The Accident: a not so exciting riding related incident.
So let me explain the events that led to me being here and writing this.
I recently fell from a horse in a jumping lesson, and I have a mid shaft humerus fracture of my left (non-dominant) arm. I have never broken a bone before, and I had no idea at the time what I had let myself in for. I was very much of the understanding that broken bones take around 6 weeks to heal, give or take. So apparently chose the wrong bone to break!
From my research, I gather that horse riding is one of the most common causes of this type of injury, along with other sports, and also slips, trips and falls.
So my fall: I fell from a horse while jumping, at speed, directly onto my left arm and knew instantly it was broken. I referred to this in the title as a not so exciting riding related incident on the basis that nothing major went wrong, the horse didn’t misbehave terribly, nor did I ride badly. It was just one of those things that happens. Horse went around a fence rather than over it, and I didn’t manage to stay with her. I am known for preferring ‘interesting’ or ‘difficult’ horses, so this wasn’t a particularly dramatic event. Just a bog standard fall.
In 2017, I fell off 10 times, and I had been lucky enough to walk away from each with not a scratch. Many of these falls were fairly dramatic, so this fall was not the scenario I would have imagined that would have been the one to break me, but it did. First fall of the year definitely wanted to make a name for itself.
I’ve never broken anything before, and was surprised at how little pain I was in. How did I know it was broken if I had no pain? When I attempted to stand up, I experienced a very strange feeling in my arm. I could feel my shoulder, and my hand, but when I tried to use my arm, nothing happened. It felt like all that was attaching my shoulder to my elbow was a piece of cooked spaghetti! I sat on the riding school floor, and calmly, almost jovially told my instructor that I was fine, but I’d likely need an ambulance as I’d broken my arm. I then calmly asked my friend to give me my phone so I could let my husband know I’d be home a little late. Luckily he probed for more information and decided to come along and meet me at the yard right away.
Ambulance was called, I was given gas & air, and morphine for the pain. I didn’t feel any pain at this point but the paramedic assured me that adrenaline and shock were involved in that and that I’d be glad to have the drugs in my system shortly.
I was taken to A&E in the ambulance, and I was very lucky that the three guys tasked with taking me there were extremely friendly, kept chatting to me the whole way, and even asked to see the video of my fall! This distracted me from looking at the shape of my arm, which definitely was not normal.
Once I arrived at the hospital, I became aware that it would take some time before I’d be seen – it was very busy and they did not have enough beds for myself or the other three people who were waiting in the corridor. A bed was eventually sourced and I was handed over to the hospital staff.
Some time later, after sitting in the hall of the A&E department in a hospital bed, due to no space in the ward, I was examined and then sent for an X-ray. The X-ray confirmed a broken left humerus midshaft, but no nerve damage suspected, as I still had feeling in my lower arm and my hand and wrist seemed to be functioning correctly. The fracture was severe on the X-ray so I was informed that an operation was likely to be required.
My arm was then manipulated into the correct position and put in a splint, from shoulder to elbow. The splint is similar in feel to a cast, but is soft on the inside, to allow for swelling. Having this applied wasn’t fun, and was the most painful experience of my life so far, even with another dose of morphine and gas & air to suck on throughout the process. I didn’t look at my arm as they performed this, but I could tell from my husband’s face that it was not a pretty sight.
A further X-ray then was completed which now showed my humerus in an acceptable position and I was therefore told no surgery would be required for the time being. I was sent home with strong painkillers and told to return a week later for an initial check up.
At this point, in hindsight, I feel that some basic information and guidance would have been useful. I was not advised to stay upright at all times including when sleeping, and they did not explain to me how the biggest factor in helping this type of fracture heal was allowing gravity to do its thing. I therefore went home that night, well the early hours of the next morning by now, and went straight to sleep on my uninjured side. I had no problems dozing off thanks to the painkillers and morphine.
At this point, I was still blissfully unaware of how bumpy and long the road ahead was to be…