The Neufelds never expected to need to use the Alberta Children’s Hospital. But they are so grateful it was there for their daughter Emily when she needed it. Last March, right as school was shut down for the pandemic, Emily and her family went out to the corral on their property near Pincher Creek to try a new saddle on a horse. She sat in the saddle just to see how it fit, when the horse took off. Though Emily has ridden her whole life, she panicked and froze, too scared to try to stop the horse who began to lope up a hill and into a treed area. Her parents tried desperately to catch up as Emily began sliding and hanging off the side of the horse, eventually knocking her head against a tree. Because she wasn’t preparing for a ride that day, she wasn’t wearing a helmet, even though she usually wears a helmet when she rides. When her terrified parents reached her, she was on the ground, and had gone briefly unconscious.
Her mom lifted her through the fence and took her to the Pincher Creek hospital. From there, Emily was sent by ambulance to Lethbridge Hospital where a CT scan found she had a subdermal hematoma – a bleed outside of her brain – and four fractures in her skull. Doctors decided she needed pediatric experts so sent her by ambulance to the Alberta Children’s Hospital. The whole ride, her parents couldn’t help but think they might lose her. When they arrived at the ER, teams of specialists and nurses swarmed around Emily. Dana recalls how touching it was watching one nurse take the time to wipe all the dirt from Emily’s eyes and other scrapes with a sponge. She suddenly felt relieved they were in the best place they could be. The family met neurosurgeon Dr. Jay Riva-Cambrin who they loved instantly for how he engaged and joked around with Emily while examining her condition. Surgery to reduce pressure was a possibility if things were to worsen, but because of how alert she was and how sell she was doing, she was moved onto unit 3 for close monitoring overnight. It was there where Emily met Sally, a nurse who soon became her favourite even though she woke her up several times to run tests with her. The next day, all were pleased to discover through a CT that the hematoma was shrinking. She didn’t need surgery! Because she still had suffered a serious brain injury, with fractures and a concussion, she stayed in hospital another two days for monitoring. Despite Covid restrictions isolating them to their room, Emily kept entertained with Lego from the Child Life team. Emily had to take a break from some activities she loved including riding, but a few months after her accident was given permission to get “back in the saddle again.”
Having access to such exceptional care is immeasurable, says Dana. She will remember how Emily had the “best of the best” caring for her, and the small comforts of their hospital journey: bringing a stuffed animal into the CT scanner and how the nurses brought Dana cups of tea during isolation.
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.