Thursday, 6 February 2020

Horses do not have brakes...

As the saying goes if you fall off the horse, you are supposed to get straight back on it. However, in my experience if you fall off the horse do not under any circumstance listen to that stupid saying. I for one believe it is by far the most ridiculous piece of advice that you could subject upon anybody.

I could hear the ambulance sirens in the distance, I felt cold and in shock, I couldn't feel my legs, my right arm felt like ice with an intense burning sensation. Was I dying? If any of you have ever been involved in an accident, those thoughts go through your mind..."Am I paralysed? I am dying? What have a broken? I am never going to be able to walk again?"

The young female student was running over to me carrying blankets. She attempted to place the blanket over me but although I felt like I was in the Antarctic without a coat, the pain of the slightest touch of the blanket on my body was insane. "Get it off me" I whimpered. As the look on the young students face looked terrified. 

The ambulance sirens were getting louder and soon enough paramedics were calling my name and asking me where it hurt. I cant not actually recall whether the paramedics were male or female but I seem to remember there were 2 of them maybe 3. 

For the next couple of hours, the entire situation was a bit of a drug induced blur. Before I got on to the ambulance I vaguely remember having at least 2 canisters of gas and air whilst lying on the floor which if I recall was actually a pretty amazing feeling. The paramedics attempted to stand me up, suddenly the gas and air was no longer a nice feeling and the pain in my top half of my body was excruciating, I had never felt pain like it. Whilst my legs gave way beneath me I could barely feel them, I felt like I had very limited control over them.

In the ambulance I recall starting to feel more comfortable again whilst lying down and had some more of the fun stuff, gas and air!

I don't really have a good memory of the hospital admission, I think by that point I had consumed a lot of pain relief.

As I was becoming more coherent, I remember starting to cry and saying to the nurses how very desperately I wanted my parents. 

The nurse asked me what had happened....

My eyes filled up and I wept in pain whilst I gave my version of events...

It was just another usual day working outside of HMP Drake Hall in Stafford. I had a job as a stable hand earning £13 a week, It was almost the end of my sentence. If you were a "privileged" prisoner, basically meaning you kept your head down and did everything that was asked of you, you were entitled to be rehabilitated back into society by working outside with the general public. 

There were many positions, mainly factory work, charity shops but for me who has always been a devoted animal lover thought the opportunity of working in the stables would be great.

I say devoted animal lover with exception....I have never really been a huge fan of horses, yes, I wouldn't see any harm come to them and yes they look beautiful creatures from a distance but I have always been a little fearful, I mean they are so god damn big and skittish! 

I think my fear or dislike of horses came from when I went to Middle School. In those years I was pretty good at sports and long distance running was something I was particularly good at. The only problem with being a good runner, was that you generally ran solo. The mediocre runners seemed to run in groups but the ones at the front like myself were alone. 

The course I had to run went through a horse field. Not a great idea really and I am sure with health and safety standards nowadays it would be unlikely that a load of pre teenage kids running through the middle of a horse field would be permitted.

So the horses in the field frequently got spooked by us kids running and used to stampede from one part of the field to another. When you are 11 years old, pretty damn scary to see these dinosaur type animals running at full speed in your direction or past you.

Anyway, I decided with my irrational fear of horses that it would be probably the nicest job to do outside of the prison and it kept in line with the gym  instructor qualification I had also gained in the prison.

Everyday, I turned up in very inappropriate clothing, I had to make do with prison warm clothes, coats and wellies. The coat was massive, the wellies were uncomfortable and I had been given gloves with holes in that got soaked when doing any work.

Part of the job was to muck out the horses, which was cold, damp and extremely hard graft. Whenever you are a volunteer you seem to be given the shittest of jobs, I can vouch for that statement as I have since prison also volunteered in an animal sanctuary and the paid staff do seem to dump on the volunteers, which in all honesty I don't really blame, as they get paid terrible wages for such hard work. It only seems natural to be able to palm it off on others.

So I had the worst job at the stables, wearing inappropriate clothing and footwear but in exchange for that I got horse riding lessons. To me that seemed like a silver lining and actually quite a privileged opportunity to have for the exchange my hard labour, albeit in inappropriate footwear and clothing.

I had never wanted horse riding lessons when growing up, as so many of friends at middle school age did, probably due to my slight fear. But despite this I wanted to make the most of my experience and am never one to say no to an opportunity. I have since then become a bit of an adrenaline junkie!

It was my 5th lesson. I was on Elsa the horse. I was learning how to do the rising trot but had never left the lunge ring, which was like being sat on a big dog on a lead in an indoor fenced area.

The student instructor who was teaching me suggested we go outside into the field whilst she taught me to do the rising trot and to steer the horse around cones.

We set off and I was immediately feeling a little more nervous being outdoors without the "lead".

The instructor explained what I needed to do. She said to the horse "Trot on Elsa", All I can say is Elsa did not trot on, she flew. I felt like I was on a horse at the Grand National, I had no idea how to stop a horse at that speed. It all happened so quickly but Elsa left the field we were originally in and ran like the wind. I remember hanging on for dear life, terrified I was going to fall off at any moment. Elsa finally threw me off. I recall the instructor running through the field to me, shouting someone else to grab the horse.

I was shuck up but by some kind of miracle I was uninjured. I had bounced off the horse. Yes, I felt a bit bashed around but no worse than If I had been on the waltzers at the fair ground.

The instructor suggested that "If you fall off the horse, the best thing to do is get straight back on" I had indeed heard that saying and thought, that if I didn't I probably would never get back on a horse and my fear would worsen. So.....with a huge shadow of doubt, I was lead back to the cones and I got back onto Elsa.

"Trot on Elsa" are words that I will never forget for the rest of my life. Elsa not only trotted she ran as before like she was in some kind of national race. I don't really remember much about the accident. I have a flash back of a branch on a tree and vaguely being thrown off in front of Elsa and then Elsa jumping over me but that is about it before I heard the sirens of the ambulance.

The nurse gently wiped my tears as I cried in pain and for my parents. I was a prisoner and "property" of HMP Drake Hall. I wasn't allowed to call my parents initially or to have them come and visit me. 

I was informed that I had dislocated my right shoulder, broken my right humorous and likely to have nerve damage in my lower back, thighs and bottom. I can not even explain the pain I was in. I had been admitted to Stafford Hospital, where in recent months the amount of complaints of service of care had been on the news. 

The doctor didn't plaster my arm as he said it wouldn't work for the type of brake I had so put it into a sling. The instructions were not to sleep lying down due to my shoulder and arm.

I knew going back to my cell with a rock hard thin mattress and one rock hard pillow that sleeping upright would be to say the least very uncomfortable. I pleaded with the hospital staff to at least keep me admitted in the hospital overnight as the pain was unreal and I knew I would have no care or comfort or immediate pain relief back at the prison. 

The hospital stated that the prison would not allow me to stay in over night and that I would have to be discharged back to the care of HMP. I cried and cried but my upset and pain fell on deaf ears. A taxi was called and I returned back to the prison about 10pm that evening.

The taxi ride was like hell on earth, every bump or slight twist in the road gave me excruciating pain. Upon my return to the prison, I got dropped off at the gates and had to walk about 400 yards to my cell. The site of HMP Drake Hall was in an old army barracks so was an outdoor walk to the "bungalow" type building to my cell. Every step was like I was dying, I have never felt pain like it.

I got to my sell and sat up all night drifting in and out of what felt like consciousness from the amount of pain and shock that I was in. 

The following 4 weeks in prison were my last 4 weeks of serving my time before I was able to appeal for an electronic TAG allowing me to do the remaining of my sentence at my own home with a time curfew.

Those 4 weeks, were probably the hardest I had done in terms of my sentence and my life. I rapidly became very depressed because of the amount of pain I was in and the lack of sympathy from the staff with still having to follow prison rules and regulations. When all I wanted was a comfortable bed, my parents, frequent pain relief and food and drink when I wanted or felt like it. 

One evening the medical staff forgot to bring my pain relief to me, so I went 36 hours with out any pain relief with a dislocated shoulder, broken arm without even a cast on.

The simplest of tasks like rolling a cigarette, leaning forward, personal hygiene, walking, sitting, pretty much anything was painful. My bottom half of my arm wasn't attached to the top half. The brake was clean and had left an inch gap in my bone, later seen on the x -rays.

If it hadn't been for one particular girl that had a cell in the same bungalow, I am sure I would have just shut down and stopped eating and attempted to kill myself in anyway I could. She had to take me to the toilet, wipe my backside, wash me. I lost all dignity. Luckily she rolled me fags and did as much as she could for me. I also became quite good at writing with my left hand!

I asked the prison why they would not have allowed me to stay at the hospital that night of the accident but they said it was the hospital that wouldn't let me stay. It was like nobody wanted to be accountable for a criminal. 

My dad wrote to the governor of the prison asking if I could request my TAG earlier, as only 4 weeks left and also complained that my pain relief had been forgotten. The prison paid my parents lip service and nothing ever came of it.

After getting my TAG and leaving prison on 24th March 2010, my dad took me to the local hospital where they provided me with stronger pain relief, put a cast on my arm and booked me in to have surgery.

The brake was that bad that my arm required a metal plate and pin put into it, which has left me with a real designer scar on my arm, which I joke to people and say that I was shanked in prison.

Unfortunately the brake was so bad that having it plated and pinned wasn't enough and so I had to have more surgery and ended up with having a bone graft off my left hip to fill the inch gap of bone missing in my arm. The surgeon did a neat job, but still I am left with a rather large scar on my right arm and now left hip.

10 years have past since I got out of prison but my injuries still have a huge impact upon my life. I am unable to put my arm at the back of my back, bra straps etc cant be done, I have pain and have an impinged shoulder due to resulting in a frozen shoulder having not been able to have range of movement in it. I have to sleep with a pillow in my armpit to stop my shoulder falling forward. Having a boyfriend is handy for that so I can cuddle them and put my arm on them whilst we sleep, but as I am single a pillow has to do! and it has restricted me a lot in yoga, which really frustrates me, I have weird nerve sensations in my lower back, bottom, thighs and hip from surgery, what with my arthritic knees, if I was a horse I'd be shot...excuse the pun!

I am sure Elsa is enjoying her pasture and I hope that she leads a guilt free life chewing on hay and running in fields, preferably not throwing any one off. 

So if anyone ever says to you "Best thing to do if you fall off the horse, is to get straight back on" Think twice, I wish I had. 







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