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Back in the saddle

JANE STEBBINS
Summit Daily/Reid Williams After a July horseback riding accident that punctured her lung and liver, broke her jaw and caused numerous other injuries, Gisela Weisz is miraculously on the mend.
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BRECKENRIDGE – Gisela Weisz is back in the saddle again.After being seriously injured on July 5 in a horseback riding accident that many said should have taken her life, the Breckenridge resident has made tremendous progress – although the recovery is ongoing.In July, Weisz was riding a relatively inexperienced horse at the Breckenridge Stables on Peak 9 when the horse began to buck. The animal then reared, breaking Weisz’s jaw. She then fell to the ground and the horse, estimated to weigh 1,500 pounds, fell on top of her.She suffered a punctured liver and lung, four broken bones in her neck, a partially torn artery in her vertebrae, a broken shoulder blade and nerve damage that prevented her from moving her right arm. Doctors said it could take up to two years to recover.Weisz, an expert equestrian, had just begun work at the stables when the incident occurred.The community rallied behind her to raise funds for her medical expenses, care for her third-grade daughter, Manuela, fly her mother up from Argentina, and daily living expenses.”I’m healing great – everything’s healing. My bones, my neck, the nerve damage, the muscles are starting to wake up little by little,” she said. “I think it’s going to be OK.”

It’s been a long five months, but her healing has progressed faster than doctors originally predicted.Weisz vaguely remembers bits and pieces of the accident: the horse bucking, lying on the ground with her unmoving arm pinned behind her, the intense pain in her shoulder and teeth and the paramedics placing her in the Flight For Life helicopter.”I remember the blue skies,” she said. “They were so blue, so blue.”Then she spent 13 days in intensive care at St. Anthony Central in Denver before doctors moved her to a regular room and weaned her off the morphine that had kept the pain at bay.With her jaw wired shut, her right arm immobilized, she lay in bed for two days. The scariest part of the whole ordeal, she said, was when doctors made her get out of bed and walk for the first time, stretching the muscles that had atrophied in the previous days.”It was scary, I woke up and said, ‘I’m messed up,'” she said. “Sometimes you think the pain is never going to go away, and sometimes it doesn’t go away with pills.”Weisz then spent two weeks with her aunt – mostly sleeping – until her mother, Cuca Haeseli, arrived from Buenos Aires.

Her recovery has involved specialists – orthopedists, surgeons, physical therapists, neurologists among them – chauffeured trips to Denver and numerous painkillers. She says she couldn’t have done it without the support of her daughter, mother and the community that rallied behind her. Work continues on her arm.”The rest was going to be OK,” she said. “But my arm, I couldn’t get it off my body. It was so painfu. It still is.”With her mother and daughter assisting, Weisz was able to return home to Breckenridge and began physical therapy three days a week at Howard Head Sports Medicine. She spends another day in the pool, whose waters she initially thought were going to crush her weak body.”When I got there, I couldn’t move a finger,” Weisz said. “Muscles that were not working then are already starting to flicker. Every day it’s more and more and more.”After two months, doctors conducted a test to determine the extent of damage. Tests indicated the nerve was merely stretched, not broken. And last week, she saw her neurologist, who said they were surprised at the progress she’s made.”They were so surprised,” she said. “They said, ‘I can’t believe it, the deltoid seems to be moving. They didn’t think it would be happening this soon.”The healing will still take a long time – perhaps up to two years – and even then doctors don’t know if she’ll be at 100 percent.

“I know it will,” Weisz said. “I can see what’s happening.”She’s so sure, she plans to get back on a horse when she visits friends and family in Argentina over Christmas.”I’m not going to be able to do any jumping or play polo,” she said with a laugh. “I’m going to get on a very nice horse and ride slowly on the beach. I need to get back on it. I’m a powerful believer of the power of the ocean; I grew up on the ocean. The sun and the warm sand are going to help me heal a lot. I know that.”All I can think now is to have my arm back,” she added. “That’s what I want now – and it’s coming. Here we go. A second chance.”Weisz and her daughter have come through the ordeal a stronger family.”I’m sure she suffered,” Weisz said of Manuela. “But she’s a very strong kid. Now that the worst is over, we are loving it. We’re great friends. So many good things are going to come out of this. Life is different now, and it’s so good. It’s going to be OK.”Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or at jstebbins@summitdaily.com.


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