Before the Accident
Over the past 7 months I don’t think I have ever experienced so many different emotions in such a short space of time. 2018 the year I decided I needed to feel like I had achieved something for myself, away from my family. I had goals set and was determined to compete side saddle. A discipline that is fairly unusual in this day and age. I wasn’t influenced by friends or fashion it was something I just felt inspired to achieve. I fell in love with ‘Windsor” a 6-year-old, dapple grey Irish draught to compete aside. A horse I trusted immensely and instantly feel in love with but unfortunately after 3 months’ things didn’t go to plan and by August he was extremely lame and in the equine hospital being assessed.
A friend had come over to visit and be there to support me, as the vet had confirmed Windsor would need to be PTS his hock was completely disconnected to his stifle and had been covered up with drugs. My friend had offered to take Oscar back down to Sussex for a few days so our boys could spend some time together as we were all upset about the sudden news of Windsor’s diagnosis he was part of the family.
September 1stthe day that was going to change my life. It was about 9am when I received a call to ask if I wanted to come out autumn hunting on my best friend’s husbands new 18hh Huntsman’s horse to try give me a few hours of fun. Initially I wasn’t sure and asked if he would buck me off as he had been a handle for my friend’s husband mid season earlier that year. After 5 minutes of discussing his recent behavior on hound exercise and Oscar begging me to come, I made the decision to go. Racing down with Harry in toe on a 3 hour drive I arrived at the ‘Meet’ just in time and changed in the burger van! Class!
Everyone else was mounted, attempting to get on the horse was interesting. Although I’d been used to riding the hunt horses for years I instantly felt over horsed on this particular horse he was the biggest I had ever ridden. I still have flash backs of looking down at his huge hogged mane, his long thick neck and head. He made my horses at the time feel like ponies. The 18.5” saddle swapped me. Knee rolls bigger than my knees I felt like a pea on a drum. I’m feeling anxious as I write this.
I smiled away feeling relieved I got there in the nick of time that I didn’t let my pregnant friend down who had spent time grooming and tacking him up for me. We were off! The (horse) was obviously used to riding up front and I was very aware we were mid-field from the meet, he was excited and wasn’t keen on walking or trotting so we just bounced along.
I still remember having a little giggle with one of the Masters going across the first field with him bouncing that he only had a snaffle in, all I kept thinking was he is going to tank off with me and I’m not going to be able to stop. Although he was excited and a bit keen I didn’t feel ‘uncomfortable’ until we got into the second field. I saw the hounds and immediately thought right I can’t over take so I’ll go off with this group that were heading in a different direction. I wasn’t sure of the ‘hunting country’ as I had only been out with this pack once before with friends and didn’t actually know anyone out.
We went for a gentle canter along the cow field on top of a hill, as we approached the fence line there were a few horses crowding. One lady then went into the back of us which really irritated the (horse). He walking backwards down the hill and rearing out of frustration as everyone had stopped in anticipation of jumping some rails. At the time I didn’t realise I had gone off with the jumpers. Normally I would be the first to go off jumping with eagerness on Boadie my horse but I had only just sat on this beast and didn’t feel comfortable jumping a set of sizeable rails going downhill at an angle just yet…!
The (horse) continued to get frustrated and the rearing increased. My first thought was he just wants to jump so the ‘fuck it’ expression came out. The horse in front bucked the rider off on approach to the jump and then jumped and cantered off. It was a bit crazy, so I wasn’t waiting around for the (horse) to continue getting impatient so we made our way and jumped the rails! All I kept thinking was I know this horse has a huge jump ‘hold on’ but to my surprise we jumped & landed lovely. A few strides coming away from the jump as it was downhill he plunged his head right down so far that I had absolutely no strength or ability to pull his head up. I tried to sit back holding on to just the buckle looking down at a headless horse and then the humping started & I was in the air.
I still remember holding onto the buckle and going ‘up’ with gravity and him continuing humping downhill which then pulled me to the ground faster. It had been a very dry summer so the ground was very hard, a lot harder than home ground but it was also rutty which was not ideal, we should not off have been jumping!!!!
Hitting the ground was hard, like hitting concrete. Holding onto the buckle had flicked me upright so my right leg took all the impact as it could have easily been my head. (I have landed on my head a few times in the past) People ask did you feel the pain instantly or was it delayed? It was instant!! The grass was dry, the ground was lumpy & bare, grabbing the sprouts of grass between my fingers like I was holding onto dear life, my entire body throbbed. Similar to having birthing contractions with no drugs and no gaps. I rolled onto my side screaming still holding onto the grass trying to cope with the pain, pain which I have never experienced before. It made childbirth to two 9ib babies a walk in the park, breaking my other knee 2 years before seem nothing in comparison.
The screaming and swearing profusely had become uncontrollable. It was like my body had been taken over & I couldn’t feel my bottom half it was so painful. By this point people had come over. I laid very still as I couldn’t move from the pain, that’s when I heard my friends voice.
‘Stay very still’ my friend said, voices talking its all a bit of a blur at this point. I remember hearing the boys playing over by the hedge and asking if they were ok. Being told to stay very still, I was dizzy & dripping wet from sweating and I was uncomfortable. I knew I had broken my leg as when I landed and rolled over I could see my leg facing the wrong way. My head was banging & I couldn’t lift my head off the ground – I couldn’t move anything but my right arm. I wasn’t scared though I just was in shock it just didn’t feel real.
999 was called and the air ambulance was on its way. We waited for a while but there were technical faults with the helicopter so an ambulance was sent out but due to the location it took some time for them to find us. I think it was about 1.5-2 hours till I was in A&E from falling. Laying on the ground feeling my whole body tremble not knowing what was going on. I remember not really thinking much other than trying to focus on managing the pain. Concentrating on my breathing as my pain relief. Focusing on breathing out and pushing that pain away.
When the paramedics arrived they first started to assess the damage by asking what parts of my body I could feel. They kept asking me if I could feel my toes (on my right leg) luckily I could, just! I was soon wired up with morphine but it took time for them to find a suitable vein. I knew my veins would be small because I had been a blood donor for 8 years and knew that unless I had drunk lots of water and eaten lots my veins were rubbish. So they attempted in both arms – it was messy there was blood everywhere. But eventually success! I was also given ketamine before I was moved onto the stretcher. My hat was removed and my clothes were cut of. My precious Ariat boots were a topic of conversation I distinctively remember. The paramedics said we will have to cut off your boot. I was adamant that they try unzipping them first. They attempted & I screamed, so it was cut off and I cried that bit more. They had been a Christmas present from Max and my Mum which I had been wanting for ages. The paramedic was lovely she said I can see why you didn’t want us to cut them off – it took them ages as the leather was so thick and the close contact to my bone that had actually come out. Due to the design and structure they nip in at the back of your ankle, I’ve always gone with an extra tight boot that then softens over time as I feel more secure when out jumping on uneven ground or when my horses spooks it just gives me that extra support which I feel the Ariat boot provides perfectly.
After the pain relief was administered apparently I was talking all sorts of embarrassing stuff, we were trying to keep the spirits high by having a giggle as my boys were there and I was trying my best to be brave and at least sound like I was ok, so my friend took some pics and I was like ‘I’ve got this’ I’m a strong woman. Being moved onto the stretcher was agony! As I kept complaining about my knee, when they thought it was just my ankle as that’s what was sticking out.
I had never travelled in an ambulance before until now. I had been to A&E a handful of times with previous riding accidents but none so serious. Flashbacks of the sheet lighting on the ceiling, every bump in the road vibrating through my body like it was a bumper car, the noise of the siren & my friend holding my hand for comfort talking sweet nothings to me – those sweet nothings were everything XX
Going into A&E and looking at at the sign as I was pushed through the doors fading in and out. Being taken into one of the A&E rooms and being assessed including a full body scan was when I found out the amount of damage I had done and the severity of my injuries. I fractured my pelvis twice (one was an old injury that I didn’t know about) plus a distal femur compound fracture, a rotation fracture on my knee and compound fractured to my tibia and fibia both of which had gone out the door to the outside of my leg. My knee had twisted on impact and fractured and the impact had gone up my leg to my pelvis. They told me they only see the distal femur fracture on high speed car accidents and is a fairly uncommon fracture as its the hardest bone in your body & so the hardest to recover from due to the density of the bone. I was so drugged up a lot of it is a blur but I remember the consultant was a very tall man with the biggest softest hands & stroked my arm comforting me as I had the odd tear roll down my cheek. The words “we are going to do everything we can to save your leg but you have done a lot of damage”. Our first priority is to manipulate your leg so that the blood supply to your foot is not compromised as its been left to long in this position your foot my die and we need to deal with this now.
The words ‘we will try to save your leg’ went round and round in my head but the drugs just kept me in that ‘is this really happening’ state of mind. It was like watching a film and it wasn’t really happening to me.
The time came to manipulate my bones back into place and I was now very much aware this was not a film & this was very much happening. I was given a sedative to help with the pain and asked if my friend could stay with me. It took 30 minutes to pull my bones into a position that improved my blood supply but also allowed them to put on a temporary cast before my surgery the following day. My breathing had gone right down and apparently I passed out 3 times over half an hour. The pain was like nothing I had experienced before even worse than the accident itself. It was drawn out torture.
I woke up in the high trauma ward hours later bandage up and not really having a clue what was happening. The consultant who came to oversee my injury assessment and how to deal with my injuries wasn’t qualified enough to do all the surgery so they requested a consultant from Brighton who was ‘up for the challenge’ to work together.
Hours went by and family were notified. My husband came the following morning but it was obviously it hadn’t really sunk in for him he was acting strange and distant which upset me even more I felt so alone. They advised me that morning that I would most likely need a few ops. For someone who had only ever been under a general once before after a precious miscarriage I was anxious I didn’t like hospitals, but I had no choice to believe in the surgeons and believe I was in good hands.
The surgery was over 4 hours and was a success. They had managed to secure my ankle, knee & femur working together in one operation. I was told the following day I would not be weight bearing for at least 4 months and that it would be 18 months till I would be recovered enough to go back to normal sport activities like riding. This was hard to accept.
The days after my accident I started to feel very dizzy, and weak. When you fracture your pelvis apparently you hemorrhage. I had lost a lot of blood internally as well as my in my surgery. My blood count dropped to 66 over half of what it should of been. They were keen for me to have some blood transfusions but as a blood donor for the last 8 years I was keen to wait and see if I could avoid it. It then got to the point where I physically couldn’t lift my head off the pillow 5 day’s post accident and it was time to have the transfusions my body was so weak. I couldn’t eat for days, I just felt frustrated that my body wasn’t strong enough to recover without help but relieved that I would start to feel more human soon. I then came down with a fever due to the transfusions but also the metal objects in my body. So I continued my stay in the high trauma ward. Being in the high trauma ward was actually more frightening than the accident itself. I remember feeling so emotional about the patients around me & watching them dying. It was a dark time.
8 days in hospital 3 hours away from home was tough. I missed my family & my fur babies. I was transferred by John Radcliffe ambulance home the following Sunday. Stretchered off and put into my wheelchair for the first time in my kitchen. I cuddled my family and burst into tears. The overwhelming feeling of being home was too much, seeing my beautiful girls wagging their tails and sensing something wasn’t right but so happy to see me and yet so careful. What I love about my home is who I share it with having my family with me was the comfort & support I needed.
For the first week my Mum stayed to help, each day was a struggle physically but also mentally. Little things like going to the loo, making a cup of tea & getting dressed were challenging and impossible. For the first 7 weeks I had to sleep in the living room I felt so vulnerable with everyone visiting and sleeping downstairs it was hard to adjust too. The household become fructuous. The first week after my accident apparently Oscar cried each night as he blamed himself for what happened. We explained that it was an accident and it was my decision to go. The boys had to get used to seeing their mum in pain & in a wheelchair. Someone who is normally so hands on and active it took some time for them to adjust and I don’t think they ever go used to it.
My Mum was dealing with her own problems within her relationship and after a few week’s Mum had gone back home. The day before Mum went home I had my first ‘outing’ which was to go and see my horses and say goodbye. A friend had offered to look after them and picked up all 4 the day after my accident. I was so very grateful to her. A friend which I didn’t feel I had that type of relationship with who had her own family worries went out of her way to look after them for me for 4 months of which I am eternally grateful for XX
The doctors had told me I wouldn’t be riding till 18 months after my accident, I knew Windsor had to be PTS and I felt it wasn’t fair to leave Boadie in a field on her own for 18 months so I had to say my goodbyes and make arrangements. Saying goodbye twice over was the icing on the cake, my heart couldn’t deal with the emotional loss. Windsor was my dream but he was also the sweetest horse you could ever meet. My friend wheeled me across the paddock to see him over the gate. It was agony emotionally but also physically a struggle but I needed to do it although I wasn’t ready. By this point I could already see his hind area had weakened and he was severely lame. I sobbed I knew this was the end X
I went to see Boadie who was in the stable because as usual she kept jumping out of the paddock and it was becoming dangerous so she was kept in until I could find someone to loan or buy her as I wasn’t sure when I would be well enough to get back on. The wheelchair and crutches were just too much for her to accept even though it was me, she could sense who I was, but as she is a very sensitive mare I struggled to get close to her this upset me even more. I stood up on crutches stroking her face, her eyes were wired and I felt helpless like I had failed them both.
The following morning, I was alone for the first time and just felt like I needed to scream! I sat in my wheelchair hugging a cup of tea and cried feeling completely helpless & frustrated. That was the morning Mum and I fell out and we didn’t talk for 6 weeks. This was the point where I felt my life had hit rock bottom. I know some people go through worse things in life but at that point I had never been so low. I remember literally crying all day. Max came back from work early so we could talk and discuss how we were going to cope logistically as a family.
October 5tha day I will never forget, I thought I had prepared myself emotionally for loosing Windsor as I knew this day was coming for 6 weeks, but it was so much harder than I had expected. I sobbed for day’s downstairs in the living room cradling my duvet, trying to hide myself away from everyone as I was still sleeping downstairs by this point.
One touch is all it took, to make this girl fall in love with you. A soul so innocent and pure, could be seen by anyone who met you. Your kind eyes and loveable nature will never be forgotten. You were my childhood dream, my real life unicorn, my angel now at rest X
Days went on by feeling so low, I knew I needed to try move on so that my body could concentrate on healing my wounds physically but, also mentally. 2018 was a hard year for us I was so emotionally drained I felt completely empty like I had no energy to cry, I felt numb.
I started to try focus on my drawing something I am so grateful to be able to do. I’m not really a watcher of TV only films and the odd series and I find reading books quite boring. Drawing was something I could do that I felt like it was an escape from the shit I was having to go through. When I was drawing I could have been drawing before my accident. I wasn’t thinking about my accident, Windsor or my Mum I was thinking about the drawing & concentrating on improving my skill focusing my thoughts on something positive. My pad and pencils were a major part of my recovery and I don’t think I would have been so mentally stable if I didn’t have a creative outlet.
Over the following weeks I had several hospital appointments x-rays, consultations, cast changes, stich removals & physiotherapy. Each appointment was eagerly anticipated; each appointment was that bit closer to recovery. Seeing my scars for the first time was nerve wreaking, I remember feeling physically sick the thought of seeing them. Not seeing blood or a cut because I’ve never been the squeamish type but seeing the scars on me that I now had to live with. The thought that my husband might find them a turn off scared me. The nurse said she had never removed so many clips (staples) from someone in one sitting. After the nurse left the room the tears started to roll. It was another hurdle to get over accepting my scars. My legs had always been the part of my body I was confident with, not anymore.
At around 8weeks I had my follow up appointment with my consultant to discuss my X-rays and recovery rate. By this point I had spoke to 4 different consultants across 2 different hospitals. Originally I was told that due to my age and healthy active life especially having strong legs from riding I should recover quickly and be starting to weight bare by Christmas. I quickly clung to this deadline and had this vision in my head of me being independent and mobile by December. Due to the amount of trauma I had done the x-rays had shown my body had struggled to heal everything at once. The week before my appointment I was feeling positive in the anticipation of being able to start partial weight bearing and getting back on my feet and starting to feel like me again and not just existing. They broke the news that it would in fact be at least another 2 months wait to see how my body heals before I can be up on my feet. They told me I wouldn’t be back riding till at least a year to 18 months’ post accident.
I knew I should have been grateful that my injuries were not partially permanent & my life could be worse but for someone who pretty much lived outside never asked anything from anyone it was tough to accept.
Physically it was painful doing all the ankle and knee stretching and exercises but I can deal with the physically pain, mentally I struggled. I felt completely deflated, bored, lonely, fed up and numb. I missed the dreaded school runs, the mucking out on a cold frosty morning, and the mundane food shop. All the things that were everyday tasks that I rushed to do before so I could get on with other things in life, I missed. It was the feeling of purpose. Feeling needed, feeling like I was contributing to my family.
It was at this point I started to look into alternative therapies to see if I could help improve my healing rate. The consultant was skeptical when I asked if there was anything else I could do to help as I already lived a healthy lifestyle of eating well, no real smoking or drinking. So I started to do some online research. This was when I realized there was only a few ‘post accident blogs’ on leg fractures on the internet.
I was so keen to find out what I could do to help my recovery. I came across lots of different suggestions along the lines of vitamin supplements, bone broth & marine collagen. I needed something! My skin had never looked so spotty. I was covered with spots around my mouth and had huge clumps of hair falling out each day. I took as many supplements as my body allowed. But it was the Arc4Health tissue repair kit technology & the hyperbaric oxygen therapy that really helped towards my recovery. Everyday for 5/6 weeks I was taken to the nearest MS centre where I joined MS patients, cancer patients & professional footballers on an hour and half daily therapy. Each session was exhausting it was like going to the seaside and getting that clean air daily it hits you like a brick wall. I’m not sure if it was a placebo effect but I felt better for investing time and money into both treatments plus it was getting me out the house anyway and the patients were so supportive.
Week by week I gradually improved with weekly half hour physiotherapy sessions gaining 10degrees bend in the knee & ankle each week. It was a hard slog and still to this day I am unable to completely bend my knee and unfortunately I will never be able to bend down, squat or kneel on my right. I had 4 hydrotherapy sessions which were great at the time but didn’t feel it helped my recovery overall. It was the rigorous frequent exercises that I hated and still do that got me back on my feet sooner.
It was December 14th and I was finally given the all clear to start partial weight bearing! In my mind I thought it would be so much faster than it was so I had Max box up the wheelchair out of determination I would no longer need it. Day by day slowly putting weight through my leg got that bit easier. I had a goal that I would be walking for Christmas which I achieved just! Along with a gift from ‘Joules’ a brand I had loved for years so this really boosted my spirits.
I also found out that the (horse) I had my accident on continued to be a handful after my accident and actually eventually tipped up on a metal gate with my friend’s husband and landed on him. They decided to get the vet out and found out that his back was full of scar tissue and so he was in pain when jumping. He went onto have box rest and has been off work since last year – he was also sold from the same dodgy dealer Windsor was from! Both vetted, both injured! I felt like I could accept what happened. For months I had flashbacks of the accident blaming my riding or thinking was there anything I could have done different still not knowing the horse. I knew then it wasn’t malicious.
Over a period of about 3 weeks I worked hard on my physiotherapy & went from non weight bearing to being able to walk / hobble around our paddocks, I felt this was enough movement for me to attempt to look after my girls so they could finally come home.
Getting back in the saddle
My friend who had very kindly offered to look after them brought them home 11thJanuary a date to remember for a few reasons. I was anxious but relieved when they walked off the lorry. It was like another hurdle had been overcome and normal life was in touching distance. I remembering thinking will they remember me? Will they remember home? Boadies condition was very poor she had never lived out over winter before and was so lifeless and not herself I felt like I had failed her as an owner, the first time she walked over to me in the field I just burst into tears. I just kept thinking to myself if I hadn’t of been riding ‘that horse’ that afternoon she would never have been in this condition. Due to her lack of spirit and unusual placid behavior in a funny way helped us bond back together. I spent time hand feeding her 3 times a day, handling her was easy it was like she knew I was injured and was attentive to my needs.
As Boadie gradually put on weight and her condition improved I become stronger on my leg and eager to get back on board. A friend from the village had offered to come over and help me get back in the saddle when the time was right. I had no fear of getting back on, only excitement. I think if I had of had my accident on my own horse this may have been a different situation. February 18thwas the day I finally got back on. I slowly pulled myself up onto my girl and the overwhelming realisation that I was back in the saddle came tears and lots of them. Lots have asked me how did you overcome my fear of getting back on. I never had fear luckily, it was the fear of not been able to get back on that played on my mind. Riding to me is like breathing. The first few times I was sensible and rode out with a friend from the village for morale support and incase I couldn’t cope. But Boadie was brilliant for a horse that hadn’t actually been sat on for 6 months I felt like I could trust her to look after me.
Since then I have not put myself under any pressure to ride X amount of times a week or forced myself to ride in horrid weather to keep her fit for hunting/ jumping etc We are just enjoying gentle hacks until I feel ready to go up a gear.
I still think about my goals that I had set myself last year and keep telling myself to dream another dream but it just doesn’t seem to happen. The more I suppress it the more I think about it. So much has happened over the past year people always say everything happens for a reason but I’m still trying to work out what those reasons are. I feel it’s a constant battle in my mind that I have to turn what’s happened into something good, helping my mum, my artwork, being able to work with some of my favorite brands which I still don’t understand why they approached little old me… Or is it just understanding yourself and appreciating what you can deal with when life gets tough…and that you can overcome anything when you believe in yourself….
Thank you for reading
Much love always