TARA FOX’S STORY OF BRAVERY, RECOVERY, & STRENGTH
by: Sheila Rockwell
On June 30, 2015, 19 year old Tara Fox was involved in a horrific barrel racing accident. She was airlifted to the hospital and sustained multiple serious injuries. The road has been long and arduous, but with true grit and determination, Tara has made a remarkable recovery. She took the time to talk to The American Woman Shooter and has shared with us her courageous story, in her own words:
“My name is Tara Caroline Fox. I live in Manvel, TX. I live at home right now because of the accident. but last year I attended Alvin Community College.
I love the sport of rodeo. I didn’t start rodeoing until I was a senior in high school. Although I barrel race, I also like to rope, pole bend and tie goats. I also loved cheerleading. When I was 6, I started competition cheerleading and cheered until I was 18. I was also a member of the FFA and showed cattle in high school. I like to go to my family’s ranch in Gonzales, TX, and to hunt. I started barrel racing when I was a senior in high school. I loved the sport from the very beginning. My horse, Cross, is very high-spirited, but fun to ride. I won my first buckle on him at the Wharton Chute and Barrel Series. We placed 1st and 2nd at many jackpot barrel races and we also won 2nd in barrels at the Alvin Summer Series. I went to YRA and TYRA finals on the same horse. Last year I competed in college rodeo on Cross. I represented Alvin Community College as an independent.
On Monday night, June 30, (the night of the accident), my goal was to have a clean run due to the fact my horse was having problems a couple months before with turning left. We took him to several vets and had changed some of the tack, trying to figure out the problem. He would have a perfect practice, then at barrel races it would be completely different. The week before the accident, we went to a barrel-racing camp by Martha Josey, the NFR Barrel Racing Champion. At the camp, he did very well, so I was excited and expected him to be back on track.
My emotions going into the alleyway before my run were a little mixed up on what I had to expect of our run and what was going to happen. Going into the first barrel, I thought everything was great; he finally went in and it was time to make a clean run. Going around the second barrel, my foot slipped out of the stirrup because I expected him to turn left, but he was actually headed straight for the alleyway, and was gaining speed. Due to losing a stirrup, all of my weight shifted to the left side, and I started to slide off. When I started hanging over the side of him, all I wanted to do was get back on and make him do it right, even though if I would have just let go I could have ended up in the soft dirt… but because I was so stubborn, I tried to hold on. I ended up slamming against the metal roping chute and was dragged along the steel piping of the alleyway until I eventually fell off. When I first fell, I didn’t think anything was really wrong. In fact, my barrel racing instructor told me that I thought that I was fine and I tried to get up, but there was no way anyone would let me. I remember a couple seconds of being on the ground–nothing hurt and everything seemed fine, but this was actually during my seizure. When I finally started breathing again, everyone was all around me and holding me still until the ambulance arrived. As soon as the ambulance got there they loaded me up, drove to a parking lot and put me on life-flight. We went straight to the ER at Memorial Hermann at the Texas Medical Center.
In the emergency room, it was discovered that I sustained multiple rib fractures, multiple pelvic fractures, a severe sacral fracture, a lumbar L5 transverse process destruction, a fractured right scapula, a spinous process fracture of the thoracic spine, a collapsed lung, and a retroperitoneal hematoma. I had to go into emergency surgery to repair the sacral and pelvic fractures immediately due to instability. The pelvis had to have multiple pins inserted for stabilization.
My horse seemed fine, but he was taken back to his former owner in West Texas for a few months of rest.
The first few days in the shock/trauma ICU were a blur due to being heavily sedated. Even though I barely remember, my family told me that I had a lot of friends from my school and rodeo as well as family friends that came to see me. After a couple of days, I was transferred onto a general trauma floor. I can still remember the tremendous amount of pain I was in even just laying there, not living at all. It was a huge deal to try and sit up 90 degrees, but I had support the whole way through. I spent July 4th in the hospital and my friends decorated my room. The Alvin Youth Livestock Arena Association (AYLAA) did a tribute to me by doing a grand entry and had everyone there wearing pink in support of me. I was happy to be able to watch it on my mom’s iPad while I was still in the hospital. After a couple of weeks at Memorial Hermann at the Texas Medical Center, I was transferred to Southeast Memorial Hospital for inpatient rehab. I was there for a couple of weeks until I was finally released to go home. Although I was excited to go home, it was very hard to get used to the new environment while being in a wheelchair and not being able to move much at all. I was very emotional because of everything that had changed in my life. Some days I couldn’t believe it had happened, but there were also days that I knew I would get through it and be even stronger. After a couple of weeks of being at home, I started going to Aquatic Care Programs to do aquatic therapy. There, I was allowed to walk only in the water. Aquatic therapy was a major help in my recovery, especially with my strength. After 9 weeks of absolutely no walking or weight bearing, I was finally allowed to startwalking. For a week I used a walker, but since then I have only been using one crutch. I’ve always loved the saying, “when you fall off just get back on the horse” but in my situation it’s taken literally! I’ve been pushing myself to bestronger every day because I can’t wait to start riding again. My doctors said I’m allowed to sit on a horse in November and I hope to be able to ride again in January.
Everybody asks if I am scared to go back to barrel racing, but that’s not the case at all. In fact, because of the accident, it just gives me more motivation and determination to be successful and to strive to be the best at what I do. With everything that’s happened I realize how fortunate I am to be able to ride again. I was lucky to be in Houston ,TX , where the Texas Medical Center is located and to have Dr. Mark Prasaran, Dr. Josh Gary, Dr. William Brendel, the trauma surgeons, all the nurses and the therapists that helped me. My friends and family have also been there every step of the way and have been extremely supportive of me throughout my healing process. I have been hunting for many years and because of my friend, Megan, I have also been exposed to competitive shooting. Thanks to my aquatic rehab, I’m getting close to having strength to be able to begin shooting instruction.
Being a competitive individual, the physical part of the recovery is not the setback. At times emotionally I would feel a little down and discouraged because I am not able to pursue my plans to go off to Sam Houston State and be a part of the rodeo team this school year. I was sad to see my friends go out and move off to school, and at times I felt very alone. But then I’m reminded how fortunate I am and how far I’ve come, and I know that this is just a bump in the road and I will be back on track before I know it.
One of the most inspiring people to me is Amberley Snyder. She was a barrel racer who was involved in an awfulmotor vehicle accident and is now paraplegic, but yet she still rides and is a successful professional barrel racer. She is upbeat and overcomes her disability and is a positive inspiration to anybody.
I hope to graduate from Sam Houston State University with an AG Business degree, then go to Texas A&M University to get my masters in Business. I want to make horses, hunting, shooting, rodeo, and AG a part of my life.I want people to know that I feel fortunate, and that this accident is going to make me stronger. I hope to one day encourage others who may be going through a hard time. I’m very thankful for all the support and love that I have received!” –TARA FOX