When a head-on car accident brought her normal life screeching to a halt, Paige Cerulli found the strength to move forward with the help of a special horse.
My parents raised me to believe that there is a reason for everything that happens in life, even if it’s not readily apparent. In May of 2008, that outlook was put to the test.
The car struck mine on the Bourne Bridge leading to Cape Cod; it had been raining, the other driver lost control, and the car crossed four lanes to hit my truck head-on. I was left with a bloody nose, a black eye, a swollen knee, and an injured hip. It wasn’t until two weeks later that it was discovered that I’d also suffered a traumatic brain injury at the crash. I suffered memory loss, dizziness, migraines, sound and light sensitivity, confusion, fatigue, compromised balance, speech alteration, and a serious case of depression. I could sleep for 14 hours a day and still not feel rested. I was tired, mad, and in pain.
That summer I underwent months of speech therapy, during which I learned methods to cope with my memory and speech issues. I was to enter my junior year of college that fall, double-majoring in English and music performance on the flute, but towards the end of my therapy I was discouraged from returning to school, the stress of it possibly being too much too soon. If I rode at all, I was only to ride a reliable older mount; another head injury could be devastating.
I returned to school that fall and continued with my double major. On my first day back I went down to the barn where I had been riding to visit with Whisper, the Thoroughbred mare I’d been working with for about a year prior. Whisper, an ex-racehorse, was everything I shouldn’t have had in a mount at that time – young, spooky, and still relatively green.
During that first visit I told myself that I was only going to groom Whisper, but within minutes I found myself mounting up instead. My head throbbed and the sunlight felt like a knife reaching into the back of my eyes, but during that ride, I was happy. Whisper went along quietly, content to just walk – a change from her typical go-go-go character that would last through the following year. I continued to ride her and she continued to rock me back to happiness with every stride. I could feel my body relax; the college stresses of battling stage lights during upcoming performances and studying for tests when I couldn’t remember what year it was fell away when I was with her.
That spring, Whisper went up for sale and I was offered the first chance at her. Despite having ridden my whole life, I’d never been able to afford a horse of my own. But the accident had resulted in a small settlement, and after paying off my senior year of college, I had just enough left. Exactly a year to the day of my accident, I bought Whisper, my first horse.
I now have my therapist on four legs. Whisper has kept me going when my body and mind wanted to quit. She gave me a reason to get out of bed many days, and kept me working towards getting better. Now I truly understand that everything does happen for a reason.
Go Back on Track, and Go Riding!