I've only had the breath knocked out of me once in my life. It was when I was a kid and I was playing on a playground at Cherokee Elementary School, just outside of Johnson City, Tennessee. I don't know for certain if my year is right, but if so, I must have been eleven years old.
It wasn't what we called the Monkey Bars, but maybe that's the proper term for them. It was one of those contraptions like a horizontal ladder on poles--rungs, or bars, that you hung from and tried to cross by grabbing them one by one--something you see in Marine Corps obstacle courses, except, you know, for kids . . . I was with some friends, maybe a brother or two, and we were just goofing around. School was not in session. (Of course I could be mistaken about time and place, but not about the bars and what it felt like.) I was using the bars and maybe I tried to jump a rung using both hands at once--I was a pretty fearless kid, physically at least--instead of doing it one by one. But I missed and flopped down on the hard ground.
I must have landed on my belly, or on my side, but immediately, I could not breathe.
It was painful. It was scary. I was gasping. My lungs empty, I didn't know what had happened or what was going on but I desperately was trying to pull air back into my lungs, back into me. It is not a nice feeling, being out of breath. It's a very panicky feeling. No adult was there and I don't recall anyone else being all that concerned, but I sure was. Still--what are you going to do? Die?
Obviously, I didn't die. Also, obviously, such a thing as getting the wind knocked out of you is a semi-common occurrence. At least among sportifs. So, I recovered. More or less figured out, on my own, what had just happened to me. Put it down in my kid-history as to what can happen to you. And that was that. For all I know, I went right back to playing.
Yet, I have not forgotten it.
I certainly recall that it was no fun. No fun at all.