Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Let's Review: I Had This Riding Accident, And...


No, this is not a photo of some Secret Agent gizmo. It's my handy dandy bag o' medical apparatus that I deal with every day. The smaller device near the top left is actually a computer that "talks" to the computer and battery implanted in my lower back (okay, it's in my butt, right near my back jeans pocket). To do this fancy schmancy communicating, I take that thing that looks like it has a keyhole shaped cut-out and hold it over the area where the implant is and then press various buttons to turn off/turn on, increase/decrease the electrical stimulation that's being sent to my spinal nerves. And how does that happen? Well, there are wires and electrodes that run under the skin of my back from the implanted device all the way up to C-5, C-7 and C-9, which are places on my spine where major spinal nerves connect to branches that serve my upper extremities. Oh. And that thing that looks like a Wonder Woman belt is, actually, a belt with a big round magnet on it. That particular magnet also goes over the site of the implant every week or so. It's hooked to a battery pack and transmits energy to re-charge the implanted lithium battery in my behind. There. Was that confusing enough for you? Just think how I felt when I had to learn how to work the darned thing while I was still struggling to recover from the surgery required to burrow all that technology inside me!
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The point of the implanted Nerve Stimulator is rather fascinating. I'll try to put it in terms we can both understand:
The trauma to my spinal nerves caused RSD (now more commonly called CRPS), which is a nerve condition not fully understood. But it leads to chronic, nearly debilitating pain and increasing stiffness in muscles and joints that are affected. Rather than keeping the patient-- that would be ME!!!-- on narcotics indefinitely, the stimulator is used to "occupy" the spinal nerves with continuous low-grade pulses of electrical energy. This works on the theory that a spinal nerve can only transmit one sensation at a time. If it's occupied with an electrical current from my implant, it cannot also receive pain signals from my injured areas and send them on to my brain. If my brain cannot get the message, "Hey, we're hurting down here!" then I won't feel discomfort. I only feel the electrical impulses, which I can control as needed.
I hope that wasn't too Star Trek-y for you!
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If you can tell by the tone of my writing, I tend to make light of all this. But I'll let you in on a secret: There are days and nights when I revisit the whole accident, and how it affected my life, and it's terrifying. Still. That's why it's hard for me to dredge up the whole drama once again. But I also know from some of your emails and letters that many of you have also suffered through scary riding accidents and wonder how to deal with the pain, emotional loss and outright fear that you're now facing. I'm certainly no shrink, nor do I play one on an online horse blog. But I have been through all the stages of loving horses and riding and then being badly hurt and frightened... and then re-evaluating horses and riding all over again. Perhaps I can share what I've been through and it might help another kindred spirit.
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I promise I won't bore you forever with my personal soap opera. But since this blog is supposed to be about my life with horses, I can't continually avoid writing about this particular aspect of my horsey life. So I'll put the saga into 3 parts. Consider this Part 1. Tomorrow, in Part 2, I'll tell you about that infamous day that it happened. Who knows? Now that some time has passed I may have a completely different perspective.
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13 comments:

Nancy said...

Cindy, I am in awe of your courage and tenacity! Living in chronic pain just wears you down. You are a true hero!

Cindy Hale said...

Hi Nancy! I hope you got a chance to read the blog post recently, as I was busy editing while I was writing. Please check now that I'm finished for today.

I really appreciate your support and comments. I don't want my blog to be a downer, LOL! But I also want to show that riders can get over fear-- and many types of injuries-- and ride once again.

Jessica said...

Cindy,

I don't think this topic is a "downer" at all! It's life - and life has it's ups and downs right? If we can laugh at our down times, I think our outlook on life can definitely be more positive.

Thank you for being such a positive voice here too - Since you're someone who's gone through the trauma - and lives with it daily, I don't see anyone better to help encourage the others going through the same thing!

As Nancy said, I'm just as amazed at your amazing attitude!

Sasha said...

Thank you so much for not dancing around the reality that horses can, in fact, be dangerous, and that even the bravest of riders has to deal with fear at some point in their career. And yet, horses are worth it!

I'm sixteen, so people expect me to be fearless in the saddle, but after several broken bones and a complete loss of confidence, I had to struggle daily with being terrified of what I valued most in my life. It took me a year to get "back in the saddle" but now I know that my love for horses is strong enough to overcome just about anything.

What I really wanted to say is, thanks for being an inspiration!

Anonymous said...

Cindy,

Hey! This is the first time I have visited your site, and I'm telling you it's uncanny the timing. I was injured in 2 seperate horse riding accidents, and the second one really did in my confidence. I have been considering selling my 2 young horses, and just keeping the 2 I've had for years. I never knew how much fear could take over your life. But I'm at a crossroads right now as to whether to stay in horses just for the love of it, or to get out because I am too scared to ride anymore, and I have recently been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, which causes tremendous pain.
I think having someone else who knows what I'm feeling to listen to is really going to help me.
Thank you for talking openly about what happened, and how you're coping with it.

Best wishes,
Jamie

Anonymous said...

Your implant sounds awesome! Alittle hardware is a small price to pay for the ability to ride comfortably! I had an episode of back pain made worse by riding. That first post at the trot would determine the rest of my ride...or no ride! I was able to figure out and fix what was going on in my body...amen, or whatever. Now that I'm over 50!, I am well aware of my mortality and the need to take care of myself, but if I ever have to give up horseback riding because of my limitations, it will be because I am no longer able to physically get on! I hope to be able to ride well into my 70's and....?? You are fighting the good fight. Don't think about your accident, think about the good rides, and stay away from "crazy" horses!!

Anonymous said...

I want to say thanks for sharing that aspect of your life with horses. I, too, have to deal with fear of coming off horses and my love for horses. I have cerebral palsy which shows up in the form of muscle restriction of my right side. Just the fact that you share this with the rest of us keeps me going. Thanks a bunch!

Anonymous said...

I'm going to give you a cyber-pat-on-the-back for having the courage to go on with your life after your accident. I read about it in an HI issue. Thankfully, inspite of the numerous falls I've had I've never been seriously hurt like that; merely a bruis or two (probably thanks to the fact that I'm fifteen). But when something like happens, unless you find the courage to pick up and go on (like you have), you'll never become the person you want to be.

My pain might not be physical right now, but I'm faced with the decision to have to sell Sas right now 'cause of financial difficulties, and also the fact that I need to start saving for other things like a car and college. Right now I feel dead at the thought of losing Sas, but I tell myself that I can try to buy her back someday or maybe one of her babies, and I feel better. Sorry for turning this into about me, but I felt like I needed a sounding board.

~Sasafras

saddleup said...

I don't think your post is a downer. I think it's reality, and sometimes we ignore the fact that riding and handling horses can hurt us. That old saying about "the only people who don't fall off horses are the ones who don't get on horses" is true. But horse women are a unique and truly tough bunch, and like you, once you've got the "sickness" you have to keep doing it, even if it requires such high tech hardware. I've fallen hard a couple of times, had broken bones and a few staples as a result. I have nothing but admiration for people who can come back from such a major injury.

Gina said...

Cindy, your blog was NOT a downer.

It's amazing that after such a horrible fall (I read about it in the July '05 HI issue... I think) you're back and riding again. I've had some really bad falls before, and it shattered my confidence to the point where I was just terrified to SIT on a completely bombproof school horse.

I was petrified at the thought of riding in flat classes, jumping, even going for a canter. I couldn't bear the thought of riding out in the fields. I sold Seeker and started riding Bucky instead, and my confidence was awful that summer. I couldn't think about even showing - I didn't show for six months, and when I came back it was to a TINY schooling show with only like five other people. Seeker was pretty sane for a while, but then a youngster got out and had some 'fun' with her and her hormones went haywire. We didn't find out until months later that she was going through false pregnancy. After Ringo had his fun with her, I ended up in the ER twice - once with a severely fractured ankle, a snapped collarbone, and a broken breastbone. The next time, my pelvis got stepped on. I just had too many falls off of her.

The reason I ride dressage now is because two years ago I was too scared to jump a crossrail. Now, I DO have the confidence to jump, I just don't want to.

Erm, that ended up being about me. Basically, long story short, it's great that you're back on your horses and riding, even though you're not in the showring anymore.

Nancy said...

Cindy - definitely not a downer! Hopefully writing about it will be cathartic. It's definitely inspiring to read.

I've been dealing with chronic knee pain, and two surgeries the past 2 summers, that included 2 months on crutches and a month with a cane last summer. Luckily, my knee is doing well, but not the best.

And our weather in NH has been so bad this winter, that I still haven't been able to ride! So I am very nervous about riding again - and i wonder what i am doing with a 3 year old, 17 hand horse! I should have a 20 year old lawn ornament now!

It's so hard when you lose your nerve. Reading about your courage is helping all of us! Thank you for sharing.........

Cindy Hale said...

Thank you for all the comments and support! In a way, this is actually turning out to be therapeutic for me. And heaven knows it's cheaper than paying a psychologist!

Anonymous said...

This is a Mother of a Horse loving female. She (my Daughter) loves horses and taught me to trust the beast. My daughter has been bucked off, drug down the pavement, kicked and bit and all the little nice things horsies do, to their loved ones. She still will not give up and she has pain walking, riding, sitting and all the ect..But to make my point I love her and I love the Beast also they are so giving and kind, who can not love them, eyes so soft and trusting, and they will listen to you cry and cuss and do it very patiently, even if its because of them.. good luck hun and a big hug to your family who love you, she wont change and who would want her to.