Teenager who had broken neck bone removed is back in the saddle – and jumping again

  • The mother of a 13-year-old showjumper who broke her neck in February – and is now jumping again – has praised the “amazing” horse community for its support.

    Astrid Ayoub’s daughter Lauren had her C7 vertebra replaced after the accident, when her horse fell on her at a show on 2 February.

    “I don’t think I realised how serious it was at the time,” Astrid told H&H.

    “Then the air ambulance came, and you could hear the paramedics talking, but I still thought it was her leg as she was saying that hurt. But when we got to the hospital, there were about 20 people waiting for us. I think that’s when I realised it might be a lot more serious.”

    Lauren was taken to a trauma hospital in London, where doctors confirmed the C7 break, warning that if it moved, she could be paralysed.

    They decided to operate on the Monday, two days later, but in the meantime, Astrid had a call from the head of equestrian at Lauren’s school, who recommended a leading spinal surgeon, Hilali Noordeen, and sourced his phone number.

    “He took the case and we transferred her to the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in London. The trauma hospital didn’t want me to move her because of the risk; I had to sign papers to say if something went wrong I knew she could die or be paralysed.

    “It was really hard but I kept holding on to the fact the surgeon wouldn’t risk it if he didn’t think he could do it. So we went in a critical care ambulance – I’d never realised how many bumps there are in the road!”

    Lauren underwent the surgery that evening; Dr Noordeen and his team replaced the vertebra with a metal plate and four screws.

    “They were amazing,” Astrid said. “Honestly, there’s God, and then there’s this surgeon, in my eyes. She had the surgery on Monday and we were at home on Saturday.”

    A long recovery followed but Lauren had a scan in March that showed all was well, and another three weeks ago was also good news so she has been jumping again.

    “She tells everyone: ‘my pony broke my neck but he saved my life’,” Astrid said. “If he’d got up normally, he’d have crushed her but he sort of shuffled sideways, turned his body and then got up, instead of pushing up off her.

    “She rode her other pony first, but I think it was me who was more worried about her getting on Ben. I know it was out of character – there was a pony in front who tried to kick him and I think he just went so high he couldn’t come down forwards – but you can’t unsee a thing like that.

    “As a parent, it’s really difficult and I didn’t really want her back on Ben, but she was adamant he’d saved her, and it wasn’t his fault.”

    Astrid praised all those who had supported her, from Lauren’s “amazing” British Showjumping Academy coaches and school staff, to whoever put a bottle of water and chocolate in her handbag at the show, which she appreciated later in hospital.

    “Her coaches all pulled together; they knew Scott Brash is her favourite rider so they contacted him and he sent her a card saying he hoped she was better soon, which was really sweet,” she said.

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    “We were so surprised by how amazing the whole community was in pulling together, and how helpful everyone is in an emergency.”

    Astrid said Lauren had qualified for a number of events, which were then cancelled anyway owing to the coronavirus, so “she feels she didn’t really miss out”, and intends to qualify again once competition restarts.

    “Even when she was injured, she was going to the yard to cuddle Ben,” Astrid said. “Maybe I’m just not horsey enough but I’d have been ‘I’m done’!

    “I’d happily have heard her say she was done with riding but no chance of that; we’re still here.”

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