Yorkshire Air Ambulance: Woman who suffered 'freak' accident horse riding near Pickering keeps up charity fundraising

Caroline Shepherd’s horse, Miracle, seems to be an aptly named steed.When the care worker was out riding the thoroughbred cross Cleveland Bay at Lockton near Pickering in January 2018, she suddenly lost consciousness.

“Basically, from what I've been told, I died in the saddle,” says Caroline, 42, from Wombleton in North Yorkshire. “And my friend then resuscitated me. The horse never left my side, I don’t think, from what people say.”

Caroline’s friends “found me face down in the mud” before carrying out CPR, she says, and it “took a good seven minutes to bring me back”.

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Due to the remote location and severity of Caroline’s “freak” accident the Yorkshire Air Ambulance (YAA) was deployed.

Caroline (centre right) presenting funds to Yorkshire Air Ambulance.Caroline (centre right) presenting funds to Yorkshire Air Ambulance.
Caroline (centre right) presenting funds to Yorkshire Air Ambulance.

She says: "I think I was lashing out at the paramedics and was telling them: ‘I'm going to sit up, I'm going get back on the horse because that's what riders do – they fall off and get back on’. I can't remember any of this at all. The doctor just said: ‘We don't know what's going on, we need to get her put to sleep, rest her brain, and fly to James Cook’.

"It must have been very frightening for my dad because he saw the whole thing.”

Waking up in the Middlesbrough hospital eight days later was the next thing Caroline can remember.

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And when she came around, in her confused state she thought she was in hospital following a previous fall from her horse four years earlier, when she had punctured a lung and a broken a collarbone.

Brain scans revealed that she had subarachnoid hemorrhage – a bleed on the brain – and Caroline was operated on and put into an induced coma for seven days.

Her right side was initially “paralysed” – she had to learn how to walk again – but Caroline was determined to leave hospital after three weeks and three days on her father Richard Wedgwood’s birthday, February 20.

“It was sheer determination basically, and I was very naughty,” says Caroline.

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With the guidance of her physiotherapist she has been able to get back on ‘Mirry’, short for Miracle - named so after the horse’s mother died during her birth.

"She's still going very strong at 27,” says Caroline. “I rode her the other day actually and she was like a four year old.”

Eventually, Caroline was able to get full movement back and was reassured by her latest scan results in November.

She says: “To gain my strength back I went around all the country shows with my dad and you always go to the air ambulance stall and say ‘I got rescued’ and it was really quite emotional. It still is at times, especially if you hear the helicopter come over...you know that somebody’s in desperate need of them, and it makes me go cold, really, just thinking about it.”

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When she was initially asked to become a volunteer, Caroline’s reaction was that she “couldn’t stand all day behind a stall” but was eventually persuaded and says: “It's the best thing I've ever done. I just love it.

"So not only did they pick me up and scoop me up and look after me that day, they've also helped me through my recovery.”

Subsequently, having spent 25 years working in care, Caroline was inspired to start Your Ryedale Care, which looks after people in their own homes, in April last year.

"I’ve got four girls working for me now. I’m still trying to recruit staff but it's like finding gold,” she says.

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Since her accident, Caroline estimates that she has help to raise around £17,000 for the YAA with events such as charity nights.

She used to collect all the donation pots in the area, but that job has now been taken over by her mother, Marion.

The latest event will take place at Pickering Recreation Club from 7.30pm on Saturday.

It will be an evening with Charles Hanson, the auctioneer known for being on Bargain Hunt.

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As well as an auction – with a main offer being a three-night mid-week stay Studford Luxury Lodges in Ampleforth – there will be a raffle to raise funds for YAA.

Its two air ambulances operate from bases at The Nostell Priory Estate near Wakefield and RAF Topcliffe near Thirsk. To keep them going, says the charity, it needs to raise £19,000 per day.

To book tickets for the charity event, which cost £12, call Caroline on 07969273357.