It's hard to believe that it all happened a year ago today. I'd been looking forward to 5th August as the weather forecast predicted a hot week of sun starting on that date. My riding buddy, Ellen, and I went out for a lovely hack on our horses, down to the water's edge in Reddish Vale Country Park. We noticed that our horses were both a little skittish and took it slowly. I am a very cautious rider, particularly as my horse, Sid the Sod, is a twit who jumps at anything, even his own shadow, but for the last couple of weeks we'd been cantering up a field in the park, something that I did not normally do. On this particular day just before we went into a canter I noticed a large man with a large stick and 2 large rottweilers. Ellen led the way into a canter but Sid would only trot so with one kick I had him up and running, but he reared and accelerated, making me lose my stirrups and eventually my hold on the reins too. I screamed to Ellen to stop as Sid never overtakes the leading horse but he swerved and went into a gallop. By now I could see the whites of his eyes and I was bouncing about in a tight ball, trying to stay on him. After a quarter of a mile I came off him and still with my body in a tense state I landed in the long grass, the centre of my back taking the full force. My head, legs and arms didn't even touch the ground. I was not even winded. After a minute the pain started to kick in and the adrenalin rush had me jibbering nineteen to the dozen as Ellen told me not to move. As she phoned for an ambulance I had already made up my mind that it would take me 10 minutes before I was back on my feet and riding the horse to his field. It took half an hour for the ambulance guys to reach me, across a rough field, by which time I had hundreds of ants crawling all over me, up my nose, across my eyes and in my hair, and many of these critters ended up still with me as I lay in A and E in a curtained cubicle, all alone, still strapped to the stretcher, hungry and scared for 2 hours.
I was begininning to think that I had been forgotten when a porter came and asked if I was OK, went and fetched me a sandwich and lent me his phone so that I could call my 88 year old mother to collect my child from summer play scheme. 'I had a fall' I told her 'and I need you to take her home. I'll be back later this evening'.
4 hours after the fall I was wheeled to X-ray then into a ward where I was left alone for another hour and told not to move a muscle. Eventually a consultant told me that I'd fractured a vertebra and those words meant nothing to me at all. 'OK, so can I go home now?' I asked. They needed to keep me in for anything up to 12 weeks, I was told.
My tearful daughter arrived that evening. It must have been an awful shock to see me like that, although I felt fine, not ill, no longer in pain, just wanting to get home to look after her. When the lady serving supper came to my bedside and said to me 'Aw, did you know you'd broken your back when you fell?' the extent of my injuries hit me at last.
Being a vegetarian in one of the worst hospitals in the north west for 6 days was beyond belief. I was given chicken for each meal, remained unwashed for 3 days until I pointed this out and the situation was resolved when a nurse brought a luke warm bowl of water with a bar of soap half melted in it and left it just out of reach. As I was not allowed to move still I could not reach it and developed a horrendous rash all over my back. I won't even go into the bed pan issue other than to say that I was left on one with my back arched for one and a half hours on one occasion and I put my current back pain down to that experience. A night nurse gave me morphine on my second night there which I said I didn't need, then returned 10 minutes later to give it to me again, insisting that she had not already dosed me.
After 4 days I was allowed to move my legs. After 6 days I was fitted with a back brace, a rather Heath Robinson design with thick metal rods up the back and front and a kidney shaped plastic piece that stuck under the chin and rubbed the skin raw around my neck. Physiotherapists walked me up and down the ward for 5 minutes then left me sitting on my bed. I was dressed and out of there so fast, well as fast as I could hobble, and back in my own bed by that evening. I had lost over a stone in weight and was filthy and angry.
4 months later I was allowed to remove the back brace forever, and a month ago I was discharged from the hospital's 'care'. So today I have been a little emotional, remembering the event, my lucky fall. I was lucky, very lucky. I could have been killed. Worse still, I could have broken my neck.
I have taken this happening and turned it into a positive experience. At the time it happened I was struggling to sell my handmade ceramic pottery, but with a back injury I was no longer able to lift heavy bags of wet clay, and started getting interested in the lovely online bead shops while recuperating on my bed with the laptop. If I hadn't had the fall I would not be making jewellery. I'm thankful for my experience. It changed my life in so many ways. I no longer ride and miss it dreadfully, but I still have Sid the Sod, happy as a sand boy and stuffing his face in a huge field with his mates.