I would first like to thank everyone for their prayers and well wishes for a speedy recovery. A special thanks to my wife Kate, for helping me get through all of this and for my traveling partners Jason Havens and Ryan Gray who were with me when I got injured and kept insisting I be checked out at a hospital.
So a little recap first on how my 2011 regular season came to an abrupt end. After riding for 90-points in Bremerton, Wash., Jason, Ryan and I caught a flight down to compete in San Juan Capistrano, Calif. We were up on Saturday, Aug. 27 and I had Flying 5 Rodeo’s Diaper Duty. After a rough go in the chute, in which I was slammed against the chute I nodded my head and rode for 76 points. Not having a lot of time before we had to catch a flight back to Seattle, I packed things up and we all headed out. Although I was in some pain, I thought it would subside. We got to the airport and boarded and I wasn’t feeling all that well. I got worse as the plane continued to climb.
Jason nor Ryan were close to where I was sitting and the girl sitting beside me thought I was just air sick, so she tried not to look at me. Dean Gorsuch was sitting in front of me and was trying to talk to me but I wasn’t feeling much like talking. In hindsight, I should have told him I wasn’t feeling well so he could have kept an eye on me. So sorry Dean – I wasn’t being rude just not really myself. So as the flight continued, I was feeling pretty bad and trying to figure out if I should tell the flight attendant or just grit it out. The next thing I knew we were getting ready to land and as we got closer to the ground I started feeling some better but still not great.
We landed and I told Jason and Ryan what had happened and how I was feeling. We found the paramedics in the airport and they checked me out and thought I was fine but both Ryan and Jason knew that wasn’t true. We had a connecting flight to catch, as we were scheduled to ride in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, the next day, so we went to the Alaska Airlines counter and told them what was going on and they said they would rebook us on the morning flight, which would still get us to the rodeo in time. With that done we got a cab and went to a little clinic close to the airport.
They checked me out there and learned that I had a broken rib but thought that was it. Ryan insisted that something else was going on as sick as I was. Also by now my abdominal muscles were really tying up and I was getting short of breath. He finally convinced them to get an ambulance and they took me to Harborview Medical Center. Once there they did a CT scan and said they needed to schedule me for surgery immediately as I had lacerated my pancreas. That was the moment my 2011 regular season rodeo schedule came to an abrupt end.
Jason and Ryan stayed at the hospital until they had to head back to the airport for their flight and then Kate drove up and I had surgery on Sunday morning, Aug. 28. When the hospital personnel asked me to sign a release saying any surgeon could work on me, I called Tandy Freeman to get his opinion. He told me I was in the best place possible as all the best surgeons were at Harborview in Seattle, so I was very thankful to be in such a great hospital.
They told me my pancreas had gotten lacerated after being slammed into my spine. They took about half of it out due to the damage and then fixed it to keep the acids and stomach enzymes in place. That was the reason I was feeling so sick on the plane and before I got to the hospital because all that was spilling out into my stomach cavity. I got released from the hospital on Saturday, Sept. 3 and started my recovery process with hopes of a return in December at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
I probably lost about 15 or so pounds during that week in the hospital. I had an In-N-Out Burger on Saturday and didn’t have anything else to eat until Tuesday, Aug. 30. That first day I only got broth but man I felt so much better once I was able to take on some nutrition. I never knew I liked broth that much.
The doctors told me the first 4-6 weeks are critical in the recovery process, allowing my body the time to heal that area after surgery. They told me to take it easy and be sure and eat healthy getting as much protein as I could to maintain my muscles. In October, they told me I would be able to start doing a little more cardio type exercises and then if all looks good, I can start doing some strength exercises in November. I am following doctor orders to a T on this one, as any little setback would cause a delay in recovery.
So, I have been taking it easy and enjoying my time with my family. Charlie and Laura are busy with school and Trey started preschool this year and goes twice a week. He really likes school and it must really wear him out as he is normally an early riser but after his school days he has a hard time getting out of bed. Charlie is playing football and he has started team roping. He had practiced a lot on the dummy but now he is actually running steers and doing well as a header. Kate and Laura keep the horses exercised while I am sidelined and they are still barrel racing and having a great time.
I will try to write again in a few weeks with a progress report on my recovery. With the regular season now over I am also happy to report that all my traveling partners – Jason, Ryan and Steven Dent have made the finals. Steven was sidelined with his shoulder so wasn’t in San Juan with us when all my excitement happened but since returning to the arena he has been on a roll. Congrats to him for his win in Pendleton, Ore., and Omaha, Neb., to finish out the season and move to third in the world standings. Ryan is ranked fourth, which is an accomplishment in itself after missing the first half of the season recovering from his lacerated liver, and Jason is 8th in the standings. Hopefully we will all be riding together in Las Vegas in December.
Until next time – take it easy and be blessed,
Four-time and reigning PRCA World Champion Bareback Rider