Suzanna Hext was competing at 2-star level eventing before an accident while riding a young horse at home in 2012 changed her life. After 177 days in hospital and 7 operations, Suzanna has recently swapped her wheelchair for crutches and is looking forwards to getting back on a horse as well as eventually learning to walk again
I’m Suzanna and I am H&H’s latest diarist. I am really looking forward to sharing my road to recovery with you. I hope my blog will give an honest perspective about living with a disability and mapping out a different future to the one I had always dreamt of. Over time I will be going through a phased return to work, getting back on a horse and eventually learning to walk again…
From the start
Having been born into an extremely horsey family — Granny and Grandpa pointed and Grandpa was master of the Bolventor Harriers — it was no surprise that I grew up with a love for horses.
I started eventing seriously at 13 and went on to gain a riding scholarship to Millfield School for my sixth-form. This led to me getting my BHS stage 4, BHSAI and Pony Club A test under the watchful eye of Danny Anholt.
I spent my summers and gap year living, working and training with international event rider Lucy Wiegersma and Caroline Creighton. During this time I competed up to 2-star and was selected onto the young rider long-list in 2008.
Before my accident I was working as an equine vet nurse at B&W Equine Vets in Gloucestershire, having successfully gained a first class degree in equine science at the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester.
On the evening of 26 July 2012, I was breaking in a young horse when he reared over and landed on top of me. To add insult to injury, he rolled back across me to get up.
I knew instantly that I was in trouble. Within what felt like a split second, my dream life was turned upside down. I can’t recollect much about my time lying on the ground, but luckily I had one of my great friends (Lucy) from the yard helping me and trying to keep me as calm as possible. Amidst my screaming I remember squeezing her hand extremely hard to try to help the pain.
The Thames Valley and Chiltern Air Ambulance got to me very quickly and took control of the situation.
I was absolutely terrified because I couldn’t feel or move my legs. The crew kept me as calm and reassured me, even though I feared the worst. Had I not been immobilised there was a high possibility I would have severed a major blood vessel and I would not be here today.
Once I was airlifted to the John Radcliffe hospital, it was confirmed that I had suffered a significant amount of nerve damage and broken my back and pelvis in a number of places. I had also sustained a hematoma within my spinal canal that was pressing up against my spinal cord, causing paralysis in both legs.
Thankfully after a couple of weeks — as the swelling went down — I started to regain some movement back in my right leg. Sadly my left foot and ankle still remain paralysed due to the nerve damage that I sustained. This has also left me with a debilitating level of nerve pain.
Since July 2012 I have been an inpatient in hospital for 177 days —including my Birthday, Christmas and graduation — and have undergone 7 operations. After the most recent operations I have regained some mobility and I’ve now been on crutches for a couple of weeks, having been in a wheelchair since my accident.
My incredible family and friends are who have got me through the last 18 months.
The realisation that I still have a lot more of this long hard journey to go and that my life will never be quite what it was is a hard thing to grasp. However, I will not defeated and I will get as much of my life and function back as I can.
I am the kind of person that likes to plan, set goals and know what the future holds, but there are just still so many unknowns that no-one can give me the answer to.
My main ambition for the future is to get back to doing the sport I love. I am aiming to start riding at a Riding for the Disabled centre in the near future and then build up from there.
Through this blog, I will keep you all updated on my journey, which will hopefully lead me to being competitive at para dressage and para showjumping. I have already started sitting in my saddle in the sitting room!
I hope you will find this insight into my life post-accident, and the rehabilitation involved to get me back in the saddle again, interesting. Next time I will introduce you to my horses, faithful Terrier (Tapi) and the incredible team helping me realise my ambitions.
If my accident has taught me one thing, it’s to live life to the full, as you never know what’s around the corner. Never say never, you don’t know until you try!