- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 28, 2014

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) - It’s been almost six years since Amber West watched her 5-year-old daughter tumble from a horse at the Black Hills Stock Show & Rodeo.

She said it seems like yesterday that Jaycie fell, her small head then struck by the horse’s hoof.

“I remember every second,” West said of the Jan. 25, 2008, accident in the indoor riding arena at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.

Jaycie West lay on the ground, moaning. She was, however, bleeding only slightly from the top of her head.

“I thought we were headed to get stitches,” said Amber, who was shocked during the ambulance ride to Rapid City Regional Hospital when paramedics removed the bandanna from her daughter’s head to reveal her brain tissue had swollen and was bulging from her skull.

A visiting surgeon from Johns Hopkins Medicine confirmed her building fears.

“I looked at him, looking for reassurance, and said, “She’s going to be OK, right?” Amber remembered. “And he looked at me and said, ‘This is as bad as it gets.’

“It felt like somebody had punched me in the stomach.”

Jaycie went into surgery an hour after arriving at the hospital so doctors could repair a 2 1/2 inch by 3 1/2 inch gash on top of her head and remove bone fragments buried in her brain.

The part of her brain that had swollen and had been exposed to the air and dirt at the arena had to be removed.

Amber told the Rapid City Journal (http://bit.ly/1f8FDX1 ) the doctor told her that children with Jaycie’s type of brain injury have a good chance of not being cognitively affected because the brain can regenerate and compensate for what was lost.

“It’s amazing,” Amber said.

Jaycie stayed in intensive care for 10 days and then transferred to the children’s floor of the hospital for a week, spending another two and a half weeks in a rehabilitation center to recover movement in the left side of her body.

When she returned home, she had physical-therapy sessions in Philip, where the Wests lived at the time.

And as the family prepares to attend the Black Hills Stock Show & Rodeo this year, Jan. 31 through Feb. 9 in Rapid City, there is little reminder of the accident, save for a scar beneath Jaycie’s wispy blond hair and a finger that sometimes goes numb.

Story Continues →