Saturday, July 5, 2014

All Hell Breaks Loose

Grandpa dropped me off at the pasture Orion and his new little herd were in. They were all standing close together, grazing quietly.  Orion looked up and watched attentively as I approached.  I set my bookbag, which contained my lunch, a few bottles of water, and some music for the barn, by a fence post and let the fence rails of one section down. I didn't have to go far to catch Orion, and I had to shoo the other horses away to keep them from leaving the field with him.  I tied him to the fence once he was out and quickly put the rails back up.

King of the new herd.
We walked up the road to the barn with no incident.  He was curious of everything, but not alarmed.  We went into the barn, where I tied him, brushed him down, checked and picked out his feet, and did some T-Touch massage to further relax him.  He was very looky, but not nervous of anything.  Even the BO's dog, who'd been lying in an empty stall, unbeknownst to me, didn't bother him when he growled lightly to let us know he was there. He warranted a long, curious look from Orion before simply being ignored again in favor of gazing longingly outside.

After loving on him for a while, I decided to take him for a short walk up to the arena so he could have a look at it.  If I DID end up riding him that day or any other, I planned to start there, so I wanted him to be comfortable there.  I didn't want his first look at it to be while I was on his back, where I know he has less respect for me than he does on the ground.  If anything startled him, I didn't want him to feel alone.  So to the arena we went, where he was curious but completely at ease.  There are a couple of barrels set up in the middle, and I led him over to those so he could inspect them.  His inspection included trying to eat one. -_-  Other than those, the rest of the arena is flat and grassy, with trees/bushes completely enclosing it on all sides along with the fence.  We stayed there for maybe fifteen minutes, while he meandered and grazed.

When it became clear he wasn't worried about this place, I decided to take him back to the barn and start working with the bit.  Remember those goals I posted?  I wanted to get started on them right away.  Feet could wait.  They'd been recently trimmed.  Bitting could not wait, as I planned to start riding him around the property to acclimate him as soon as possible.  At that point, I still hadn't made up my mind if I would get on him that day or not, but I at least wanted to get him to take his bit more willingly than he had on our Sunday ride.

It took a while and a lot of attitude and giraffe-necking from him, but I finally got him to take it somewhat willingly four or five times in a row.  It wasn't perfect, but it was a start.  I planned to come out early the next day and do it again to reinforce the lesson.  

Gazing longingly outside and up the drive, probably wishing he was with the other horses.
By this point, he was taking everything in stride, and I thought it would be okay to ride him for a few minutes.  I wasn't going to push it for long, only maybe ten minutes to the arena and back.  I figured I'd hop on, figure out his mindset further, and stop pushing it if he seemed too skittish, which I didn't think he would be.  There were no warning signs of it.  I thought he might be a little more nervous when I wasn't on the ground with him anymore, there might be some jigging, maybe a little headstrong-ness...nothing like what actually happened.

I took him outside the barn and swung up onto my Western saddle.  That was it.  I didn't have time to get my other foot in the stirrup, collect my reins further, nothing... He immediately started bucking.  Hard.  He's bucked a small handful of times with me before, but there have always been reasons leading up to it, some of them nothing to do with me, and never like this.  Because I had no way to really save myself, I flew over his head, and I landed on the gravel driveway, shoulder first...hard.  Orion stuck around for a minute or two, then trotted up the driveway and back up the road to his herd.

I was left on the ground, crying and screaming...not by choice.  It was like I didn't have control of it.  I have never felt that kind of pain in my life.  I tried to get up, but I couldn't because my right shoulder wouldn't work at all.  Trying to roll didn't work either because I was dizzy and couldn't get my body to cooperate.  So I laid there, hysterical, for two or three minutes before I was finally able to half drag myself back to where my phone was laying on the ground, where it had landed as it fell out of my pocket.  I knew where it was because I could hear my music playing quietly from where it was laying.  Before you think it, no, I do not think the music had anything to do with what happened.  I play music around him all the time, same kind that was playing that day, and he's always liked it.  It's actually always seemed to calm and focus him.  I noticed it when I started playing it while doing ground work and have had it playing when riding him in the paddock at the old barn.  So this day, aside from being in a different place, was no different in terms of the music playing.  I have other theories, but I'll explain them later.

So anyway, I got my phone, took off my helmet, and called my uncle to take me to the ER, because by that point I was starting to think I had dislocated my shoulder.  I then called the BO to ask him if he could catch Orion, check him over, and put him back in the field.  Thankfully he works just up the road, and he was able to leave for a few minutes to take care of Orion.  There was also a neighbor who saw Orion trotting up the road, tacked up and riderless, and when he didn't see me go after him, he drove over to the barn to check on me.  He waited with me until the BO came back with Orion's tack and a couple minutes later, my uncle arrived.  By that point, the neighbor had helped me sit up (I had still been lying on the ground when he got there).  They grabbed my good arm and helped me up, and I was somehow able to pull myself into the vehicle on my own (it's high off the ground).

We went to the ER, with every little bump in the road pretty much causing agony in my shoulder.  They took me in, I told them my pain level was a 9 or 10, they took all of their usual data (my BP wouldn't register on the digital cuff, so they had to use a regular one because it was so low), and then they took me back to a bed for more assessment from more nurses and the doctor.  The nurses were awesome.  One of them came over and offered to clean me up while we waited, as my entire right side was covered in dirt.  In cleaning up my face and neck, she found a nasty scrape on the right side of my neck and a few scratches on my arm.  At some point, the doctor came in and said that based on the way I was holding my arm, I had probably either dislocated my shoulder or fractured my clavicle.

I waited some more, and around the time they came to take me back to x-ray, I lost all peripheral vision.  I told the doctor, and she ordered a CT scan, which didn't show anything.  Concussions usually don't anyway, but it ruled out anything more serious for the moment.  The vision loss lasted maybe 15 minutes before it started to go away.  It took forever for the x-rays to come back.  The doctor was badgering them to hurry up.  She impressed me this time around; I've had her before for other issues and wasn't impressed at all.  The only issue anyone had was that she forgot to give me pain medicine until I'd been there for a couple hours.  I didn't know if they were going to give me any, and honestly I wasn't all there at the time, so while I was thinking clearly about some things, like puzzling over what could have caused Orion's reaction, I wasn't thinking clearly enough to actually ask for anything.  It wasn't until my grandpa and uncle were finally allowed to come back, and I burst into tears upon seeing them, that the doctor remembered she hadn't administered any pain medicine yet.  She obviously felt bad and apologized profusely to me before turning to my family and saying, "She was just being so quiet and brave about it all that I never stopped to think about how much pain she must be in!"

A very short time after that, a nurse came in and gave me a shot in the butt (I HATE NEEDLES).  Shortly after that, I was moved to another section of the emergency room because they had another big emergency coming in and needed the space I was in.  At that point, I was just waiting on my x-rays to come back.  When they finally did, I think I had been there for maybe three hours, maybe a little less.  It turned out to be a clavicle fracture.  They gave me a prescription for some pain meds and an immobilizer for my shoulder, had me wait a while longer, then finally let me go.  But the fun wasn't over yet.  Ohhhh no.  I got to the waiting room and suddenly got dizzy, felt nauseous, lost all color in my face, and (thankfully after they got me a barf bag), got sick.  It was horrible, and I had to go back to ER bed I had just occupied for the last four hours.  They got me crackers and Sprite and sat with me while the concussion symptoms dissipated, including the tunnel vision that had come on while I was getting sick.  Then I got to leave the hospital in a wheelchair for the first time in my life because they didn't trust me not to pass out.

My mom came to check on me that evening (she would have been there before that, but I didn't get out of the ER until 4 and had made everyone promise not to call her until I could do it myself.  She was royally pissed about that, but my reasoning was that she would just be sitting in the ER waiting room not able to do anything, when it had become clear that, while painful, my condition wasn't life-threatening.  I didn't want to worry her.  That logic also may have been skewed by my concussion........)

Mom had to help me get ready for bed that night, and by that, I mean she had to cut off my T-shirt because I couldn't get it off any other way.  When she did, this was revealed.  It didn't hurt, which is why I hadn't complained about it, and there had been no reason to take off my T-shirt at the ER, so no one saw it until this point.  I didn't even know it was there, and Mom almost gave me a heart attack when she exclaimed over it.
The next day I went to see the ortho doctor my mom works for, where I was told that my clavicle "fracture" is actually a really nasty break.  See x-ray picture included with this post.  It apparently snapped and then was jammed together so the ends are side by side instead of connecting.  There are fragments all over the place.  I could feel the ends of the bone, and what I'm positive is at least one fragment, shift and grind together with the slightest movement, no matter how still I kept my shoulder.  It was a weird, awful feeling.  The ortho doc gave me a couple of very light exercises to do so that I can keep the muscles in my arm and shoulder from atrophying as much as possible.

The break and one fragment (perpendicular to the clavicle in the middle of the break) can be seen.  In another shot, another fragment can be seen that apparently exploded with more force and was lodged higher up in the tissue of my shoulder.
Scrape on my neck from the fall.
I have to go back for follow up x-rays on the 14th to make sure it's healing properly, and if it is, I'll not have to have surgery.  All of us wanted to see if it would heal on it's own before resorting to that, as most clavicle breaks will heal without surgery.  And if it does heal on it's own, I won't have to deal with hardware problems later on in life.  It will be two months before I can do normal everyday things that require shoulder movement (like washing my hair with both hands rather than one), and it will be at least three months before I can do strenuous activity with it, such as riding.

Side note:  Grandpa went back to the barn a couple days later to look for my coffee mug that I left there in the midst of all the chaos, and he said my helmet is done in.  It would have been done in from the force of that fall anyway, but most of the black foamy part around the bottom is shaved off on the right side.  Apparently the right side is majorly scratched and scuffed up from where I slid on the gravel as well (this also accounts for the mark on the back of my shoulder, though I have no idea why I didn't feel anything from that).

So, that's the reason I haven't been able to write until recently.  That's what happened.  I'm going to stop here for now, because the next logical thing to discuss is why it happened, which is a long discussion, and this post has already been long enough!  You can look for that in the next day or two.

Poor Harry, waiting to be picked up the morning after and not realizing I'm incapable of doing it right now. :(