Trail Rider Shares Her Story of Recovery, Hope to Ride Again
Riding in one of the world’s largest and well-known rodeo parades is a big deal. For Kathy Pusser, a member of Los Vaqueros Trail Riders, and her horse, Brandy, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Parade, is a time to delight thousands of parade goers.
However, things went horribly bad Feb. 26 as local television news coverage caught Pusser and her horse violently fall as she and her fellow riders arrived in town. She and her boyfriend, a 20-year Los Vaqueros member, had joined the riders only three hours earlier and were in front of cheering students from Condit Elementary in Bellaire. All trail riders were heading to Memorial Park to camp out and stage for the Feb. 27 morning parade through downtown Houston.
No one knows what spooked the horses behind her or how her horse got caught between two wagons. But it was clear that as the two went down, the front of a wagon caught Pusser’s face and arm.
Remarkably, she’s well on the road to recovery and on May 24 joined other trauma survivors attending Harris Health System’s annual Trauma Survivors Celebration. The event recognizes the remarkable stories of triumph and recovery of patients treated at Ben Taub and Lyndon B. Johnson hospitals, sites of Level 1 and Level 3 trauma centers, respectively. It reunites patients with members of their hospital care team, and in some cases, first responders. The event is held in May to coincide with National Trauma Awareness Month.
Pusser remembers everything—the noise, the ambulance ride and the activity in the trauma and emergency center at Ben Taub Hospital. She had a shattered jaw, a gash in her head, a collapsed lung and multiple contusions. In the intensive care unit for more than a week, she had two surgeries (13 hours in all) to reconstruct her jaw.
“Ben Taub is awesome,” she says. “Everyone was amazing, from the people who changed my bed to the surgeons.”
“Rodeo Girl,” as her doctors and nurses called her, was in the hospital a month.
“I didn’t look at myself for more than a week,” she recalls. “I was shocked and scared. Would I look different? Would the surgery work?”
Pusser was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and sees Harris Health therapists to help. “They are so kind and caring. They listen to me and make me feel safe.”
Doctors are considering whether or not she will benefit from more surgery. Then she’ll begin dental work to stabilize loose teeth. The accident exacerbated existing hearing loss and she experiences vertigo. It will probably be another year before she can return to work.
Pusser counts her blessings. Faith, prayer and her determination to stay positive have helped. Trail riding friends sponsored a benefit to help with expenses, and she saw, firsthand, how many people are pulling for her.
She visits her horse every day and is now waiting for the day doctors give the “all clear” to go for a ride.
Lyndon B. Johnson and Ben Taub hospitals are vital parts of the Houston/Harris County emergency response system. The hospitals are staffed by renowned medical experts from The University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston and Baylor College of Medicine, respectively. Both facilities combine to treat nearly 172,000 emergency patient visits and trauma cases annually.