Sunday morning I returned from my AA retreat. It was turning out to be a nice mild day. I gave my dogs their springtime showers and settled in to check my email.
My cell phone rang. It was a number that I did not recognize so I ignored it. The phone rang again. Again, I ignored it. The voicemail went off. I connected with my voicemail and began to listen to the message.
My wife, Virginia, had been thrown off her horse, Woogie, and the paramedics had her on a backboard.
"...Here we go,"
Less than an hour later, having beaten it to Delnor Hospital, the ambulance arrived and Melissa, owner of Woogie and Virginia's old trainer, gave me a hug. Her blue eyes were all watery and bloodshot. The paramedics then unloaded Virginia, strapped in, IV'ed in, still in her riding breeches and boots and shedding sand everywhere, into the ER.
She seemed normal, hitting on the paramedics, and generally being Virginia. A parade of nurses, attendees, and administrative staffers came and went to check vitals and ask Virginia her age and address.
The first doctor, a burly man attired in green scrubs, came in and poked and prodded for nervous and muscular function in her extremities then for abdominal sensitivity and then pressed on her upper chest.
"OH! Yeah that hurts!"
The right side of her back also hurt like hell.
After a bit, a second doctor in green scrubs came in and laid his comedy routine on us as he repeated the procedure with about the same results. He decided that the neck brace and the backboard could be done away with and told us that x-rays of Virginia's chest would need to be taken.
Soon enough, the radiologists then came and wheeled her away. The good techs could not help but cause Virginia to yell out in agony as they propped her up onto foam wedges to get her into various positions for the x-rays. They also spent some time trying to figure out Virginia's sports bra but left it on for the time. Melissa and I watched the screen anxiously for evidence of Clavicle fractures and we sighed with relief as the collar bones turned up negative.
They wheeled Virginia back into the ER and for the moment, our moods were lightened a bit. An attendee came with a student nurse who administered a dose of morphine.
But then a third doctor came in. With a sudden icy grip around my heart, he told us that Virginia might have a fractured vertebrae.
The neck brace went back on and the room was silent and sober until another attendee came to take Virginia away again for a CT scan.
After she returned we waited for what seemed like all afternoon before a fourth doctor with an assistant. This fourth doctor, a thin blonde woman in a white lab coat came in to the room. She was head of the ER trauma unit. Virginia did have a fracture to her T1 transverse process, which is a long spur on each side of the vertebrae.
Virginia was admitted that evening. We settled into our room and to the routine of nurses coming and going to check vitals and to give drugs. Around 8PM, I left to get a Filet-O-Fish for dinner and brought back a hot fudge sundae for Virginia. I was glad that I did because the staff had neglected to inform us that the cafeteria had already closed. Virginia had not eaten since breakfast and there wouldd be no dinner.
She was very drowsy from the narcotics, however. They had given her a dose of Hydrocodone and a blood thinner and said that they were going to get her a stool softener, as opioids cause constipation, which failed to materialize. As such, she did not have much of an appetite.
We settled in for a night interrupted, at 3-4 hour intervals, by nurses checking Virginia's vitals.
Come morning, I went down to the cafeteria as soon as it opened. I brought Virginia and myself back eggs and potatoes and toast for breakfast. The remainder of the day, punctuated by nurses, was spent waiting for the spinal specialist to pass judgment on Virginia's fracture.
In the meantime we sweet-talked the head nurse to print us out the results of Virginia's CT scan:
"CT Scan with Contrast."
"HISTORY: Fell From Horse, right T! transverse process fracture.
Technique: 3 mm slices with IV contrast. 80 ml's of Omnipaque 350 were used for the examination."
"FINDINGS: The arch anatomy is unremarkable. The great vessels are within normal limits. There is no mediastinal or hilar adenopathy seen."
"There is atelectasis noted in the right lower lobe in the dependent portion posteriorly. The lungs are otherwise clear. here is some small amount of fluid noted along the right major fissure superiorly. There is no pneumothorax."
"Additional reconstructions were obtained to elevated the spine. There is visualization from the C3-C4 level inferiorly to L1-L2 level. The facet joints show no evidence for fracture within the cervicothoracic junction intact. The vertebral bodies have normal height and alignment."
"The nondisplaced fracture of the right transverse process of T1 is noted. The costovertebral junction appears intact. There are nondisplaced right rib fractures of the medial posterior 5th, 7th, 8th, and 9th ribs. No other fractures are delineated."
"Impression: Multiple right posterior rib fractures with trace amount of pleural fluid and basilar atelectasis. Aside from the right nondisplaced T1 transverse process fracture, there are no vertebral body abnormalities. No pneumothorax."
The day wore on without word of the specialist who was in surgery, we were told. It seemed that we were in for another night at Delnor, so I went home around 2PM so take a shower and pack some toiletries and Virginia's computer and some clothes for her for if and when she was to be discharged.
When I returned the spinal specialist had come and left. He told Virginia that she indeed had a spinal fracture and would have to be fitted with a brace. If the specialist from Barrington could make it out before the end of the day, Virginia could get discharged and we would not have to stay another night.
Luckily, the orthopedic guy did arrive a couple of hours later and fitted Virginia with her brace. Virginia's brace looks just like the one that Joan Cusack wore in the movie Sixteen Candles.
Virginia hates it.
Before she got discharged, all of the trauma combined with the narcotics began to make Virginia very exhausted and nauseous. After a nap and a meal, we got her discharged and got home around 9PM.
We did not have a very easy time sleeping. Virginia's four fractured ribs keeps her in constant pain, and the drugs continued to make her nauseous and delirious. She has to wear the brace even while she sleeps and it hurts her.
I have taken the week off from work to care for her. We have a pair of walkie-talkies and I got a chance to plant my onions that arrived in the mail yesterday when she is napping.
I am hoping that she is feeling better in the morning.
Perhaps we will call her doctor in the morning and get her some different pain meds.
She hopes that she might even be able to get some work done.
She is very emotional. She is worried that she may not completely physically recover from this one. She has had spills while riding before but has never been hospitalized before. She is upset that she is putting myself and her parents through this. She is self-employed and is concerned that she may not be able to satisfy her buisiness obligations.
She keeps saying that she does not know "if she could go through this again."
Virginia first started riding when she was six years old. She stopped riding in junior high school as as she was of an ability that in order to further advance she would need her own horse so that she could train several times a day. Her parents could not or would not do this and her aspirations were put on hold.
Shortly after we married she started riding again and felt like that a missing part of her had been restored.
And now, in an instant, all that may be changed forever. She loves Melissa and Woogie and she was planning on buying him from her within a couple of years. Now, she is starting to deal with the possibility that her riding days may be over forever.
Like a good recovering alchoholic, I can only comfort her, tend to her recovery and be a good husband and friend. I tell her to just take it easy and take it one day at a time.
One Day at a Time.
Thank God she wears a helmet. If she ever DOES get into a stirrup again, she will be wearing a flak jacket.
Recovery update 4/07
Virginia and I decided to take her off the narcotics last night and to rent a hospital bed.
Virginia could not stand the nausea and loopyness of the dope anymore. She cannot understand why anyone would willingly ingest the stuff. She is taking 500mg of Naproxin twice a day now and while it does not kill all the pain, her head is back into the game.
I drove her over to her shop this morning where her cousin is handling the printing responsibilities like a champ. Where she could not even look at a computer screen yesterday without getting sick, Virginia was able to set a few of the more challenging tasks straightened out.
I went home and with my mother-in-law's help rearrange and clean up the living room before the hospital bed got here. The bed is not as fancy as the ones in the hospital but for $185 we have the bed and a mattress for a month that has electric motors to adjust the height of the back and legs. She will now be able to adjust the position of all those broken ribs as she sleeps.
Looks like we are all set for the recovery. Lizardinlaw says that bones will take at least 6 weeks to fully heal. Virginia's body is notably quick in healing itself.
One day before our wedding day, she sliced her hand open down to the fat cutting a frozen bagel. She was scheduled to get the stitches removed in two weeks but after the tenth day, her flesh was healing fast around the stitches and had to be removed.
Maybe we will get lucky and she won't need the bed or her brace after a month.
Looks like I will be going back to work on Monday. Upward for the next six weeks, we will be getting up at 5AM so I can help her with the brace and will have to do all the shopping and cooking and cleaning and laundry...
OH! The trials of the dedicated husband of an equestrian never cease, my friends, but that is OK cause that’s what love it all about. ;P