Harry Meade talks about surviving his rotational fall and how his Airowear body protector protected him.
Can you describe what happened during your fall?
I was riding a horse called Shannondale Santiago who is a fantastic jumper with an excellent technique. He was doing his first Advanced at Wellington Horse Trials, having won the OI at Bicton the previous week. He did a great dressage test and jumped clear in the show jumping putting him into 3rd place ahead of the cross country. We fell at the 2nd fence, which was small and inviting and not much bigger than a novice fence. It did have an innocuous beam over the top, and in the past he had been wary of jumping under fences with ‘roofs’ (like owl holes), but this was elementary in comparison to what he had jumped previously.
We approached the fence at a fairly forward pace, as it was a perfect confidence booster at the start of the course. As he was about to take off he ducked and chipped in, chesting the fence and somersaulting over the top in a rotational fall. I was speared head first into the ground, with my arms out in front of me. Both arms locked straight and snapped at the elbow. The horse then landed on my legs and pelvis.
Do you remember what you did to avoid a more serious injury to your torso?
It wasn’t possible to tuck and roll as I only came away from the horse as we were about to hit the ground. My arms took the full force of the impact, so thankfully my head and neck were fine. Whilst these sort of falls aren’t common, they normally happen at fences when horses aren’t travelling with a lot of speed. In my case the extra speed probably propelled me further forward so my torso was out of range of where the horse landed, although it probably also accounted for faster impact and subsequent damage to my arms.
Can you describe the severity of your injuries?
Both arms shattered as they bent the wrong way, dislocating in the process. I have never felt pain like it and it was clear that my elbows were in pieces. My initial thoughts were that I had also broken my pelvis with the weight of the horse landing on me, but thankfully that was fine. I’m very grateful to my Airowear body protector, which protected every part of me that it covered. Thankfully the pain there subsided quickly and I was given the all clear when everything was x-rayed. After the initial operation on both arms that same day, the surgeon likened the bone in the right elbow to a pile of sawdust!
How effective do you think your body protector was during the fall?
Airowear are leaders in their field and it’s obviously important to have complete faith in your body protector. The fall I had in August was a pretty bad one and every part of me that was covered by the body protector was uninjured, so I am very happy with its effectiveness.
How has the recovery process been and how long is it going to take to fully recover?
Both arms have been operated on twice and the elbow joints reconstructed with pins and plates. I had 10 days where both arms were elevated from hooks on the ceiling 24 hours a day, followed by another 5 weeks without any movement in either arm or hand, meaning I had to be fed and watered and could do nothing for myself. It certainly hasn’t been easy and I am incredibly grateful to my wife, Rosie, who has been a total star throughout.
There were some comical moments which kept us all going. I seemed to be endlessly shut into rooms by my 1 year old daughter who thought it was a hilarious game to run out of a room pulling the door shut behind her leaving me stuck inside and her outside — talk about a toddler running rings around her father!
The 2 main concerns since the surgery is firstly that the repaired areas of bone, despite being held in place by the metalwork, might come apart, and secondly that the blood supply to the various pieces may not get though which would result in the bone dying and needing to be replaced with an artificial joint. The bones have stayed intact and are beginning to knit together, and we will know over the coming weeks about the blood supply.
Thanks to the World Class programme I have started a rehab programme at Moulton College in Northamptonshire, overseen by Team GBR physio Andy Thomas. This is primarily focused on regaining movement through massage, exercises in the hydrotherapy pool and stints in the cryotherapy chamber, which is basically a massive freezer that goes down to -140°C. It’s as uncomfortable as it sounds, particularly for someone who doesn’t particularly like the cold!
I am regaining more and more movement every week and am hoping to be back on a horse in mid December, which will give plenty of time for a normal preparation for the upcoming season.
For more information about Harry visit www.harrymeade.com
For more information about airowear visit www.airowear.co.uk