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‘There’s a lot of kindness in the world’: rider’s thanks to those who helped after beach fall

A rider who was hospitalised after a freak fall on the beach is raising money to thank the air ambulance service that came to her aid.

Karina O’Brien praised the actions of both the emergency services and members of the public who helped when she was bucked off her six-year-old cob Foley and kicked in the chest at Brancaster beach in Norfolk.

Karina was visiting the beach early in the morning with the horse, who she has owned since September, her husband and two youngest sons. She had mounted and heading down a track from the car park when Foley was spooked by a loud car engine, stepped backwards and caught his stifle on a metal sign.

“He cut himself on the sign, panicked and started bucking,” Karina said. “I held on for two or three bucks but then I lost grip and I could feel myself falling at an angle. He was still bucking and as I fell he caught me in the chest and knocked the wind out of me. As soon as I hit the deck I knew I needed medical attention, I’d smacked my forehead, my neck hurt and I was having trouble breathing. All I could do was lie still.”

Karina’s husband had pulled her children, aged four and six, out of harm’s way and a “lovely couple” who had seen the accident ran over to help.

“The man was a trained first aider and he was on the phone to the emergency services straight away and his wife took over looking after my children; the youngest was crying for me, while my husband ran after Foley — he found him grazing on a neighbouring golf course,” Karina said.

“At the same time a couple were coming up from the beach with their own horses and they stopped to help my husband untack Foley and load him on to the trailer where he’d be safe.

“It shows there is still a lot of kindness in the world — the first couple left their own children in the car to look after mine and help me, and the man was absolutely selfless considering we are in a pandemic,” she added.

A first responder arrived, who was unable to do much as Karina could not be moved without spinal stablisation, and an air ambulance was also called.

“I could hear the helicopter thudding and I thought ‘oh my God, I don’t need all this’ – I kept apologising to them,” Karina said. “My next thought was for Foley, who I thought would be frightened by the noise, but my husband went and checked on him in the trailer and he was quietly munching his hay. He panicked at a car engine and a sign but wasn’t bothered by an air ambulance!”

The team from Magpas air ambulance administered advanced pain relief but decided Karina was safe to travel by East of England land ambulance and she was taken on a 30-40 minute ride to her local hospital.

“I felt every pot hole on the way out of Brancaster!” Karina said. “The ambulance was actually being driven by a fireman, who had been drafted in to help during the pandemic, and we’d also had the coastguard help in the beach, everybody was just awesome.”

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At the hospital Karina was given an urgent trauma CT scan of her head, neck, chest and pelvis which revealed a fifth rib fracture. She also had a whiplash injury to her neck from where Foley had bucked. She was kept in overnight but asked to be released the next day to get home for her eldest son’s birthday.

After three weeks of recovery, her rib and neck are starting to heal and she is hoping to get back on Foley this week.

“It was the first time I’ve taken him to the beach but he’d tacked up fine and had stood there good as gold and hadn’t seemed stressed at all, it was just one of those freak accidents,” Karina said. “He is my heart horse, he is so kind and doesn’t have a bad bone in his body. I’m looking forward to getting back in the saddle and we will do some desensitisation with signs just to be on the safe side. I’ve also vowed to wear a body protector from now on.

“I’m lucky it wasn’t worse and that being a cob with tough feet, he isn’t shod behind!”

Karina has made a donation to MAGPAS and will also be cycling the 50 mile My Prudential Ride London next weekend (15-16 August) to raise money for the service. Donations can be made at https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/karinaobrien1

“As equestrians, it’s nice to be able to give back as I am sure the air ambulance has attended to quite a few of us, and not everyone is aware of them,” she added.

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