Longford's Aisling Byrnes in action
It's been a tough few weeks for Newtownforbes native Aisling Byrne, who was the victim of a freak accident involving a horse in early February.
The local showjumper was exercising a horse on February 10 at approximately 4.30pm in Faro, when the unexpected incident occured.
“The horse that I was on belongs to a friend of mine and she wasn't arriving to the show until the following day, Sunday,” Aisling explained to the Longford Leader last week.
“So I said that I would keep the horse in work for her until she got there to make sure it was fit and ready for competition when she arrived.”
Aisling had exercised the horse and was hacking leisurely back to the stables when things started to turn.
“All of a sudden, he got really unsettled, which isn't like him,” she said.
“I'm not sure what unsettled him but I wasn't too worried at the time because the horse is usually fairly solid.
“A friend of mine was walking ahead of me on her horse, which was behaving really well. I called to her to wait and said I'd walk alongside her as I thought her horse might have a calming influence over the one I was on.
“She waited but in a split second the horse I was on just reared up,” she said.
“I thought he would go back down but then I heard my friend gasp and it was at that point that I knew, he had gone too high and that he was going to topple backwards onto me.”
Aisling found herself crushed under the horse's weight and, as the horse tried to get up, he trampled all over her.
As a result, Aisling was left with two broken hips and a smashed pelvis, not to mention internal bleeding.
She spent nine days in the intensive care unit in Faro, but said that she felt incredibly lucky despite it all.
The horse, she said, could have landed on her chest or broken her back, causing far worse injuries than he did.
But, she added, she was also incredibly lucky that there were specialist surgeons on duty when she got to the hospital.
“The hospital I was brought to is not an orthopaedic hospital and does not have orthopaedic surgeons, which is what I needed,” Aisling explained.
“However, on that evening, there just happened to be an orthopaedic surgeon from another hospital there.
“I also had a huge amount of internal bleeding which meant they had to rush me into surgery. In a way, this could be considered lucky as otherwise, I think I may have just been left on a trolley as the hospital was overrun with patients lying on trolleys.
“As a result of the internal bleeding and the severity of the breaks to my hips and pelvis, I had to be put into intensive care.”
Aisling has had two surgeries since the accident. The first was on that day in Faro Hospital, because of the immense internal bleeding.
“I know that the doctors there panicked when they saw how much blood I was losing so I was rushed to surgery.
“I hadn't had any pain medication until I got to surgery so I was almost relieved to get there!
“They put in a large external metal brace to hold my pelvis together and also metal pins into my legs for traction,” she said.
After her surgery in Faro, and some rest time in the hospital, Aisling was transferred to Dublin.
The flight, she said, was difficult because she felt extreme pain every time she moved.
But she got there and felt a huge relief to be back on home soil.
And the journey wasn't over yet. Aisling had to undergo a second surgery when she returned to Ireland. This surgery was done in Tallaght Hospital.
“The surgeon, Dr Michael Leonard, was able to remove all of the external metal pieces and put them inside my body!” she exclaimed.
“They were able to fix much more than they expected to in that surgery because I didn't lose too much blood so the surgery lasted approximately eight hours and I was delighted that they were able to do so much, as it saves me from having to do a further surgery on my hips.”
Aisling will be in hospital for the next eight weeks and she won't be able to put weight on her legs during that time, while the bones heal.
Once the eight weeks have passed, she'll be able to start rehabilitation to help her walk and, eventually, ride a horse again.
“I also have some internal injuries which they need to continue to monitor and their progress will determine whether I need to have further surgery or not,” she said.
From the accident to intensive care to surgery, one thing Aisling couldn't ignore was the huge amount of kindness that was directed towards her by others.
“People's genuine offers of help with the horses and my work have been fantastic,” she said.
“But also people that I didn't know were praying for me and having masses said for me!”
In fact, there have been so many people wishing Aisling well, sending her gifts and cards and offering up their help wherever they could.
“I think all of this goodwill definitely played its part in everything running smoothly for me getting a bed in the Dublin Hospital and the surgeon being able to take me early the morning after my arrival.
“Everything like that seemed to fall into place.
“So many people have sent supportive and kind messages and cards, flowers and gifts.
“The Royal Windsor Horse Show in the UK heard about my accident and very thoughtfully sent me a very beautiful card and chocolates, but also included a USB stick with all of my sho-jumping images from last year's show, which I thought was very kind.
“So people's support and kindness has really stood out and made it a much easier journey than it otherwise might have been,” she said.
For now, Aisling will continue her recovery in hospital before starting her rehabilitation.
You'd forgive her if she decided never to ride a horse again, but such is her passion for show-jumping, she won't even let this get in her way.
“I hope to be back on a horse towards the end of the year,” she said.
And, with such positivity and enthusiasm Aisling, despite all of the obstacles she has faced and has still to face, she's bound to be back with some high-profile showjumping wins in no time.