Applied Experience: Sarah Haase, LPN

December 8, 2021

As Sarah Haase led a trail ride one beautiful summer day, her horse unexpectedly tripped.

She instinctively sunk her weight down into the stirrup and saddle in an attempt to balance the shaky horse, but her 120 pounds were no match for the 1800-pound animal. He faltered and fell, throwing Sarah off before landing on top of her. The horse rapidly recovered and stood up, but Sarah’s foot was still in the stirrup, leaving her hanging from the side of the horse. Spooked, he started running, dragging Sarah along. Her helmet had cracked in the fall, and Sarah stomach-crunched to protect her head. During those agonizing minutes, all she could see was the blur of horse legs swiftly galloping. Then she heard a loud crack. Her leg finally broke loose and she rolled several feet before coming to a stop. Raising up on her elbows, she saw her toes pointed to the ground, her knee facing the sky, and her shin at a 90-degree angle.

“Yup,” she thought. “That’s broken!”

Fortunately, she wasn’t alone when the accident happened. The group she led had witnessed the entire episode. As they rushed to her side, Sarah’s first thoughts were for the horse.

“How’s the horse?” she asked. “Check him – make sure his legs are not broken – make sure he’s okay!”

Then she took charge of operations.

“Take the horses back to the barn. Call my mom to come get my son because I’m going to have to go to the hospital. Call my mother-in-law to bring the truck back here and pick me up.”

Sarah wore a pair of brand-new $300 boots; she knew she needed to get the boot off before her injured leg and ankle began to swell and the boot would have to be cut off. Her assistant tried to remove it, but when Sarah heard the bones shifting, she changed her mind and decided to sacrifice the boots. Meanwhile, her father-in-law, a Marine veteran, arrived and stabilized her leg with tractor pieces and hay bailing twine.

“When we got to the hospital, the ER doctor looked at the splint job,” Sarah laughs. “My father-in-law quickly spoke up and said that he would be needing that piece of metal back as it was something to do with the PTO shaft on his tractor!”

As it turned out, the doctor said the expensive boots had protected Sarah from a compound fracture and more serious injury. He was also sure she’d had a concussion, but focused his attention on the mangled leg with its shattered tibia and broken femur.

The surgeon told her that, according to the x-rays, there was only one way to repair the leg and that she may eventually be facing a below-the-knee amputation. The bone below the tibia was so shattered that a rod would need to be put in and it may not fuse. But he said he’d do everything he could. She awoke from surgery with 37 pieces of titanium in her leg and instructions to remain non-weight bearing for six months.

Sarah had been working extensively with children, adults and horses. However, an incident at the acute care hospital made her decide to add nursing to her list of skills. Rough handling by staff had dislodged the pain blocker that was surgically implanted. When her charge nurse found out, Sarah could hear her reprimanding the staff member about his carelessness and said he would be paying for the surgery to re-insert it, not the patient. Sarah told the nurse she had never had anyone advocate for her that way, and that when she recovered, she would be going to nursing school so that she could pay it forward.

Today, Sarah is back in the saddle, competing in cowboy-mounted shooting and other amazing exploits. And she’s also working at Siskin Hospital with physically-broken people, where she can prepare her patients for what they will experience in their recovery. She can show them her scars and deformed muscle. When they’re depressed or anxious, she can empathize and tell them it’s rough, but it will get better.

“I let my patients know I’ve been there,” she says. “And if they ever want to cry or talk about their feelings and concerns, I’m there to hug them and let them know I understand. When they wonder how they are going to get through their ordeal, I’m able to encourage them in a way that really helps, I think.”