Thursday, December 2, 2010

Hello, Stranger

While I was taking this picture, a strange voice I wasn't familiar with asked me if I was taking pictures of the sunset. Startled, I took my eye away from the viewfinder to see who was speaking to me in my backyard. I saw a slightly familiar figure standing in front of me on my driveway, but wasn't totally sure who it was. As she walked closer, I began to form some level of recognition, but my brain couldn't quite process it all. She looked like my neighbor friend, but she was much thinner and didn't have her voice.

She began talking about her horses, and by their names I knew it was my neighbor friend who sold me two of my horses and taught me most of what I know about horses, but at the same time, it wasn't her. She told me all about which horses had sold, which horses were sent off for training, and which horses she'd be showing in Scottsdale. Amongst all this normal talk, she happened to mention something about being in the hospital.

Several weeks ago I had a bad feeling that something happened to her. Then I didn't see her around for a while and other people were coming and going from her house, some were driving her car. However, a few weeks later I thought I saw her doing her usual horse chores, so I just dismissed my worries as being unfounded.

She relayed her story to me, and I had to keep wiping tears out of my eyes. One day she was simply grooming a horse in the cross-ties, and the horse bumped her hip with its hip, and next thing she knew, she woke up in the hospital with major brain trauma. The horse didn't step on her. That little bump knocked her down hard enough that she hit her head and neck. The blow was hard enough to not only cause bleeding in her brain, but to damage her vocal chords too. She was hospitalized for three weeks and had to have both physical therapy and speech therapy to learn how to walk and speak again.

I'm thinking that helmets don't just have their place in riding, but in working with horses from the ground as well. I started wearing a helmet while lunging the horses after Gabbrielle knocked me down one day by accident. I also keep my helmet on when I groom the horses after riding them. I keep it on when I load and unload the horses from the trailer, and I even wear it when I drive home from trail rides. I feel naked without it.

I told my friend to call me if she needs me for anything. I've always told her that, but she hasn't taken me up on it because she knew how demanding my job was. I told her it really is okay to call me for help now since I got laid off from that job.

Mentally, she seemed the same, except that when I asked her how many horses she has, she said five -- four at home and two in training. She mentioned that her therapists were trying to get her to do math problems, but she refused. I suspect she knows that is her failing, and she doesn't want to give people any reason to keep her from the life she used to have.

This friend is very much like my mother -- independent, strong-willed, sporting a lot of pride. Neither of them like to be checked up on or talked down to as if they are children. It is common for older people to go into the hospital and to be treated as if they are children, simply because the caregivers view them as being helpless and confused.

My own mother went into a nursing home temporarily after surgery, and the nursing home wanted to keep her there because they thought she had Alzheimer's Disease. I corrected them and explained that my mother has a better memory and is sharper than I am, but she's fuzzy at the moment because of all the pain killers. After being treated like a child for just one day, my mother was climbing the walls to get out of that place. I think that caregivers in the field of senior care could use some training on how to relate to people who find themselves suddenly ripped out of the life they once knew due to an accident or health problem, and to stop assuming that everyone over the age of 70 is incapable of thinking for herself.

My neighbor friend had an arrangement with a boarder to do some of the chores around the ranch in exchange for boarding her horse there before the accident.  While she was in the hospital, her son noticed that her horses were getting thinner and the hay was disappearing at an unusual rate.  Her grown kids figured out that the boarder was not buying her own hay for her own horse, but was stealing hay from my friend's horses in order to feed her horse.  I can't believe someone would stoop that low to steal from a critically injured woman and to allow her horses to go hungry.  Her son ordered the boarder to take her horse and get out.

Fortunately, this friend has a strong support system in her family.  She is the one saving grace of this neighborhood, so I want her to continue working with horses and stay healthy and independent.  She said she's been going stir crazy being stuck in her house for so long, and she was out enjoying the sunset too.


Fantastyk Voyager said...

Awww, that's a sad story! I'm wishing her full recovery. Maybe we all SHOULD wear helmets when we go to the barn, not just when we ride.

fernvalley01 said...

How terrible and terrifying! it sure goes to show how quickly a life can change. Glad she is recovering now.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

This story touched my heart. I'm so glad that your friend is on the mend now and that she stopped by to visit with you.
How horrible that someone was taking advantage of her, but it's a relief to hear that she has a great family and hepful support system.

I hope she continues to improve, but I must admit that when you said she has five horses in training, it took me reading that THREE times to finally get it. I wonder if I still suffer some brain damage from my head/face kick back in August?
I still have occasional dizziness and confusion sometimes and have trouble recalling information at times. I guess I could still be harboring some trauma, but I'm still just so grateful to be alive.

But I must say that this friend's experience just makes me feel even more frustrated that some people, who left comments for me on my blog, seemed to blame me for being accidentally kicked by Apache a few weeks ago.

Your friend is an experienced horsewoman and horse breeder and even she suffered a serious injury from contact with a horse. And it wasn't her fault....just something that happened.

Yet when something similar happened to me, I was told I was to blame and wasn't being safe around horses and should probably just give them up altogether!

Either some people are just clueless or are just plain lucky.
Working with horses means you WILL someday get injured. Not if. Accidents will and DO happen while riding and handling horses.

And I agree wholeheartedly that helmets are a must, not only when riding, but when handling a horse on the ground, too.


Leah Fry said...

You make a very good point about helmets being a good idea all the time. I haven't had a mishap on the ground ... yet. Well, except being stepped on. We all know it's just a matter of time.

Funny you should mention your mother's experience in a nursing home. I heard a story on NPR yesterday about how when someone goes in a nursing home, their Social Security checks automatically get diverted to the nursing home. The bureaucracy is such that getting that fixed back to the way it should be is very difficult, and people are literally stuck in nursing homes because they can't get access to their Social Security to live outside one. Crazy old world we live in, eh?

I hope your friend continues to improve.

Cheryl Ann said...

What an interesting story, and yes, what a shame that she was treated like a child! I went through that with my mom. She had dementia and, I could tell you some horror stories about her treatment!

Mrs Mom said...

Prayers for a great recovery from her accident from this corner!!

Nice sunset too! ;)

Sydney_bitless said...

wow! Thats crazy. No wonder you hadn't seen her. But I guess you always have to remember the only thing predictable about horses is that they are unpredictable.

Breathe said...

How frightening! I'm glad she's got a support system in place. Still, it's got to be so disconcerting to lose your grasp on the basics.

I tend to keep my helmet on, once I have it, but I don't really wearing it otherwise.

I think I'll increase my use of it.

IanH said...

I am happy that your friend is back out enjoying her place and horses. There is always hope that the brain will heal over time, if the good Lord is willing.

I keep hearing these stories and am starting to think that i should swallow my pride and get a helmet!

I got tossed about a year and a half ago, and am still recovering from a shoulder separation and banged up hip.

Ms Martyr said...

The first barn I took lessons at had a policy that students had to wear their helmets at all times when working around horses. I noticed boarders didn't have to follow that rule. My current stable only insists on helmets when riding so a lot of the time I haven't been wearing it while grooming. My head sweats so much that I get uncomfortable really fast wearing it. I guess I need to make safety a priority over comfort.

Maery Rose said...

I've haven't been wearing my helmet since winter hit because my head gets too cold. This may prompt me to find a liner. I hope everything turns out okay for your neighbor. And no, I don't get people who are so unfeeling that they could steal from anyone, much less someone who already has enough grief (and probably bills).

Rising Rainbow said...

I do remember you commenting about not seeing your neighbor around for a while. Funny how sometimes we just know when things aren't right.

Glad to hear she is recovering. Sounds like she is a determined woman. That always helps.

I know you're right about helmets. I try to get Lindsay to wear one all the time around the horses because she is especially vulnerable but she won't do it. I can get her to wear one when she rides but that's it.

I don't wear one on the ground all the time but I do wear one on the ground for breeding and for working with youngsters if they are difficult. I wore one with Rhet in those early days, believe me.

Mikey said...

My gosh, what a crazy accident. I hear you on wearing the helmet all the time, even on the ground. That is amazing that it happened that way though, you'd never think something like that would happen. I'm glad she's ok, but that's very very scary.
I do know some barns that are making kids wear helmets as soon as they enter the barn. I wish everyone would do that. At that last gymkhana, Mercy was the ONLY person there wearing a helmet. The only one. I guess parents will wait until a kid dies before they'll learn. I have MUCH anxiety going to those events, not just for my kid, but all the others. I just KNOW it's going to happen. Just thinking about it makes my heart palpitate.

achieve1dream said...

How scary and sad!! I'm glad she's alive and okay. At least she can still talk and walk. She's lucky in that respect, but what a crappy thing to happen in the first place. I would never have thought to where a helmet while grooming. Sure while lunging or riding . . . but grooming?? I'm glad someone was there to get her to the hospital.

And how awful about that boarder. People absolutely disgust me!