A rider who has been paralysed from the chest down in a fall is determined to be back with her beloved horses as soon as possible.
Mother of two Louise Evans suffered life-changing injuries on 10 May, when the young horse she was riding reared violently. Her mother Nicola Winchester told H&H Louise has been in a great deal of pain but has maintained a positive attitude.
“Lou said ‘It’s still me, I’m still here, and I’ll still have my sense of humour and my big mouth, just in a bloody wheelchair’,” Nicola said. “She’s already said that when she eventually gets home from hospital, she wants to ride, so could I organise it with the RDA [Riding for the Disabled Association] or failing that, she’d lose enough weight to ride one of the ponies; she said to gaffer-tape her legs on!”
Nicola said 34-year-old Louise was riding a friend’s horse, a youngster who had been backed, schooled, turned away and was coming back into work. He had been lunged by Nicola that morning when Louise, who has ridden since childhood, got on board.
“She got on him and sorted everything out, then asked him to walk on and he just went ballistic,” Nicola said. “He threw himself to the side, then threw his head about so fast, he smashed her in the face.
“She raised her hand to her face and as she did, he just shot up in the air, bolt upright. Normally, she’d have leaned forwards and held on but because she’d just been smacked in the face, she came off backwards. He’s a big Irish horse and she didn’t stand a chance; she had a back protector on but it was the angle she landed at.
“As soon as she landed, my gut instinct said this was a game-changer.”
Nicola said she cannot speak highly enough of the air ambulance staff who arrived on the scene.
“The doctors were absolutely amazing but Lou kept apologising, saying she’d put on a bit of weight, and as they were getting her in the ambulance, she said ‘Can I apologise for being sharp and shouting; I would normally never talk like that, I’m just in so much pain’.”
Louise was taken to hospital, where she underwent a 12-hour operation and was placed in an induced coma and on a ventilator. She has since undergone further scans owing to the pain she is in, and Nicola said the prognosis is not a positive one. She has been told she will be transferred to the National Spine Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital as soon as a bed becomes available.
“That’s the best spinal hospital in the country, so the sooner she can get there, the better,” Nicola said. “We’ve always said never say never; doctors and hospitals have been wrong before, and I’ve spoken to a few people who were written off and told they wouldn’t walk again but one’s not only walking now but working.
“Lou said she’s looking at it like ‘I’m in a wheelchair, and if anything comes back, that’s a bonus. I was told it’s highly unlikely she will walk again.”
Nicola said Louise’s children, a nine-year-old girl and a 15-year-old boy, have found it very hard.
“I took them to see her, and her little girl just sobbed her heart out,” she said. She said ‘I just want to take you home, Mummy; I don’t want you to be in a wheelchair’. But Lou said ‘I’m still your mum; I’m still alive and still here, and I’ll be your mummy in a wheelchair’.
“But our community has been absolutely amazing. All the businesses in Newhaven are doing what they can, donating prizes to a raffle and raising as much as they can for her when she gets out.
“I’ve got to empty her house as it’s rented but the one thing she keeps saying is ‘Don’t let them move me out of the area, away from my family and friends’. I said I’d fight tooth and nail if they think they’re moving her away.”
A fundraising page set up to raise money for a “wonderful woman in her hour of need” has surpassed its £1,000 target by £4,500.
“All those funds will help Lou, and help her kids,” Nicola said. “Her work has been fantastic too; she was a waitress at The Drove [Brewers Fayre] Newhaven and she was looking forward to going back, she loves her job. Her boss has said that wheelchair or no wheelchair, her job will stay open, even if it changes, and that I can take the kids there for their meals with no charge.
“We live in a small town but the whole community is behind us; so many people are trying to raise as much as they can for Lou as she’s got to start all over again, and every pound makes a difference.”
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Nicola added that the owner of the horse is devastated by the accident.
“I said, and Lou said, to stop saying sorry, it was a freak accident and no one’s accountable,” she said. “We know the risks and Lou’s attitude is that it is what is is now, and we’ve got to make the best of a bad situation. A friend at the RDA said they do carriage driving too, and they’ve got her name so she can do some driving. They said life is not over, it’s just taken a different direction.
“The Stoke Mandeville hospital has top physios and rehab, and they’ve said as she can use her arms, they’ll teach her to drive with controls on the steering wheel. I said to make sure she asks for an all-terrain wheelchair, as she said she’s still coming to the horses, and she said she wants one in pinky-purple, all blinged up and with a flag and a horn.
“She said ‘I’m still me and I’m still alive’. And we’ve still got her.”
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