Quick action saves a woman in the area after an accident on Christmas Day News, sports, jobs

Quick action saves a woman in the area after an accident on Christmas Day  News, sports, jobs

Photography by Eric Tichy Eileen Cavelish was recently photographed with her horse Skye. A SOUTH COUNTY woman was seriously injured on Christmas Day when she was thrown from a skye while riding.

Eileen Cavlish will likely learn that time does indeed heal all wounds after she was violently thrown from a horse on Christmas Day.

However, ironically, time nearly claimed her life that afternoon.

“You hear them say, ‘In two to five minutes you’ll be dead.’ That’s kind of sobering news.” Cavlish said. “It just means that people who live in a slightly more rural area don’t have a chance.”

Today, Kaflich seems surprisingly optimistic for a 71-year-old woman, who about a month ago came perilously close to death after suffering severe internal injuries when she was thrown to the sidewalk on Big Tree Road in Busti Township.

It is surprising not only because of the accident itself, but also how it happened, and because the apparent reckless actions of another person left her with permanent scars.

Cavlish had just started a half-mile trek with her beloved horse, Skye, heading down Hunt Road. As her 69-year-old husband, Phil, noted, “Driving conditions were ideal and vehicular traffic on our busy road was at its lowest road use of the year since businesses, schools and government were closed for the holiday.”

The Cavleschi family has cared for horses for 40 years “I gained knowledge on how to ride safely.” He said.

Elaine Caflish, who was wearing a bright orange shirt on Christmas Day, recalled hearing a northbound truck revving its engine as it approached her and the upcoming Hunt Road intersection. Skye was riding on the side of the road when the truck came up behind her.

“He didn’t really deviate around me like you think someone would or should.” said Cavlish, who glanced at a bright red pickup truck. “When he got in front of me, he either made the same noise again or backfired or something, but the next noise bothered the horse.”

Skye swerved and Cavlisch was thrown forcefully onto the pavement as the driver of the red truck continued north without stopping. Approaching motorists found her lying unconscious in the road and called 911.

At home, Phil Caflish realized something was wrong when traffic began to slow in front of their property. Then he saw Skye several hundred feet down the road with no sign of his wife.

“I just did what I had to do” He said. “I snatched the horse from the stranger who was holding it and ran into the house with the horse and knocked on the windows to alert my son. I shooed the horse away and then ran back to the accident.”

Lakewood firefighters were alerted to the accident around 4:30 p.m., still unconscious and bleeding internally, she was transported by helicopter to UPMC Hamot in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Cavlish underwent emergency surgery that Christmas night. She didn’t wake up until New Year’s Day, a full week after her fall, and now she doesn’t have a spleen that needs to be removed.

“At least I don’t remember that.” she told the Post Journal. “I don’t know what I felt when I went through that, but I don’t remember it at this point. That part is really good.”

Phil Caflisch added, “It was the worst Christmas of my life.”

Thank the heroes

Cavlish knows she’s lucky to be alive. She could have easily been missed by an approaching car lying in the road. If not for the holiday, when most people are home, it would have taken first responders an extra minute or two to arrive at the scene.

He added: “If this had happened further away – or even further down the road, I mean within three to five minutes – she would have died.” Phil Cavlish said of his wife.

“They definitely saved my life.” She said.

The Cavlish family is using the incident to stress the importance of local fire departments and emergency medical care. Both praised the work of volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel who responded that afternoon.

“The medical staff at Hamut Hospital told me that my wife would have died if her initial treatment had been delayed by three to five minutes.” Phil Caflish said. “If my wife’s emergency had been in a fire department area and she hadn’t been able to respond quickly…I would be a widow now.”

The couple encourages involvement in their local fire department as well as relaxing rules that prevent volunteers from being members of more than one department.

But perhaps more importantly, Kaflich hopes her ordeal will remind motorists of the importance of sharing the road.

According to state law, drivers must use caution when approaching a horse being ridden or walking along the road.

“You must drive at an acceptable speed and at an acceptable distance from the horse.” The state Department of Motor Vehicles notes on its website. “It is illegal to honk when approaching or overtaking a horse.”

There are rules for horse riders too. Animals must be ridden individually near the right curb or edge of the road, or on the right shoulder, lane or usable path.

The road to recovery

Cavlish is still recovering, largely due to having her spleen removed. A person can live without an organ the size of a fist, even though that means their immune system is compromised at the moment.

She hasn’t gone horseback riding since the Christmas Day accident, and she’s not sure when or where she’ll pick up her hobby again.

Although she may be in good spirits, Cavlish harbors some resentment toward the driver of the red truck.

“There was no reason for him to do that, and it almost cost me my life.” She said. “Drivers just need to realize that their cars can cause a lot of damage.”

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