I'll be honest, it has taken me a long time to sit down and finally put my thoughts into writing on this topic. Over the past three months I have discovered a lot of things about myself due to injury and the forced recovery process that followed. If you don't know, on October 24, 2017 I was kicked in the side while rehabbing an injured horse at work. I was hand-walking this horse when he tried to bolt from me and struck me with his hind leg before taking off. I was taken to the hospital by an ambulance and from there I was airlifted to UNC with three broken ribs, a grade V liver laceration, and fluid building in my right lung. I was wheeled off of the helicopter into a room filled with about 12 doctors, residents, and nurses all surrounding me and asking me questions. To say that it was overwhelming and scary is a huge understatement. Honestly it felt like I was living my very own episode of Grey's Anatomy. The first thought that raced through my mind when I was brought into the room was "Oh my God they are about to bring me into surgery". Luckily that didn't happen but I was taken into the ISCU (Intermediate Surgical Care Unit) and put on lots of monitors. I was far from home, scared, and just wanted my parents to get to the hospital to be with me. Thankfully, my boss Nat stayed with me the entire time at the hospital until my parents were able to get to me which provided me with a lot of comfort through everything. I cannot even describe the emotions that I experienced in this time. Since I was five years old working with horses I have never sustained a serious injury and all of a sudden I was laying in a hospital bed in severe pain and having difficulty breathing or moving because of a horse. I was scared of what may happen to me, whether I would have to undergo surgery (which was TERRIFYING and highly likely), and if any of my injuries would have long term effects. I'm the type of person who likes to have control of situations and know the outcome before it happens and I can tell you that laying in a hospital bed is not a situation that lends itself to my personality. I felt helpless and weak which are two things that drove me to my knees. Every morning I was woken up by a nurse taking vitals, a phlebotomist taking blood (and let me clarify that I HATE needles) , followed by the team of trauma surgeons to check on me, poking, prodding, and asking the same questions on my pain level and if anything had changed. My blood had to be taken every 3-4 hours to monitor my levels to ensure I wouldn't need a blood transfusion or surgery. I was connected to an IV with a pain pump and given too many medications to count causing me to be drowsy all the time. The medications also gave my nightmares, often causing me to relive my accident over and over in my sleep. Needless to say, I didn't sleep well.
For the first day I wasn't allowed to eat or drink anything just in case I would have to be rushed into an OR for surgery. My throat was sore and dry from struggling to breath, spitting up blood, and crying. I hadn't had anything to eat since the morning of my accident and I just wanted to feel relatively normal. After a CT scan I was given a limited clear liquid diet which I can say isn't quite as bad as it sounds when you are really hungry. The days to follow consisted of drifting in and out of sleep, some food when I wasn't on a restriction, a lot of television, plenty of checks from the nurses and doctors, and a constant feeling of hopelessness. Oh, and did I forget to mention that I couldn't shower... Ew! The medications I was on lessened the pain but it was still excruciating to move and getting up from the bed and moving around much was out of the question. I am a very active person by nature and had been working a job where I worked nonstop on my feet, so laying in a bed is not my style. After a few days and many x-rays later the doctors decided that a chest tube was necessary to drain the fluid from my lung to avoid it collapsing. I was extremely nervous about this procedure because you have to remain awake and they do it right then and there in your room. The area was numbed and then the doctor made an incision and pushed the tube between my ribs and into my chest. Despite the pain medications it was still very painful and made me want to jump out of the bed. According to my favorite resident I was a trooper and did very well (although I'm not so sure because I was terrified the whole time). The chest tube just added yet another thing that was connected to me that my parents had to lug around any time I had to move.
Every morning when the doctors would come into my room to check me they always said "tomorrow we will probably have to do surgery," and when the next day came around the answer was the same. I truly believe that it was a miracle that I did not have to have surgery especially since almost all grade V liver injuries require some kind of intervention. I chalk it up to the incredible power of prayer that surrounded me. All of my family, friends, and probably people I barely knew from near and far were sending up their prayers of healing and God surely heard them. I remember going into the room for what would be my last CT scan praying to God "please let me be okay..." and I was. When the doctors read the scan they told me that I would be able to move to a step down room the next day and have my chest tube removed. Even when they spoke of it they seemed surprised that I was healing so quickly and may get to go home soon. My parents and I were so relieved and my mom just cried finally knowing I would be okay. Fast forward to my final day in the hospital which can best be described by one word. Impatience.
I was so ready to bust out of the hospital and sleep in a normal bed and eat homemade food. Even though sleep still wasn't comfortable it was obviously better than sleeping in a hospital bed. I was able to stay at my bosses house for a week while I recovered enough to travel home which I am very grateful for. I had family and friends surrounding me and checking on me, and my own nurse (Mrs. Yvonne a family friend in NC) coming to make sure everything was going smoothly with my recovery. That week seemed to drag by in a blur of pain and pain meds, brightened by my daily, extremely slow, walks to the barn to see Q.
Once I was finally home I began to notice improvements very slowly until I finally started to feel like myself again. I remained home for two and a half months before returning to NC to try and return to work. My first day back to work I seemed to be very nervous when hand-walking the horses from the pastures, even Q. I thought the feeling may pass so I continued working just trying to push through it. As the days continued the anxiety and fear of getting hurt built up inside of me and became overwhelming. I was quite taken-aback by the fear I had developed after my accident. Being around horses most of my life I had never been scared of them and the feeling was devastating. After a few too many sleepless nights I made the impossible decision that to heal mentally it would be best for me to take a step back and return home to focus on just working with Q for a while. I only wish I could ask the horse who kicked me why he did this to me. To make me fearful around horses takes away a piece of my heart that I must now repair and teach to beat again. During this time I found comfort and understanding in the song "Tell Your Heart to Beat Again" by Danny Gokey which I feel encompassed my struggle. This decision was one of the hardest I have ever had to make because I loved the time I spent working at Gavilan Farm and learned so much from everyone there. However, the most important thing for me was getting better mentally and conquering the demons that were so prevalent in my mind. I am so thankful for my time at Gavilan, the incredible people I met, and the learning opportunity that I got to be apart of. I will never forget the lessons I learned there.