A little more than seven months have passed since Lee Lee Jones, stepdaughter of Olympian eventer Phillip Dutton, suffered a traumatic brain injury following a riding accident at the family’s True Prospect Farm in West Grove, Pa.
During these months Jones has made steady progress in her rehabilitation and received a bright bit of news last week—a tentative discharge date from the Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital near the end of August.
“She’s done a lot in seven months, and they seem to think these recent improvements are just going to keep going, and things are starting to look better,” said Dutton.
The discharge date is flexible with a variety of factors to consider before the decision is finalized.
“The way I understand it is there is a balance to achieve,” said Dutton. “Coming home has some real advantages in that you’re stimulated by your family and your pets and everything that you understand, know and love, so that can be really beneficial. The downside of it is if you come home too soon—she can’t get up on her own or anything like that—so if it’s more stress on everybody, and if she’s not getting proper care, it can be a negative if she comes home too early.”
Jones has had a few excursions outside the rehabilitation facility, one to a therapeutic riding center and another to a mall.
“It’s such an eye opener to realize just the smallest thing—like getting in and out of a car, or where you park or getting up stairs—can be a challenge,” said Dutton. “Just the reality of what life is going to be like for a while, it’s pretty humbling.”
To that end, Phillip and his wife Evie Dutton have been converting their home to accommodate Lee Lee, turning the downstairs office/trophy room into her bedroom, expanding the bathroom, widening doors, and looking into hiring a caregiver to assist them.
“We’re excited about it, but we need to have our eyes open and make sure we are ready for her and prepared as well,” he said.
Jones is aware she was in a riding accident. While frustrated at times, reminders by her family and doctors of how far she’s come and the odds she’s defied fuel her.
“She’s not that comfortable being like this, which I think is understandable, and that’s why she is working really hard to improve herself,” said Phillip. “We’ve also spoken to her about the first couple months, which she can’t remember, but she was in a really bad way, and she’s a lot, lot better. I think that is starting to dawn on her because for a while she was pretty upset, but I think we’ve all tried to explain to her that she’s really, really improving now, and it’s going to take some time, but we are all there with her.”
And while her progress may be slower than she would like, Jones is engaged and able to communicate.
“When you talk to her about everyday stuff, like her dogs or her cat, straightaway she’ll smile or shake her head. The type of stuff you can’t make up or imagine, you know? She’s reacting,” he said.
Jones’ helmet has been sent to England to be analyzed by Roy Burek of Charles Owen to see what, if any, improvements can be made in the design.
“It was the kind of a fall that wasn’t a hard concussion into the ground. We think somehow or another her head was under some part of the horse, and so it was more of a squashing action than straight into the ground,” explained Phillip.
It is the family’s hope that perhaps something will be discovered to prevent this type of injury for future riders, but for now their main focus is supporting Jones. Friends of the family launched a GoFundMe account to assist with some of their expenses.
“I think we can see light at the end of the tunnel, and we’re excited about that,” Phillip said. “She still has a long way to go, but she’s really improving, and we really appreciate everybody’s kindness and good wishes and prayers.”