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Broken Hip

Posted by greygelding , 27 September 2017 · 29 views

One sunny Sunday in September 2008 we decided to head out to Point Reyes National Park for a picnic ride. I would ride Tess and Pam would take Mayo. The weather was perfect, lunch was packed in a saddle bag, and the horses were in a great mood for the easy ride to Sky Camp for lunch. We chatted happily on the ride and it seemed that nothing could ruin this perfect day. About a mile or so into the ride we were riding in a rut about a foot deep worn into the trail. I stood up in the stirrups and twisted around in the saddle to talk to Pam, who was riding Mayo behind me, something I have done numerous times before. Tess seems to make bad decisions at times and for me this was one of those times. Without warning she just popped out of the trench landing beside it on the left. If I had been sitting in the saddle like I should have been, nothing would have happened and it would have been a nothing event. Instead I was standing in the stirrups twisted to the right, and was immediately launched from the horse. I clearly remember, as I was flying horizontally through the air, looking at my feet to make sure they were clear of the stirrups. Finding myself being dragged by the horse and clearing brush for the next mile or so was a very real and unpleasant possibility. I had no time left to prepare for my landing. I hit with a loud thump on the hard ground, Tess immediately stopped and looked innocently back at me like "What are you doing down there?" Pam knew to ask about me immediately before the ego kicks in "Are you OK?"
"No" was my reply. As I layed there I took stock of my condition. There was a slight sharp pain in my right hip but I passed it off as a bruise. I have a very high pain tolerance and have be able to handle any number of injuries in the past. Slowly I got to my feet, "I'm just bruised, I'll be OK. Let's continue with the picnic". "I don't think so" replied Pam, sitting on Mayo, watching me intently. Two very painful steps later I came to the conclusion that I wasn't alright and the picnic was off. Well, what to do next. We were over a mile from the trailer so I figured to just ride back to it. As I succeeded in mounting a new wave of pain swept over me but it was nothing I couldn't handle so off we went. The motion of the horse was excruciating and about the time I was wondering if I could actually make it to the trailer a wave of dizziness swept over me. I started to tumble out of the saddle. Grabbing onto the saddle with both hands I succeeded in lowering myself into a heap onto the side of the trail. It's never been in me to seek help from others for something I can do for myself, so it never occurred to me to call 911. Instead I came up with another plan. Tess would be tied to a tree, I would make my way to the road, and Pam would ride Mayo to the trailer and come for me. It seemed simple enough. Tess was secured and Pam departed to the trailer. She made the trip as quickly as she could and when she arrived, Mayo started to call for his friend. Finding himself alone he was wondering what happened to his riding companion. She untacked, loaded him in the trailer and headed down the road to find me.
I had gotten to my feet while Pam took care of Tess and waved what I hoped was a cheerful goodbye as she left. Spotting a stick to use for support I tried to hop over to it but quickly abandoned that idea. Lying back down I crawled over to it, a painful process that I didn't want to repeat. The stick wasn't tall enough for a crutch but I would use it for support for the 50 yard trip to the road. Getting back up I started my trek but it was a bad plan. Pain shot through me with the first step and down I went again. I knew I had to reach the road before Pam went by as I couldn't be seen from the road lying on the ground and she would go right on by. Slightly propping myself up I studied the shortest route to the road. It went through poison oak and thistles. Poison oak doesn't bother me much as if I don't scratch it will go away in a day. Thistles are another matter as I puncture just like anybody else, but it was the only way to ensure I made it to the road before Pam came by, if at all. Starting the crawl the leg hurt as I dragged it on the ground. Through the poison oak, and I was stuck by more thistles than I cared to count but weary I finally arrived at the roadside. Lying there with my helmet beside me several passing cars thought I was a bicycle rider, asked if I needed assistance then went on their way. Two horse trailers came along and asked if I was alright. I stated that help was coming but spotting Tess tied to a tree in the distance, they pulled over a little farther up the road and walked back to assist me. I don't know who these angels were and never thought to ask their names but they were a tremendous help. They vocalized what I was reluctant to admit to myself, I had a broken hip. When Pam arrived, they stopped what traffic there was, brought Tess up and untacked her so Pam could load her, and they helped me into the truck. What I used to think was a fairly smooth riding truck seemed to accentuate every bump on the road to the hospital.
I'm sure from the stares we received that there aren't too many horses visiting the emergency room entrance. Pam brought a wheel chair and one of the staff took one look and rushed out to help. I was immediately admitted and hustled off to X-ray where the broken right hip was confirmed. Where the ball, that fits into the hip socket, attaches to the leg bone, it was broken off and hanging on by a thread so to speak. They wanted to operate but I was hungry after the accident and ate a candy bar so they would wait until the evening to operate. The doctor explained that he was going to place the ball back into place, securing it with 3 titanium screws. If the blood flow resumed then all should be OK but if not I'll require a hip replacement. Pam left to attend to the horses while I lounged around awaiting my fate. I shared a room with an older gentleman who also had a broken hip, already repaired. He moaned and groaned loudly and constantly pestered the nurses for more medication. Me, being me, I was joking with the nurses and doctors who would look in on me, after all it's not like I could jump up and leave. As time approached the doctor came in and marked my hip with a marking pen, to make sure they were working on the proper hip. As they wheeled me into the operating room I must have resembled Mayo on a trail ride. First I would look left, then right, then straight up at the ceiling.
"What are you doing?" Inquired the doctor.
"I'm sightseeing. I've never been in an operating room before and I'm not planning on a return visit. This is my big chance to see one."
He laughed, we swapped a few jokes, he verified which hip needed his attention, and they put me to sleep. I was out almost instantly. That was the most restful sleep I have ever had. From somewhere, way off in the distance, I heard "Come on Mike, time to wake up now."
"No, just let me sleep"
"No you have to wake up now".
"I'm not done sleeping."
They were very persistent so I had to wake up. I guess I was stubborn enough that they were beginning to get worried. Finally they were happy with me and returned me to my room. I laid there pondering my future when a nurse appeared with a plastic device with a hose attached to several cylinders each with a ball inside.
"We want you to inhale deeply every hour or so and see how many balls you can move up".
I tried it out and all the balls shot up to the top.
"Wow! You have a good set of lungs there."
"Thanks, I used to be a long distance runner. Why am I doing this anyway?"
"It helps prevent you from getting pneumonia."
I did it every 10 minutes, pneumonia was something I wasn't going to bring home from the hospital. I drifted off to sleep and about 2 hours later I awoke to someone taking my pulse and blood pressure. She offered me some pain medication which I declined. Two hours later the procedure was repeated as well as every two hours until breakfast. I always declined the pain meds and faithfully used the plastic lung thingy. When morning came I was visited by a few doctors and nurses. They asked how I was and if I needed any pain medication. Then they would stay for a few minutes and we'd talk and swap a couple of jokes. Apparently having a non demanding patient who seemed to be almost enjoying himself was a rare thing here, almost a tourist attraction.
As I was finishing breakfast my the doctor arrived.
"Looks like your appetite is in fine form" he stated taking a glance at my almost empty plate. "How'd you like to go home around 11 o'clock this morning?"
"You bet I would! You wake a fellow up every two hours around here! I could use a good nights sleep."
He started to explain about the need to check my vitals, then he remembered my sense of humor and grinned at me.
"As long as your appetite is good and I see it is, you have the two signs of life in the bathroom, and you can demonstrate that you can use the crutches, home you go. We need the bed" he stated with a grin.
Pam had joined us for the last part of our conversation. And knew I would be on my way home soon. Not having taken any pain meds, my appetite and my bodily functions weren't affected at all. As for the crutches, I spent some time on them in my youth so there was no problem there. My instructions were 6 weeks with no weight at all on that leg, return for X-rays, then 6 more weeks with gradually increasing weight bearing starting with a toe touch only. Pam took me home, tucked me in, and was really in her element now. She enjoys nursing something back to health. She took excellent care of me while continuing to work full time at her job. I don't know how she did it. The only time I took a pain med was after the first night home. When I woke up the next morning I couldn't move. The medication from the operation had worn off and I was feeling the effects of the body slam I had endured. One pill and I was mobile again. I didn't take another as I've always felt that pain was the way to tell that you shouldn't be doing something.
After a couple of weeks I could stand it no longer, I just had to go see Mayo. Pam drove me up to the stable and walked Mayo up to truck window to me. He stuck his right in the window and seemed happy to see me, of course the carrot I had with me might have had
something to do with it. She took me up a couple of times a week and I was a happy camper.




October 2017

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