I got phone calls asking if I was planning to retire. I thought, Man, why are these guys asking me this. Was my injury that serious?
What a year I’ve had so far. I’ve only been to five rodeos, but I’ve won nearly $120,000, enough to put me first in the bareback standings. Then, in March, I had an injury that left people asking if I was planning to retire. The short answer is no. I’m not done yet. I’ve got goals I need to accomplish.
The Fourth of July run marks the beginning of my comeback.
First, here’s what happened back in March:
On March 30th at the short round at Rodeo Austin, I drew a horse called Killer Bee from Beutler and Son Rodeo. She was a horse that I’d been looking forward to getting on. I rode her back in Tucson in 2010, and she wasn’t that good with me. She kind of spun and quit bucking. But the past few years she’s gotten a lot stronger. She’s one you really want to draw, one you think you can beat records on. I was excited. I felt great. I’d been riding great all year.
About six seconds in, I whacked my head on the horse’s tail head, where the tail comes out and starts to develop hair. I hit that hard, hard bone with the very back of my head, right where the muscles connect to the skull. It’s happened to me before, but never that seriously. You hear a loud crunch and see a white flash, and then you come back on. It’s usually just a good stinger.
This time, I saw the white flash and went numb. I came back real quick, but I was still numb and couldn’t get into position to where I could get off on the pickup man. Instead, Killer Bee jerked me down, and my face hit my riggin’, which broke my nasal cavity and jaw. I’ve been knocked out on a horse a couple of times, but as soon as I hit my head, they flipped me off and out of the way. I wasn’t so lucky this time. I got flipped underneath her and kicked in the head. It all happened fast. Boom! One, two, three!
I was out cold for four or five minutes. They hauled me off on a stretcher, and I regained consciousness. I talked them into letting me off the stretcher.
“I’m fine,” I told them. “I feel okay.” But after I stood up and started walking around, I got real hot and sweaty and felt nauseous. I touched my head with my hand and turned to Shawn Ready, the Justin Sports Medicine guy. “Hey, you gotta feel this bump on my head.”
“Where’s the ambulance?” he shouted. “You need to get out of here. You have a brain bleed.”
The mood changed from, Whoa dude, you took a dirt nap to, This is life-threatening real fast. They laid me back on the stretcher and put the collar on. As soon as I laid down, I started violently puking. I didn’t stop puking for fourteen hours.
Every hour or so, they would scan my brain and make sure it wasn’t developing more pressure. If so, they’d have to do surgery and remove the top of my skull to relieve the pressure. Thankfully, they didn’t have to go to that extreme.
After about fourteen hours, the swelling started to calm down, and I was finally able to rest. My vision was still a complete blur. I could barely make out a human, but my memory was starting to come back.
The doctors told me I was going to be there at least a week to ten days—plan on two weeks—as the swelling went down and I stabilized.
Back in February, I started a CBD company. CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of the components in medical marijuana. Unlike THC, CBD does not make you high. My brother brought me some of our product, and it helped my body sleep and rest. I feel like the swelling went away because of the inflammation fighters in the CBD.
Instead of two weeks, I was home in four days.
The doctors told me to expect a six-month recovery. They said I’d have headaches and dizziness. I never once got dizzy or had a headache.
Despite all the horror stories you hear about head injury and brain trauma, I never felt scared or nervous. I felt comforted. I know it was our Lord Savior. After a few weeks, I started getting phone calls from good friends, guys that rodeoed for a living, asking if I was done riding, if I was planning to retire. I thought, Man, why are these guys asking me this. Was it that serious? I guess that’s when reality hit me.
Four weeks after the injury, I visited the director of neuroscience at the University of Utah. He pulled up my scan and showed me the original skull fracture and brain bleed. Then he pulled up the scan I did that morning.
“Wow, this looks really good,” he said. “There’s no sign of injury.”
I found that hard to believe, so I scheduled another appointment with a doctor at Cognitive FX, a post-concussion treatment center. She said, “You have no symptoms. You’re good to go.”
So no, I don’t plan on retiring. But I am being really strict on my comeback in terms of what horses I get on. I’m not up until July 2nd. I’ll tell you more about where I’m entered over the Fourth—and how I prepared for my comeback—in my next update from the road.