Ballarat teenager Hayley Juggins has had to learn how to walk, talk and live life again after a horrific horse accident eight weeks ago almost killed her.
Hayley, 18, sustained severe head injuries and was airlifted to the Alfred Hospital in an induced coma after being knocked out and trampled by a horse she was holding during an event in Elmore.
“I thought she was dead. There was blood everywhere,” said mother Louise who was with Hayley when the accident happened.
The pair were getting the young horse ready when a noise spooked him.
“He spun around to see what it was and knocked her out cold with his head,” Mrs Juggins said.
“Somehow she has fallen under him, then he realised she was there and tried to get away from her except he kept colliding with her head.”
The accident left Hayley with two cheek fractures, a broken nose, crushed eye socket and dangerous swelling to her brain.
She remained in a coma in the Alfred Hospital’s intensive care unit for two weeks, then spent a further three weeks in a ward before being transferred to Caulfield Hospital for rehabilitation where she will relearn life skills and gain strength until August.
“In ICU she had surgery to put a drainage tube in her head to relieve pressure and swelling. We were actually told it’s not looking too good and she could have died,” Mrs Juggins said.
The accident happened on March 11, just four days after Hayley’s 18th birthday and a day after she got her first tattoo.
Last week the family received the welcome news that Hayley had officially overcome post traumatic amnesia, but she still faces a long road ahead.
“She has come such a long way,” Mrs Juggins said. “She is now walking and talking, she does have short term memory loss but they say that will come back slowly over time and it will probably take 12 months to recover.”
Therapists will focus on her physical recovery and regaining skills including those she needs as an apprentice hairdresser.
“She’s got it in her head now what she’s got to do, but the brain is not connecting with the hand or leg. It’s got to rewire itself. It’s the hard drive of the body,” Mrs Juggins said.
Doctors have said that Hayley’s youth and fitness are a bonus in her recovery.
“You don’t really hear a lot about brain injury. You know it is out there and it can happen, but when it’s you or someone close to you, you hear a lot more about it and it’s more common than people think.
“It puts your whole life in to perspective. We all take walking, talking, eating and simple things like brushing hair for granted.”
Mrs Juggins decided to get a green ribbon tattoo on her ankle to help raise awareness about brain injury. Black Label Tattoo Collective offered to complete the tattoo free for the cause – they had tattooed Hayley the day before her accident.
“People need to see that brain injury is not just an injury, it’s a life long injury. Don’t take life for granted and if you’re riding a push bike, skate board, horse or anything else you need to wear a helmet. If this can happen just standing there holding a horse, imagine what can happen if you’re riding something,” Mrs Juggins said.
As with many head injury patients, the full extent of Hayley’s recovery won’t be known for some time.
“Like Hayley says when we go to visit her, ‘it is what it is’,” Mrs Juggins said. “She’s been through hell but she’s doing a good job, she’s pretty tough.”
Last week Hayley had a special visitor when her dog Archie was allowed in to the hospital.
“He was with us at the horse show and the last time he saw her she was on the floor … he probably thought she was dead and he was excited when he saw her again,” Mrs Juggins said.