So here’s what happened…

Rather than try to explain a lot of times, figured I’d try to tell some of the story here… and hopefully keep up with updates.

A bit over two weeks ago, after coming home from a fun conference, I decided to take the afternoon and head up to the barn to ride.  Didn’t even bother to drop my luggage at home, went straight from the airport… the weather was too nice to spend driving around.

I’d warmed up and had been riding for maybe 15-20 minutes (and took a little break), and then decided to do some more.   There were some little barrels lying on their side, set up as a nice little fence to jump (1 foot, honestly – maybe 18″ at a stretch).  Jumping is something we both enjoy, so it seemed like a fun way to get back into gear.   My horse was perhaps a bit too excited – he sped up a little bit and maybe jumped a bit too high, and then either bucked or tripped after the fence and pulled me forward over his head.   That’s how I fell off – am pretty sure I somersaulted and landed on my upper back.  The torque (not the gravity) caused the damage to my spine.

I was wearing a helmet.  I always wear a helmet.  I have no head injuries, no brain damage.  Enough said.

Luckily there were people nearby to call 911, call my family, make sure I didn’t move around, etc. – I went from the barn to a nearby hospital to meet the helicopter to go to the hospital where I ended up.  Surgery a couple days later – two titanium rods to stabilize the spine – ICU for a few days, and now in a rehab facility to recover and get back to life “as normal”.

I am overwhelmed by the support from everyone – especially during the first few days (the days waiting for surgery and those right after): the Facebook posts came via the iPod my family brought each visit, along with the cards and well-wishes.  The hospital delivered electronic wishes given via their website as they came.  We had the cards and wishes posted in the ICU and have run out of room for them here – good reminders for those days that are harder than others.  I’m told that my situation has been remembered in prayers in churches, synagogues, Buddhist temples and reiki circles – which I find comforting and even a bit amusing (that my friends are so diverse that I can say this, as if sampling from a religious “buffet”).

I am going to try to preserve those Facebook posts, as time permits, in an easy way to revisit them in the future, as I have saved the cards and letters.  Again, I know I will need them.

Many thanks to everyone who has stopped to visit – many days I found it tiring to read even a few pages of a book or a couple of emails… but I could talk with someone for an hour without needing a break.  The mental exercise is just as important as the physical!

For the future – this is what I know now:  the break in my spine was fairly traumatic and likely severed most of the cord.  I have no feeling or movement below my chest at this point, and likely will not regain much more than this.  I have 100% use of my arms and upper trunk, however, and should be able to return both to my condo and work (with a few modifications here and there).

I had a lot of time to think, the day this happened, from lying on the ground waiting for the paramedics to a rather long MRI session.  My “science brain” (to contrast with a friend who blogs about the irrational reactions of the ‘lizard brain’) kicked in right away, to immediately tell me that this is not the end of the world (screaming irrationally solves nothing) but merely a change – and an opportunity to maybe take my work in a different direction.  The science brain has been working hard now and again to keep away the dark thoughts, too.

I fully expect to be angry, to despair, and to have those “I can’t” moments – but I know I’ll have help when I need it.  It’s too bad that we don’t always realize how supportive and wonderful our friends and family are until something like this happens… but it’s so important to be reminded when they do occur.  I don’t think I ever appreciated the meaning of “thinking of you” so much before.

I am a glass half empty person – always have been – but I don’t see this as the point.  It’s not how much you have in the glass that matters, it’s what you have (and if the glass is empty, what you choose to refill it with….)

Hoping to update soon….


7 Responses to “So here’s what happened…”

  1. Aunt Janet Says:

    Thanks Jen that post. It answers alot of questions people have but are concerned about asking. You are such a positive person and I commend you for that. Yes, you will have some down time but with your attitude tose will float away and your positive side wil take over quickly. Yes, this is a changle but I know in my heart you will face it head on and manage any adverisities. YOU GO GIRL. Love, Aunt Janet

  2. Aunt Cheryl Says:

    What a wonderful way of letting all who know and love you , what happened and how you are doing. I knew from the beginning that you were a strong young woman and will make the best of your situation – remember God doesn’t give us anything he (or she) doesn’t think we can handle. Keep up he good work and you’ll be home and on your way before you know it.

  3. Karen Stockstill-Cahill Says:

    Can’t say it enough Jen – we love you! This is an amazing account of your ordeal. You are amazing and I hope you have all the support you need on your “I can’t” days. Thinking of you often!

  4. Tim Pierce Says:

    Thank you for sharing this post, Jen. You have always been one of the strongest persons I’ve known. You are in our thoughts and prayers, and our hearts are with you. -Tim and Lisa Pierce

  5. Curtis Potterveld Says:

    Thanks for posting that Jen! I hadn’t really known what had happened, only what had ben posted to Facebook, and hadn’t wanted to ask if you weren’t up to talking about it. As always, if there is any thing we can do, you have only to ask. I don’t get up you way too often, but when I am I will stop by. And the next time you are down here we will definitely catch up in person. Take Care!

    PS. If you want you can add a wiccan and buhdist (not myself and not the same individual (though that would be an interesting combination)) to the list.

  6. Jen, thanks for posting this – a lot of people at UT have been asking for news about you. I tried to send you an e-mail through your sister’s address, but it bounced. It was just to tell you that you’re in all our thoughts daily, and we’re all pulling for you. If anyone I know has the strength of character to adjust to a change like this, it’s you. Please continue to update on your rehab progress as your time and energy allow.


  7. Bill Cassidy Says:

    Hi Jen

    One of the scary parts about being part of a population is that you’re part of a group whose characteristics are described by a normal curve. The scary part comes when you realize that you don’t know which side of the mean you are on until something happens, like getting thrown from a horse. Then you can make a better-educated guess!

    I have great admiration for your handling of this personal crisis, as evidenced by the writing in your website. Your brain is now an even more important part of what you are, and I know you will use this resource to even greater advantage in the years to come.

    With best personal regards,

    Bill Cassidy

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