece of writing! Hard to read through the tears. Many a prayer went up from Salmon Creek on Sunday; I think they were answered. Much love from over thisaway.
  • Dear Mala-Dude: Thank you for making my boring sunday workday more exciting.


    Love, Robin
  • Yay Malachi! He’s so precious. And he died, for a little while. What an intense piece of writing!
  • Sometimes we don’t realise how close we become to our blogging friends. I also cried as I read this post, and I sit here so thankful that the story ended well. As a father of three who all somehow survived childhood, I send you and your family my love and support from the other side of this wonderful and sometimes dangerous world.
  • […] About « All the King’s Horses: Malachi’s Accident […]
  • Thank you again.

    Hey, just grab somebody you love and hug them. Life is a bit tenuous but so beautiful.

    I put the photos of the accident in a separate post here
  • […] All the King’s Horses: Malachi’s Accident and part 2 photos (shot by others attending the […]
  • I stopped beathing while reading your post. I don’t know when I stopped breathing, but I realized that I stopped breathing when I started breathing. I hope that Malachi gets well soon as only little children can. Take Care, Kym!
  • That was so intense. Thank God for your family.
  • He is doing extremely well. I can’t believe how back to normal everything is…well, everything except my house. I can’t get caught up.
  • This will teach me to let the business of the day to keep me away from blogs written by friends I’ve never met. I’m sorry it took me this long to catch up on your blog. This was frightening. Sometimes we forget that kids really AREN’T made of rubber. There is nothing more frightening than the blood of our children. We must put them all in helmets!
  • Wow Kym - what an awful experience! I am so glad that he seems to be recovering nicely. Though I always expected something “bad” to happen to my kids as they were growing up, nothing ever did. It’s part of a parents’ job description to worry about their kids. Of course, it doesn’t stop when they grow up either!

    Hugs from the midwest to you and yours. Here’s hoping that the rest of your summer will be a little less exciting….
  • A well told story. The short bursts and jerks in different directions mimic how I imagine one’s brain reacts under these circumstances.

    And, of course, great that all ends well.
  • Oh, Kym. I am so so so glad that he recovered. Sending hugs and love - I hope you have time to rest and just enjoy being with him after all that.
  • Malachi seems totally recovered. I just asked him if he wanted to stay home with me today and he insisted on going to school.

    Everybody—for some reason your comments have been helpful in getting us through the emotional aftermath. Thank you.
  • Kym,I am so glad/relieved/amazed that he is OK. Blessings to you and your family. Rusty just told me about it yesterday. I was very happy to see that grin in pt.2. And by the way,I took my own fall (albeit a much less dramatic one) on Monday night,and am now the proud owner of a fractured radius bone. Huzzah!
  • Donovan, There is a lot of that going around. I’m thinking about gluing cotton balls to every exposed surface of my children.
  • Dear Kym and family,
    I remember you newly pregnant with Malachi, a surprise gift. I remember him in the yellow raincoat in the garden. Such a lively mischievous spirit, so like his brothers and yet a unique bright soul. I did cry my way through your story and I am very thankful that I already knew he was ok as I was reading. I held my son very close today and he let me. I give thanks that our community is so close and so responsive in a crisis. Much love to you,
  • Kym,
    I’m so relieved this story ended well. Scared me half to death. My thoughts are with you all.
  • Thank you both. Today we went up and walked where the helicopter landed. We watched the sun set and I laughed while he jibber jabbered my ears off. Isn’t it great to be alive?
  • I don’t know how I missed this!!! How totally scary for you and what a miracle that he survived. I can’t imagine how that must have been for you Kym!
  • […] That my son is alive. […]
  • Oh my gosh.

    I clicked over from Soul Aperture to view your Simple Things list….and kept reading. After reading this I feel breathless and exhausted, like I just lived it with you.

    I’m so grateful your baby is okay.

    And I’m glad I’ve discovered your blog. You are a beautiful writer.
  • In response to JoLyn
    Thanks JoLyn. I’m so grateful he’s alive, too!
  • Wow! Somehow I missed this, too, Kym. Your account brought me to tears, and I’m thrilled that everything worked out for the best. I hope everything is well for you in this new year.
  • In response to Chris
    Ahh, Chris, I miss you and your cogent writing!
  • Kym I do not Know You and have attempted to get to an event so that someone can point you out to me. Haven’t yet.
    I want to tell you in person how valuable you are to this community not only the pictures that warm our soul or give us a giggle but the up to the minute latest news on an important matter effecting the community at large and also on the stories that make this SoHum community a neighborhood.
    My heart too was gripped and pounding for a positive outcome in reading the news of your son. I like the whole hood are happy for you and Malachi and your husband and older son and the hood. We all care for each other. And we all care for you.
  • In response to Brian
    Bless you, I needed that! Definitely helped pick up a sad day.
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