April 15th, 2010


Q&A with Pete: What's it like being thrown from a horse headlong into a gate?

A diagram of the forces on the brain in concussion

Image via Wikipedia

Hello folks, I'm here to answer questions about how I almost died. I'll answer the most frequently asked questions here, and you may add your own in comments.
Q: Back up a second, Pete. You almost what?
A: Yes, I nearly ended up dead or paralyzed on Sunday. It was pretty bad. I'm not attempting to minimize those who have actually died or been paralyzed; that is far worse than what happened to me. There are, however, a whole panoply of things that suck much less than being thrown off a horse, knocked out cold, and eventually being carted off to the emergency room in a cervical collar and on a backboard
Q: I'm still confused. I thought Pam was the horse-crazy person in this relationship. I'd always thought that if someone in your family was going to get carted off in an ambulance after an equitational faux pas it would be her.
A: I'm still waiting for you to come up with a question. Seriously though, there's an important difference: Pam knows how to ride horses; I don't. I can walk them around, pick my way along on a trail ride, cool a horse out after its workout. This horse was green--he'd been very responsive to voice commands and ground-driving, being tacked up, having people lay their whole weight across the saddle. Somehow I convinced myself that he'd be all right if I just got up and sat in the saddle for a minute. Pam was reluctant, but agreed that should be okay, as long as I hopped off if anything seemed bad.
Q: That doesn't sound too bad. What's wrong?
A: I've only ever hopped off well-behaved horses that stand still for you to dismount. Apparently hopping off a horse that goes crazy because somebody he thought was his friend is now sitting on him is a somewhat trickier proposition. Don't worry, though, I did end up off the horse very shortly.
Q: Really, what happened?
A: I wish I could tell you. The last memory I have is realizing that he was going haywire, and leaning to the left to swing my way off. The next thing I remember, I was lying on my back, looking across the sacrifice area, holding on to someone's legs, and feeling quite a substantial amount of pain--everywhere--but mostly in my neck and lower back.
Q: You don't remember anything?
A: Not a blessed thing. Pam tells me that I appeared to switch tacks from trying to hop off to holding on for dear life--another rookie instinct that must be overcome by training I haven't had. From Pam's description, a final good buck and turn launched me into a somersault. The somersault might have been okay if I had been able to complete and roll out of it. I have practiced that sort of move in Tae Kwon Do and Aikido. Sadly, though, any hope of finishing the "tuck and roll" gracefully were rudely interrupted by my head and then torso intersecting the plane of the closed metal gate leading in to the turn-out pen.
Q: Your head hit first?
A: Thankfully one piece of equestrian training I have absorbed is to always wear your helmet. I highly doubt I would be typing this account myself if I hadn't been wearing protective gear. If you ride, wear your helmet. No exceptions, no excuses.
Q: Noted; so then what?
A: Pam had been busy answering the same questions that I asked her over and over again, simultaneously trying to direct the rescue crew to the barn. She had to deal with my repeated questions and statements--such gems as
Me: "I fell off a horse?"
Pam: "Yes."
Me: "That was dumb."
All the while she braved dropped 911 calls, trying to keep track of my erstwhile mount that was wandering around dragging his reins, and fending off another curious horse on the other side of the gate who did not seem worried about the risk of injuring me further by pushing on the gate that my concussed head was pressed against.
Q: Wow, Pam is amazing.
A: I agree with you; as a counterpoint, may I only note that she didn't talk me out of this particularly stupid idea I had about sitting on a green horse.
Q: So what happened next?
A: The rescue crew triaged me, got me in the cervical collar and on the backboard. Apparently I yelled about this quite a bit, as it hurt. I don't actually remember this part. It was shortly after this point that I started to get a little more coherent and could begin remembering new things again. To cut to the chase, I was whisked to the hospital, where my dad met up with us to give Pam some backup with the two kids and broken husband situation. They put me in the CT scanner--I only have a vague memory of the cylindrical whirling thing. At some point they authorized some painkillers. Dilaudid [Valium, I believe] actually did nothing for the pain--it just made me sleepy so I wasn't awake to notice it constantly. The next drug they gave me actually did cut the pain somewhat. Head, neck, and lower back were the primary spots that hurt. It wasn't until the next day that I noticed the more odd pains--my right big toe, my left pinky, my jaw--as if I had been punched right in the chin, and other miscellaneous bit players came out to lend their voices to the stars.
Q: So what was the diagnosis?
A: Essentially that I am one extended bruise and strain from tip to stern, capped off by a concussion. Rest, stretching exercises, and avoiding anything that might result in another head injury while I am recovering from this one are in order.

Thank you all for your patience...this is about as much sitting as I can handle right now, so I'm going to do my stretches and call it a night.

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