Well, in retrospect I made a poor decision that was made worse by the ground being frozen solid like concrete. Thankfully, I made the smart decision to put my eventing vest on. But alas, I ended up falling off my new horse and landing with enough of a thud it cracked my sacrum and broke off my right L4 transverse process. Maybe that's all that would've happened anyway, but I still believe wearing my eventing vest cushioned the blow enough that I didn't get as hurt as I might have otherwise. Plus, yay for helmets! My helmet made a nice little gouge in the dirt but I don't even have a headache today (and thank goodness not a concussion!).
I knew something was wrong when I landed and it hurt so badly I did not want to move. So, I yelled "OUCH!" as loud as I could (not sure why I didn't yell "help"???) until Trainer K. heard me and came in. She helped me slowly move my legs and arms and I didn't have any pain around my spine, just a lot of pain in my pelvic area. Then she helped me sit up and that lasted for maybe five minutes at the most and I felt like I was going to black out and had to lay back down. I also felt like I was going to throw up so we were all concerned about a concussion. It was a crisp 28 degrees out and the ground was frozen solid so while they were discussing what they should do with me I requested a horse blanket and suddenly I was cocooned in about four horse blankets with a big one underneath me so I wasn't lying on the cold ground. I realized that all my barn friends who were there were mothers and that is the best place to be when you get hurt - surrounded by fellow moms!
With the whole not wanting to move fainting thing they opted to call 911 and although I felt like it was overkill, I was honestly wondering how in the world I was going to be able to get into Trainer K.'s truck to go to the hospital to be checked out. And we were all worried about the fainting/nausea thing. Even though I didn't hit my head very hard I kept thinking of Liam Neesum's wife who thought she was fine and then the next day died from a head injury.
So, the EMT's showed up (they even turned on the siren when they came down the drive which was really overkill!) and unfortunately took my layers of blankets off to roll me onto a backboard and put me in a neck brace (which I definitely said was overkill but they said I fell on my back so liability wise they had to). I did ok until we got in the ambulance and then I started to have a panic attack because I was strapped to a board unable to move and only able to see the ceiling in a moving vehicle and I felt really out of control. It helped to close my eyes and visualize the roads we were driving down and ask the EMT where we were every few minutes. Plus, when he leaned over to check if my eyes were dialating normally and told me to look at his nose I noticed he looked a lot like Doogie Howser and it took my mind off things for a few minutes to tell him about Dr Horrible's Sing Along Blog. The only problem other than my claustrophobia was that every time we went over a bump it hurt my lower back quite badly and I would have to shift around to get the muscles around my sacrum to stop carmping/spasming. The EMT's did say they were going a route where they didn't go over any railroad tracks so I could be happy about that.
I felt much better after they took the next brace off and I got to be off the backboard. As long as I lay on my left side I was pretty comfortable and I was relieved when the doctor felt my spine and said I was not showing any sign of spinal injury. They took an x-ray and said all that looked ok but then decided I needed a CT scan to check my internal organs. Since I thought nothing was broken I was a little confused as to why I'd been so nauseous and weak and almost fainted back at the stable but I was very glad my spine was ok. And I was actually glad they were doing a CT scan of my organs just in case too.
They had me on an IV drip for quite awhile because I guess the iodine contrast they inject you with for CT scans is hard on the kidneys so I was getting up every half hour or so and shuffling off to the bathroom carrying my little IV bag with me. Finally, I was just getting up and the nurse walked in and I asked if I could have a stand to hold the IV bag and she said, "No, just wait the doctor is coming," and I said, "I'll be right back - it'll just be a second." And she said, "No, stay there. Don't stand up yet. Do you have any tingling in your feet? Any numbness?" and I said, "No, can I answer this in just a sec? You've had me on an IV bag for hours and I really have to use the bathroom." So she said, "Please, just wait until the doctor comes. We found a fracture in your L4 vertebrae." To which I stayed sitting down and explained, "Seriously? I broke my back and I didn't know it?" and figured they must be mistaken (and was also quickly running through my head what they meant - back brace? traction? Shit!)
Just then the doctor came in and asked the same questions about numbness and tingling and said he had to palpate my back to check the vertebrae to which I said, "I'm so sorry but I really have to go to the bathroom. Me and my broken back. I really can't wait," and he said, "Are you serious?" and I said, "Yes, you can go do something important instead- I will be here when you get back," and he said, "Ok, I will go do something important then ..." and the nurse snickered. He came back not too long later and said that I had broken off a little piece of my L4 spinous process but that it was a "stable fracture" which meant I was not in danger of it getting worse by not being in traction (phwew!) and that I also had a crack in my sacrum which was also a stable fracture that would not need traction to heal. Phwew again!
And that explains why it hurt so badly when I first hit the ground and why I felt so nauseous and faint and couldn't sit up right after my fall. I also no longer felt like it was overkill that they'd brought me in the ambulance. I can be really hard on myself and think that I'm imaging it or making it up when I feel really bad, but it was very obvious when I was lying on the arena floor that "something was wrong" and I knew that if anything was broken it was in my pelvic area. That did validate that I do know my own body and I did have a normal reaction - I wasn't just "being hysterical" which is initially what I was worried had happened when I was so nauseous and weak post fall.
The nurse made a comment just the opposite of me being hysterical. Trainer K. and I were joking about how now I can be part of "the broken back club" (she and two other women at the barn had fractured their backs in riding accidents) and we were making jokes about how Trainer K. got to be in vacation spending the day in the hospital watching tv and eating hospital crackers so we'd have to rotate through her students making sure everyone had to go to the E.R in an ambulance every couple weeks with her. Finally the nurse said, "You're a couple of really stoic ladies, aren't you?" and we both didn't know what to say and she said, "It's a breath of fresh air, really. You wouldn't believe how many patients we have in here who are hysterical even when nothing is wrong." I pointed out that if I had a broken neck or something really wrong I would be hysterical and she said, "Yes but you broke something in your back." I'm not sure what "stoic" means - I thought it meant humorless, which we weren't because we kept making dark jokes. It was something I was thinking about a lot last night when I had trouble sleeping because it's hard to get comfortable in bed with your lower back hurts. And your butt. Yes, I have a nasty bruise on my butt along with the broken stuff.
So, I just looked it up and stoic means "someone immune to the effects of pleasure or pain". I wouldn't say Trainer K. and I are stoic. You have to keep in mind by this time at the hospital I really wasn't in that much pain any more and I knew I wasn't in any danger. I think I was just so thrilled that my back wasn't seriously injured that I was thrilled to just have a cracked sacrum and little chip off a piece of my spine. Considering how scared I was right when I hit the ground and felt all that pain that I'd broken my back badly and having had a broken neck so knowing the long, painful haul it would be to recover - I felt like celebrating that I wasn't badly hurt!