Monday, October 8, 2018

One of Those Wear Your Helmet Stories aka I WALKED Out of the ER

A week ago I was about to get on a horse that I am familiar with and have ridden several times in various settings.  This horse has never concerned me in any way.  He has always been a good boy and is a very sweet guy in general.  We all know that things can just happen with horses and last Monday was one of those days for me.

I was getting on this horse and he was standing like a statue like he always does when in the blink of an eye he jumped up and bolted.  I wasn't all the way on, more like most of the way on, so I was already behind the motion and didn't have the reins gathered up yet.  It felt like he also may have thrown a little buck in there or maybe it was a small jump over something on the ground.  If I would have been all the way on him correctly I could have rode that gallop out but I just could not right myself and got slammed on the ground about 50 feet later.

I have come off plenty of times, the last time was about five years ago when Klein slipped galloping around a corner and tried so, so, so, so hard to catch herself but just couldn't manage.  We both fell and as I saw the sky as we were falling on our left sides I had the presence of mind to try to roll away as fast as I could because I was afraid she would land on my left leg and break it.  Some of my training from the military actually kicked in and I combat rolled right away from her.  I HEARD my helmet crack that time and had a headache immediately.  Klein was still on the ground, sitting up with her legs folded under her, confused.  I got up and walked over to her, rubbed her forehead and told her to get up so I could see if she was ok.  She appeared to be fine and I got back on and she felt fine at the walk and trot so we cantered a short distance.  I wanted to show her I was ok, she was ok, we were ok, and not have her lose any confidence.

I know that was not the brightest idea, but it was very short and then we walked straight back to the barn where I called a friend to tell them what happened and also called them back to tell them exactly when I was leaving the barn, which way I was driving home, and the time they should get another call from me telling them I made it home.  I also had people on notice to let me know if I said anything odd or backward or seemed confused for any reason and I would go straight to the ER.  In hindsight, the fact I heard my helmet crack and had a headache for three days after should have sent me straight to the ER.  I will never hesitate again no matter if I can walk it off.

I have taken many Forensic Pathology/Death Investigation classes for two of my degrees and I know all too well what a subdural hematoma is.  The fall five years ago was prior to these classes fyi.  I know what it looks like inside of your head, on your brain, and I know what it is capable of doing, to include killing you.  To those of you that don't know, one thing that subdural hematomas are known for is the fact that people will take a blow to the head whether it be a fall, or from an object striking the head, or vice versa, and think they are ok because they have no visible injury and/or are not in pain.  These individuals will not seek immediate attention and will go home and never wake up.

Anyway, back to last Monday.  That was by far the hardest I have ever hit the ground in my entire life.  The worst part is my mom is visiting and saw the entire thing and came running over to me.  She asked me if I was ok because I thankfully did not get knocked out and I told her I didn't know.  It took me a minute to gather my thoughts and at first I couldn't roll over, or sit up.  I had a headache immediately and was waiting for the pain of broken bones to register.  I managed to think to tell my mom to give me my phone and I called the horse's owner, who was at the farm, but not the area we were in, to tell them that the horse was loose and I couldn't get up to go get it. 

I knew I was hurt pretty bad but still not sure how bad. I got up after a minute and started limping in the direction the horse went.  People had caught the horse I went limping out there saying "I have to get back on, I have to get back on!!"  We took the horse to the ring and I was going to get back on until I realized I had no idea what day it was and I couldn't tell anyone the day my parents got here for their visit (which was three days prior).  Later I would find my bridle even had broken, probably because I had the reins in my hand when I hit the ground and that broke the reins and one bit hanger on the Micklem I had on him.  I never noticed any of that...

Not knowing what day it was is something that has never happened to me in my life and I knew we needed to go to the ER.  I could tell you the alphabet (which I ran through to my mom), my address, and how to get back to my house, but the day or month?  No idea.  My poor mom had to drive me home (I had no problem telling her were to turn to get home) where The Other Half took me to the ER since he knew right where it is, and what a coincidence the same one I had to take him to for almost cutting a finger off one day.

Our house is a very short drive from where we were and the ER was in that direction too.  While The Other Half was driving me to the ER he said I slurred a couple words and that my right pupil was bigger than the left. I limped into the ER and while we were in the waiting room the pain through my entire right side started to set in and I really started to get scared that I broke something.  We went back to a room where I had the most unfriendly ER doc ever, I get it she probably deals with a lot of extremely difficult people, but we were being nice! 

She told me to tell her what happened and I did and she goes "well, obviously the horse had to be moving you don't fall off sitting there."  The Other Half started laughing and I said "Uh, you can absolutely fall off from a stand still if a horse does something stupid."  Her reply was "well, that's something you can discuss with your riding friends."  Ok lady, but you started that conversation.  I also brought my helmet with me because often times they will want to see what you were wearing when you hit your head.  She looked at it and goes "What's this???"  I told her it was the helmet I was wearing in case she wanted to see it.  She was like, "I don't need that, you can get rid of that."  Okkkk then.  By the way, that helmet is going in the trash.  The Other Half ordered me a replacement while we were sitting in the waiting room, luckily I have a spare at home, and a One K that I use for shows.

I had a CT scan that was clear of any bleeding or obvious injury and a bunch of x-rays of my right side lower back/hip.  Those were also clear.  The conclusion was a mild concussion and severe bruising of my right side.  She gave me some Tylenol and told me to walk it off.

That evening I hurt really bad.  Moving anything on the right side of my body even a centimeter was excruciating.  I could barely dress/undress myself or even get in and out of bed, let alone a car.  I definitely couldn't stand on my right leg or even put my shoes on without having to sit down.  Getting up off the couch was a dramatic feat too.  This has honestly been the worst pain I have ever been in from anything (surgeries, other injuries, etc...)  The next day I felt like I got dropped off a 20 story building and landed on my right side.  I still managed to go walk, well limp, around downtown Philly that day.  Sitting down for a while was what made it worse so I wanted to keep moving even though that hurt too.

I ended up having a limp for four days.  I have a big numb patch on my right side hip/low back and my skin in that entire area has hurt to the touch so bad that it would make me leap off of whatever I was sitting on if it touched anything.  It STILL hurts to the touch today, a week later, and I still have the big numb area.  I have an area that honestly feels like muscles/tendons were ripped off of bone.  I may go back to the doc and have them x-ray it again because it is still pretty painful.  We have a friend that had a fall off one of his horses and went to the ER where they found nothing on x-rays.  He was still having significant pain a week later, went back and found he had a broken neck and back.  I don't think I have anything that severe but I would not be surprised if there is some kind of hairline fracture somewhere. 

The second day after the fall I got on Klein and Super B.  Klein had another championship show this past weekend so I needed to get rides in and was just hoping I would even be able to ride my tests by that Sunday.  Super B, she needs rides, I probably could have waited a couple more days but, surprisingly (actually that probably is not surprising) riding made me feel a little better.  So if I was going to ride, I figured I'd just stick to my own horses for the rest of the week.

So, what helmet potentially saved my life last week?  A Charles Owen 4Star. 

The helmet I was wearing that I heard crack five years ago was a Charles Owen Ultralight Euro Skull Cap.  I heard it crack but there were no visible cracks or damage to it.  I threw it away the day that fall happened. 

I filled out Charles Owen's survey for after you take a fall in one of their products.  They use the data as feedback for their designs and to make adjustments as needed with future models.  They also respond with an email that is good for a 20% discount on a new helmet.

As for the horse, he saw something.  I don't know what it was, it was most likely something only horse vision can see but that is NOT like him.  He didn't have a care in the world until that exact moment when he leaped up and bolted.  Something could have bit/stung him for all I know.  It could have been any horse.  He was terrified.  He bolted in the opposite direction of his pasture where all his buddies were too.  He was deathly afraid of something.  I visited him the next day and hugged on him to show him I was ok, and to tell him I was sorry he had such a scare from whatever monster it was that he saw.  I'll be on him this week again.  He's been ridden since I fell and was his usual excellent, sweet self.

I know some of you are sick of hearing "wear your helmet" because no matter how many horror stories you hear, it won't make a difference.  It's a personal decision, I get it. But I'm going to say it again.  Wear your helmet.  Wear it.  Every ride, every time.  It doesn't matter if the ride is 2 seconds, 2 minutes, 20 minutes, or 2 hours.  It doesn't matter if you're jumping or trail riding or taking a leadline lesson.  WEAR IT.  I know you can still get severely injured even with one on, but there are also so many scenarios that can/will end MUCH better if the rider had a helmet on.  A helmet could make all the difference in the world between you walking out of the ER or being a slobbering vegetable.  I had a helmet on and didn't know what day it was, imagine what would have happened to me if I wasn't wearing one?  I would NOT have walked (limped) out of the ER the same day.  I may not even be writing this post right now.  I wouldn't have been back on my horses in two days, and I wouldn't have made it to the next championship show (we made it, post soon).  Most importantly, I wouldn't have been able to enjoy the time I had with my parents while they were here.  Oh and let's not forget the poor Other Half would have definitely been on full barn chore duty for more than just a day. 

See, we made it!


  1. I will always ALWAYS advocate for helmets.

    I'm glad you are safe. And that a new helmet is already en route.

  2. Glad you're safe! I always wear my helmet & have made sue the habit is ingrained in my grandsons. Granddaughter will soon start lessons in Okinawa, helmet from Gramma is on its way.

    1. Thank you! And you're definitely starting them off right!

  3. I'm so glad you are OK! SO scary. And good advice, its always good advice to share.

  4. That is scary as hell, and was a massive jerk that ER doc was! You should have definitely been given something stronger than a tylenol for that kind of pain, but hospitals are so paranoid about drug abuse that they'd rather people suffer than take an educated look at someone and say "this person legitimately needs pain meds".

    I'm so very glad you were wearing your helmet, it very likely did save you from either death of a hell of a lot more pain.

    1. You are right about the pain meds. It is even worse in this state with the massive opioid problem it has. This is the first state I have been in where Tractor Supply can't even sell needles! I would have been thankful for even one pill to take the edge off because it was horrible. I recently got the survey in the mail for that ER too, I filled it out honestly :)

  5. Y'ouch. I'm glad you are OK despite the fall and the jerk Dr. Glad you are feeling better and so glad you were wearing your helmet.

    1. Thank you! I am approaching the three week mark and I still hurt! It is definitely much, much better but the fact that I still have some numb skin and pain in that area makes me realize just how hard I hit the ground!

  6. So glad you are mostly ok. I had a very similar fall last summer. My OneK saved my life as my head took most of the impact (at a bolt with lots of bucking on straight stone dust). I couldn't breathe or move for several moments after the fall and when I tried to get up, I blacked out from the pain. I was diagnosed with bone bruising in my hip, pelvis, and femural head. I was on crutches for several days and was in so much pain I vomited regularly. It was far worse than the time my tibia came out my calf. Worst pain I've ever had. I too had a numb area like you describe, and I also went for follow-up x-rays after hearing stories about riders who got clear x-rays the day of the fall only to end up with serious injuries that didn't manifest until several days later.

  7. Oh wow, I'm sorry that happened to you. That is horrible. I really wonder if I had bone bruising because the pain was just unreal and it felt like my muscle had been pulled off the bone (or what I would guess that feels like). That is insane that it hurt more than a compound fracture. I have been close to vomiting from pain from nerve pain and this was even worse than that!