Horses, Helmets, and Ladders

I’ve fallen off a horse enough times to know that it often comes at a time when you’re not expecting it. Luckily, I’ve never been hurt. But I did take a spill when I was in my 20s where I hit my head hard enough to decide that it was time to wear a helmet every ride.

Since wearing a helmet, I’ve had more falls from horses and I’ve hit my head at least a half-dozen times, but each time, the helmet took the brunt of the fall and I felt fine immediately after.

There were three times, however, in my non-horse life when that wasn’t the case.

One time I let our nearly-grown Labrador puppies out of the kennel and they went nuts chasing each other. The ground was frozen and icy. I was carrying two buckets of water from the house to the dog pen when one of the “puppies” (he was at least 70 pounds at the time) had his head turned as he ran away from the other dogs and ran smack into me — bowling me over at knee level from behind. My feet went flying and I fell backwards, hitting my head squarely on the hard frozen ground. That was my first concussion. I was dizzy and had a headache for at least two weeks.

The second time I fell and hit my head was when I was coaching volleyball. I was wearing a pair of dress slacks from teaching that day, and when I ran backwards across the gym while I shouted instructions, the heel of my shoe caught the hem of my slacks and down! I went. I’m quite sure I fell on my butt, but it felt like my head was the first thing to hit the concrete gym floor. That was my second concussion and it lasted over a month.

My third concussion happened a few weeks ago, and it’s causing me to take a six-week break from the horses and the computer. Joe and I and one of our friends were working on the roof of the addition to the cabin. We had backed up the truck to below the overhang and put a ladder in the bed of the truck to reach the roof. We had been up and down the ladder a couple of times with no incident when I climbed it, and just as it got to the roof, the ladder went out from under me. I fell and hit the side of my head on the sharp edge of the tonneau cover of the pickup bed wall.

I don’t remember anything about the fall. Joe says I was completely unconscious for two or three minutes, and then incoherent after that. Joe and our friend lifted me into the cab and got me to the emergency room in town. The first clear memory I have of the incident was when I woke up in a hospital bed after being given an IV, MRIs, and x-rays. I did manage to walk out of the ER that night, but I was pretty shaky.

I’m in recovery now with a friend typing this. I have to keep still in a dark room and let my brain rest to be able to heal. I don’t know when I’ll be able to resume work or any physical activity. My bi-weekly fifteen-minute therapy sessions wear me out so much that I need to sleep the rest of the day. My doctor has warned me that the concussion could have lasting consequences and that I should make every effort to avoid ever having another — even a minor one — again.

Last night my son brought me a gift — a construction worker’s hard hat. We had a laugh and then he got serious and told me that he was glad that I was still alive.

I’m not sure what I can do to avoid concussions in the future except be more aware of their possibility. And to always, always, no matter what, wear a riding helmet EVERY time I ride and work with horses.

Because going without a helmet just isn’t worth it.


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