REACH Stories

Michelle Hewitt

Riding to Victory

Michelle Hewitt

Madeline and Michelle had been spending a lot of time together, and getting along quite well. Then one day, and for no apparent reason, Madeline treated Michelle very poorly. Michelle was hurt. Madeline should have minded her manners around the future queen. The falling out could have been avoided. Correction…make that “the falling off”.

Madeline is a horse. Michelle is the reigning Livermore Junior Rodeo Queen, a title she won in March. That’s no small feat considering the events of just two months prior. Her mom Beth explains, “Michelle was riding her horse on our property, preparing for the contest. The horse spooked, bucked her off and then just kept stepping on her. It was one of the most frightening experiences we’ve ever had.”

Says Michelle, “I had just gotten home from a 4-H camp that day, and I needed to make sure Madeline got worked. I was riding down a hill. She spun around, and I came off. Then, she kept stepping back onto me, many times, before she ran off.”

The wind knocked out of her, Michelle lay on the rocky ground. She didn’t feel able to move. When her parents saw the riderless horse, they went to find Michelle. When they saw her, they called 911. Fire Department paramedics arrived to find that Michelle’s body was covered with hoof prints. They called REACH and Michelle was flown to Eden Hospital in Castro Valley, about 30 miles away.

Michelle was transported to the hospital aboard a medically-equipped REACH helicopter. Michelle was transported to the hospital aboard a medically-equipped REACH helicopter.

“The REACH crew was amazing,” says Beth. “They allowed me to ride with Michelle, they kept me informed about how she was doing the entire way, and they even stayed at the hospital for a while. They kept checking on me, asking if I wanted water, things like that. I really appreciated that they didn’t leave right away.”

Michelle recalls that the helicopter got there really fast. She also admits being kind of scared to ride in it. “But the guys were great,” she says. “Whatever I needed, they gave me, and they kept me calm.”

Those guys were Pilot Chris Beasley, Flight Nurse Brian Warner and Flight Paramedic Larry Brown from REACH’s Concord base.

The REACH crew is standing by 24/7 to respond to 911 calls such as Michelle's. The REACH crew is standing by 24/7 to respond to 911 calls such as Michelle's.
The REACH crew were amazing.
Michelle Hewitt, Survivor

Chris Beasley remembers the transport well. “It was actually a pretty challenging call because of where they live. It was an unusually hot day, too. And all of us on the crew are big dudes, so the helicopter was really heavy,” he says. But they were determined to take Beth along if possible. They quickly did the calculations. “It was just within the maximum weight,” Chris says. “It was a challenging departure.” But that’s why Chris does what he does—he got into helicopter aviation with the express intent of doing EMS, although he says he “kind of took a roundabout path.”

Chris and crew got Michelle quickly and safely to Eden, where doctors were particularly concerned that Michelle’s liver and spleen might have been damaged. They ran tests and were fast to report that Michelle’s injuries were limited to fractures, some broken ribs and tissue damage. Miraculously, her organs were unscathed. She was released soon after.

The good medical news meant Michelle needed to get back up on Madeline as soon as possible. It was the end of January, and the Junior Rodeo Queen competition was in March.  “After taking several weeks off, she really had to focus,” says her mom. “This was the last year she could try out for Junior Queen.” Beth adds proudly, “It was hard for her to get back up on the horse after that accident, but she did it, and she did it well.”

Michelle Hewitt, here with her beautiful horse Madeline, is the Livermore Junior Rodeo Queen. Michelle Hewitt, here with her beautiful horse Madeline, is the Livermore Junior Rodeo Queen.

“My doctor gave me a rib brace,” says Michelle. “I only had about three weeks of riding time because even when I was allowed to get out of bed, I didn’t ride at first.”

The Junior Rodeo Queen contest requires a demonstration of each contestant’s horsemanship skills. “We have to do a reigning pattern,” Michelle says. “I was a little nervous about the horsemanship part, but my coach and trainer just kept telling me, ‘Ride your horse. Don’t think about anything. Just do what you know how to do.’” As her title indicates, Michelle excelled. And what about Madeline? “I still don’t have full trust in her,” Michelle states honestly. “We’re working on that. But on contest day, she was definitely on her best behavior.”

Everyone at REACH is thrilled that Michelle experienced such a successful outcome following her fall, and we wish her a wonderful year as Livermore Junior Rodeo Queen.

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