Shock Trauma Firsthand

I’ve always wanted to go on a helicopter ride, just not in a horizontal position! This past Sunday I went horseback riding on a narrow, steep trail and the horse lost his footing. I was thrown off and went flying in the air, and when I landed on the ground started to roll. Fortunately, of course I was wearing a riding helmet. My rolling was stopped by a small tree. At some time after the initial impact my helmet flew off. I lost consciousness and when I came to I was on my back, up against the tree and my legs and arms felt numb. “Oh no, I might be paralyzed,” I thought and I began to furiously wiggle my hands and toes. Thankfully the feeling returned. While my legs and feet were not in pain, my arms and hands were hurting in a big way. They felt as if they were on fire, and even a touch to my arm felt like a shock of electricity. I learned later that I had pulled so hard on the reins I broke the horse’s bridle.
You are always told not to move if you think you may have injured your back or neck. I learned firsthand the importance of this advice. I tried to stay as still as possible. A saddle was propped under my head to keep my neck in a stable position until the paramedics arrived. 911 was called and the Anne Arundel FIre Department responded quickly, hiking through the trail with their equipment that included a stretcher. I don’t remember everyone’s names but I do remember that the lead tech’s name was Patrick and that he was very reassuring. They positioned a cervical collar, bound me to the stretcher and told me they were putting me in a basket for transport and that I would then be placed inside a helicopter to be flown to the Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore which is adjacent to the University of Maryland Medical Center. For a few moments I had a vision that my basket was going to be airlifted out of the woods, a scary thought, like something you see on a rescue mission filmed and shown on TV. What they were really doing was carrying me inside a basket which is safer than the board I was taped to until we reached a pick-up truck. We rode in the back of the pick-up until we reached the field and waited to for the helicopter to land. All I could see was the sky. The side of my face burned from a scraping during the fall. Once again, I was lucky that although it looks a mess, my eye was not damaged and none of my facial bones were broken.
A member of the police department took an accident report. I felt fortunate that I could answer his questions and wondered what would have happened if I was unconscious, dazed or confused, Another paramedic rode with me in the helicopter. It took a few minutes between the time I was placed inside the helicopter and the paramedic entered from the other side. During those few minutes, I wondered whether I would be making the ride alone. But then he joined me and the helicopter took off.
My husband Peter, who was with me and instrumental and making certain that I had stayed in a stable position until the paramedics arrived was not allowed to travel with me in the helicopter. They are very concerned as to limiting the amount of weight inside the helicopter– so no family members. He had to drive to Baltimore and navigate the traffic of the Grand Prix races.
When I arrived, just like in the Emergency Medicine shows you see on television, a crew of medical personnel came out to get me and transport me to the emergency room. One of my favorite red T-shirts had to be cut off, because they did not want to move me unnecessarily until they determined the extent of my injuries. There was no internal bleeding, nothing that appeared to require emergency surgery– another thing to be thankful for. Of course I was asked a dozen times to recount the details of my accident and to inform the staff of any pre-existing conditions, previous surgeries, and medications I might be on. You should always carry this kind of information with you in your wallet or purse. But of course when you are engaging in sports activities this may not be the case. I didn’t even have a purse with me that day but it is something to think about for the future. The next step was a CT scan. By the time this was completed, Peter had arrived at the hospital.
It seemed like it took forever to get the results and in the interim, a couple of residents came into examine me and said they were part of the “team” but I never fully learned their names. If they introduced themselves, which they might have, they were moving quickly, and I got more information from my nurse Matt who was constantly checking on me, answering questions and making certain I was as comfortable as possible under the circumstances. The $64 question they keep asking you in the hospital is to rank your pain for 1 to 10 after which they offer you pain medication, I was trying to take as little as possible as I am not a fan of narcotics. In my conversations with Matt. he revealed that he had broken his back in two places having been thrown off a horse a few years previously. It gave me great comfort to know that, although he had suffered such serious injuries, he had evidently made a complete recovery. He explained that he had to wear a body brace for about six weeks.
Finally we got the results of the CT scan, three small fractures in the three main sections of the back. The fracture in the neck is the tiniest, however the MRI which was taken the following day also showed a torn ligament next to the spinal cord. Once again I was extremely lucky that there was no spinal cord damage although I have to be vigilantly careful until the bones heal. I stayed in the ER until they had a bed for me in one of the units.
It took another day, lying flat on my back while I waited for the technician, Mike, to take measurements and construct a special brace of plastic that I am to wear 24/7 with a cotton T-shirt underneath. We were so happy to see Mike and get the construction of the brace underway, The brace makes certain that my back stays straight and perfectly aligned. I also get to wear the cervical collar all the time, which severely limits my peripheral vision so no driving for me.
Yesterday, Tuesday, I was ecstatic to finally get to sit up in a chair, eat and take a walk around the halls. Most of the nursing staff, particularly my nurse Laura, were all kind and helpful in providing the services I needed once they got the message that I was anxious to get out of the hospital as quickly as possible, By mid afternoon Tuesday I had proven that I could navigate with my gear and Peter got a lesson on how to care for my brace and I was cleared for departure.
To say I am thrilled to be home, is an understatement. Of course I am battered and bruised and I’m not even going to try and calculate my pain score. It is too depressing. But I figure that each day I will feel a little bit better. I may have to wear these contraptions for up to eight weeks, but I’ll be reevaluated in another two weeks, so I will worry about that then.

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Author: Nadja Maril

Nadja Maril is a communications professional who has over 10 years experience as a magazine editor. A writer and journalist, Maril is the author of several books including: "American Lighting 1840-1940", "Antique Lamp Buyer's Guide", "Me, Molly Midnight; the Artist's Cat", and "Runaway, Molly Midnight; the Artist's Cat". Currently in the Stoneooast MFA writing program (University of Southern Maine), genre literary fiction. Former Editor-in-Chief of What's Up ? Publishing, in charge of three magazines: "What's Up? Annapolis", "What's Up? Eastern Shore", and "What's Up? Weddings", former Editor of Chesapeake Taste Magazine a regional lifestyle magazine based in Annapolis, and former Lighting Editor of Victorian Homes Magazine, Maril has written hundreds of newspaper and magazines articles on a variety of subjects..

14 thoughts on “Shock Trauma Firsthand”

  1. Great to hear that you’re on the road to recovery.

    You may want to think about a RoadId (roadid.com) when you return to riding. I have one for bicycle riding and running. It has your personal information and then an 800# that med techs can call to download all of your medical information. It’d would be invaluable if you were in an accident and were knocked unconscious.

  2. Dear me – glad you are going to be okay – about 20 years ago our son John was a passenger in a vehicle involved in an accident and broke his lumbar 3 – and was at Shock Trauma for two weeks. How lucky we are to have a fantastic “team” of doctors, nurses, medical personal, EMTS, and helicopters. Anything we can do for you and Peter?

  3. Now that I’ve read this after receiving your email, I feel even worse!!! You certainly have a good attitude. As I said before, please don’t hesitate to ask for help. Tell Peter, give me a call for anything! Take care

  4. Oh Nadja…we are so happy about your excellent prognosis although very unhappy about your startling mishap. All the very best to you — and to Peter — as you venture along the road to full recovery. Modern medicine is marvelous but it’s a shame that one has to be mashed around a bit to experience its benefits. We’re sending good thoughts your way.

  5. Nadja ~ Best wishes for a speedy recuperation. John B. Moore was treated at the Baltimore Shock Trauma Center ~ we had the same experience with the wonderful staff there. Your post is a testimonial to the power of positive thinking. Godspeed!

  6. Nadja, what an experience! so glad you’re going to be okay and so impressed that you could write so cogently about what must have been a really difficult time for you and yours. Hoping for you a quick recovery.
    Leah Solat

  7. That is very disturbing that your helmet came off. Depending on the age of your helmet, many of the manufacturers will replace it. And even if they don’t, since you need a new one any way, it might be worth sending it to them. They study the helmets after a fall to see how they can improve protecting our heads.

    Glad to hear that you are ok. You have made my mother rather nervous for my safety.

    1. Hi Susan-
      My understanding is that my helmet (one week old) worked fine in that is protected my head when I hit the ground and took the impact. If it had not popped off during the “roll” I might have sustained more damage to my neck because my head would have been out of alignment.. Thanks for your concern.

      1. Brand new?! You can get it replaced for free, I bet. That happened to me (well, not the same accident) but I fell a few weeks after having it and I got it replaced. Of course now I am nervous, too, because I thought my riding would be safer when I retired from the racetrack!

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