I had a bad riding accident coming off a client’s horse on the 14th of August and have been off work since. It’s been my worst tumble yet, and I’ve had a few bad ones, including another surgery in the past to repair my knee, various stitches, a chipped nose, soft tissue damage, back injuries, the list goes on.
Unfortunately, I landed hard on my left arm, breaking it, and was kicked in the back as I came off resulting in an additional four badly broken ribs and a punctured lung which ended up partially collapsing. I was wearing a solid, up-to-standard back protector at the time, too, just to give you an idea of the impact!
It’s been an incredibly difficult time. There were lots of complications in hospital, my time in the receiving ward was traumatic to say the least with a few incidents, but I was fortunate to be moved to another ward after my first two days for the remainder of the week. My operation was repeatedly delayed and there were bigger risks with it potentially blowing the hole in my lung larger, resulting in needing a chest drain. I was terribly sick post-op, and had problems with pain relief working after my nerve block wore off. Being in hospital during a pandemic is also not an experience I would wish on anyone.
The camaraderie felt in the second ward I was moved to was unlike anything I’d ever experienced in my life, however. It wasn’t an orthopaedic ward so everyone was there for different reasons. Some incredibly strong women, each dealing with their own struggles came, and were discharged over the course of my stay there. We all spoke kindly to one another, sympathetically, shared the little triumphs, the things most of us take for granted, and saw each other at some of our worst times during our stays. We comforted, shared sleepless nights, and compassion in a time of need.
My departure was bittersweet. I was glad to be going home. I felt deeply fortunate to be well enough to do so. My heart felt heavy however getting to walk out those doors and leaving friends behind that were not so sure when they’d get out themselves or what kind of life lay ahead of them when returning home.
I never anticipated not returning home that Friday morning when I left my apartment. You forget that everything you do could be the last time you do it. You forget how easy and effortless some things feel to do until you can’t do them any more. You forget how a little kindness can light up someones world in the darkest of times.
Two weeks ago, I had my 12 week post op x-rays, so I thought now would be a good time to give everyone an update. The break in my arm is healing well with the plates, but I have a trauma-related frozen shoulder which is making any degree of movement very difficult. The previous x-rays I was shown of the break were four days post-accident, so I wasn’t shown the x-rays of the initial break when I first arrived in hospital until last week which explains how weird my arm felt as it had been shunted right up past my ball joint! The images below are from day one, day four, and post-surgery.
The humerus shifted back into place itself over the course of the four days it was left as I had to sleep upright with my lung/ribs so gravity and me moving it about helped it come back into position. I was incredibly lucky the bone didn’t come out through my arm pit on impact.
I have struggled a bit mentally over the last 14 weeks. Horses are my life, being unable to work has been hard, not earning is stressful when you’re self employed, and I’m still not able to drive as I can’t reach the gear stick with my arm or hold the steering wheel well enough (otherwise I’d be back teaching).
I’ll never get full range of movement back in my arm, but even getting close will be a huge challenge due to the location of the break and the plating now up near the shoulder joint. I’ve been told I might need another operation next year to remove the plate and screws if they’re still causing problems. It’s a very rare place to break a bone apparently (at the strongest point!) up at the head of the ball joint. Physios have said it’s usually seen in elderly people with more fragile bones, and as a result, they’re used to getting people well enough to do basic household chores, and not the level of activity that I need to get my life back on track.
There could still be nerve damage we’ve yet to discover but it’s early days to tell much. Physio was through brief video calls due to COVID, and of minimal help when I’ve been in need of hands on therapy but I’m super grateful to now have secured in-person weekly visits to get me back on track.
Thankfully my pneumothorax has healed and my ribs only cause the occasional pains which is funny as I felt these were the worst to deal with in the beginning!
I will get back in the saddle again but there’s obviously a bigger risk now and I’ve been told if I fall on my arm again and break the plate or my arm below the plate (a new weak point), I’m in big trouble. This might not seem like too big a deal but when you’re self employed and you think about the unpaid time off, the thought weighs heavy. Many people have asked now, “has it knocked your confidence?” and the answer is, not at all. I miss riding. Accidents happen. It’s a risk we all take when we get on a horse. I did all my necessary checks with the horse and it was an unfortunate unforeseen mental trigger we discovered later on that set her off broncing. I was wearing full protection that took the brunt of the impact but not enough to save my ribs. I feel very lucky, as an inch to the left and it would have been my spine that caught the impact!
Despite all this, the ups and downs, the adapting to having an arm that’s a bit useless, the long road to recovery – I’m trying my damned hardest to stay positive. I’ve found even logging on to Facebook/email and responding to messages quite hard so I have to apologise for the lack of communication. I had intended to keep my page updated while I was off but obviously motivation has been at an all-time low.
I’ve been so lucky to have the support I do from my partner who I live with, my family, and friends. I’ve also been painting lots of lovely commissions that has been helping pay the bills, and that has allowed me to see a sports therapist in person recently to try and get some help moving my arm again (facebook.com/artbymegansimpson if you want to take a look)!
My aim is to get well enough to drive short journeys again by mid/end of December so I can return to freelance coaching.
I’ve got a slightly new direction that I’d like to take my business next year, something I’ve been working on for a long time and if I can get my arm strong enough to do it, Megan Simpson Equestrian will be able to give so much more back to your lovely horses.
For now though I’ll be aiming to get more active online hopefully in the run up to getting back to work.
I’ve learned a lot these last 14 weeks. I think this whole situation has made me realise the importance of letting go of things I can’t control, and making the most out of what I can do with what I have.
Give your horses an extra hug for me, and I hope to see some of you again soon when I’m back out there.