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Horse Sense

Horse Sense

Shir Smith is a mentor, advocate, and a woman of great faith in God, who lives with the reality that, “A brain injury can Happen to Anyone, Anywhere, at Any Time.”   Sometimes, multiple times…                 

Have you fallen from a tree or a horse and been treated for broken bones?  Have you experienced abuse, or walked away from multiple car accidents?  Throughout Shir’s life, she suffered these kinds of traumas. A single, dramatic, event that results in hospitalization isn’t the only way to suffer a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). It can be the culmination of all those apparently “mild” jolts to our heads that can lead to catastrophe. In Shir’s case, her head being smacked by the opening of a freezer door, was the proverbial “last straw”. From 2009-2015, the treatment mostly consisted of more medications for the pain and possible mental/behavioral health diagnosis for the other ongoing symptoms.  

Shir, was working with a physical therapist in North Platte trying to rehab the on-going problems from breaking bones in both arms. The Physical Therapist was listening and considering what Shir was telling him about her injuries and the lasting effects.  He was the first to suggest that she see a specialist about undiagnosed TBIs.  Shir initially misheard, “Midline Shift Syndrome,” resulting from TBIs, as another inaccurate diagnosis of her suffering a, “Midlife Crisis.”  According to Shir, the Physical Therapist, “Put me back to broke” by finally believing and understanding that, “We are fighting to be as normal as possible and manage our symptoms, but we can’t without understanding and support.”  

Can you relate to Shir’s relief when finally receiving therapy for the lasting effects of the multiple TBIs? At last, due to an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment, including prisms in her glasses, her symptoms of social anxiety and memory problems began to improve. As Shir has figured out, “Living with the effects of a TBI has to be about the person and being the way, we want to be, instead of what others want us to return to.” Asked about examples of what she means, Shir explains, “I had to learn a whole new way to write and eat efficiently.”  Before all the TBIs, music was a big part of Shir’s life, “I can’t sing in tune to this day.  My right hand doesn’t keep up with my left hand when playing piano.  I still play but not in public.”

Shir has discovered that, “Little things can make the difference. Becoming advocates, sharing resources, learning how to control impulses by counting to ten and reevaluating what is going on.”  What has helped Shir to thrive after brain injury?  “Becoming aware of TBI.  Hanging out with people who truly understand. We can cope emotionally and physically in ways that we wouldn’t do before TBI that includes learning patience with ourselves and others.”

Shir’s awareness and faith have led her to be an advocate and mentor for others on a similar journey.  Shir and her husband, Randy, are starting, “Ran-Shir Revolving Door Rehab – Ranch-Rehab- Rescue.” According to Shir, “The ability to overcome trauma comes from a great desire to rescue and rehab ourselves.  Using a ‘hands-on method’ individuals experiencing the effects of TBI and other life’s traumas will be learning how to do ‘their way’ instead of how others want to do it.”  Abused horses, perhaps having suffered TBI, also recover at Ran-Shir. “Horses don’t care where they are at physically, that is how humans should be.” There is a healing connection between needing and giving care. Only through acceptance and mutual respect, are we able to be our best selves.  Based on other successful models, Ran-Shir is the kind of support that can make all the difference in successful recovery of a life we want to live after TBI or other traumas. 

As Shir says, “There’s no limit to your sky. Go above and beyond!”  

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