A 12-year-old Kennewick girl faces a long road to recovery after a catastrophic fall from a horse in July at the Benton County Fairgrounds.
Emma McCord, the daughter of Kara Osborne and R.B. McCord, suffered a traumatic brain injury and is still hospitalized in the intensive care unit at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane.
Emma is staying positive and her motor skills are returning, Osborne said.
"If you just had a conversation with Emma you wouldn't know she had a traumatic brain injury," Osborne said. "She is having trouble remembering people's names and naming objects. It's frustrating for her."
There is no timetable for when Emma will be released from the hospital. She will go to St. Luke's Rehabilitation Institute in Spokane for at least two weeks of therapy, Osborne said.
Her parents don't expect her to be ready to go back to school on time. She will be a seventh-grader at Horse Heaven Hills Middle School this fall.
"It's going to take a long time for her to get her memory and word recall back," Osborne said. "We are really hopeful that she will recover. Some days are better than others."
'The best race of her life'
The night of the fall, June 26, began on a high note. Emma was competing in a Tri-Cities Barrel Racing Association riding event at the fairgrounds on her horse, KC.
She rode KC as she never had before, guiding the animal around strategically placed barrels with ease.
It was the ride Emma had been practicing since she took up barrel racing a year ago.
"That was the best race of her life," Osborne said. "It was beautiful to watch."
Emma -- whose father was set to get married in the morning -- was so excited about the race that she pleaded with her family to let her stay to see where she placed.
She got onto the horse bareback and rode it around the fairgrounds. KC, who comes from a line of racing horses, took off and started to run around a blind corner.
An SUV backed out and KC jumped to avoid the vehicle, throwing Emma to the ground. She wasn't wearing a helmet. She landed on her back and her head snapped backwards, knocking her unconscious.
"When her head hit, it hit on the back right of the skull and ended up completely fracturing the skull," Osborne said. "Her brain ricocheted inside of her head and hit the front left side of her skull."
The moment Osborne saw the scan of her daughter's brain was like nothing she had ever experienced before, she said.
"One day you're riding in your car singing songs with your daughter and the next day you're on a (flight) to a hospital," Osborne said. "It's the worst feeling a mother can have."
Five days after the fall, Emma was able to eat and drink some on her own, Osborne said.
Mom: Make sure to wear helmet
This was Emma's second concussion. Osborne said it is a mandatory rule in her family that kids wear helmets if they ride bikes, but she never gave much thought to making sure Emma always had a helmet when she rode horses.
She emphasized to all parents whose kids ride horses to make sure they wear helmets.
"We didn't think twice about letting her on a horse without a helmet," she said. "The brain is the most important part of our body and we need to protect it. It has been the worst experience of our life watching our daughter suffer."
The support from the community, friends and family has been great, Osborne said. The family gave balloons and stuffed animals to other patients in the hospital because they couldn't fit all of them in Emma's room.
Emma will have to stay away from contact sports for at least a year, and her family will have to have a "serious conversation" with her about the risks associated with riding horses again, Osborne said. Right now though, the family is just relieved they will get to have that conversation.
"We are blessed to still have our daughter with us," Osborne said. "If there is any silver lining in this, it's that it has brought us all together."
-- An account called the Emma McCord Recovery Fund has been set up at Bank of the West branches.
-- A fundraiser is scheduled Aug. 17 at The Rail Expresso & Deli in Kennewick. The business will donate 20 percent of all sales that day to the recovery fund.
-- The Rail will also have racks of ribs for sale that people can buy to help support the fund. The ribs are $20 and need to be purchased by Aug. 14.
-- Papa John's Pizza and Jiffy Car Wash also donated discounted gift cards that can be purchased to help support the fund.