GREENFIELD — Channing Bearhope has always felt anxious heading into the show arena, but the six-year 4-H’er overcame more than nerves when she returned to the ring this week.
Monday marked the first time Channing, 14, returned to compete since an accident with one of her cows left her hospitalized for a total of 26 days last summer just two weeks before the fair.
Channing vividly remembers June 23, 2011, the day she walked her heifer, Addie, into the family’s barn on South CR 700E in Greenfield. While walking down a narrow aisle way, the heifer knocked the then-85-pound Channing into a metal feeding trough.
At the time, Channing had a scrape across her stomach but
didn’t think she was seriously hurt. When the pain got worse, the family drove her to the hospital.
Doctors would soon discover one of Channing’s vertebrae had punctured her small intestine, causing a leak that required immediate repair.
Channing underwent three separate surgeries and spent time both at Methodist and Riley hospitals during her recovery. She was initially treated at Methodist and released after 12 days but was forced to return to the hospital after she developed an infection. She was kept at Riley for two weeks.
Today, the soon-to-be freshman at Eastern Hancock High School is as bubbly and talkative as she ever was – and happy to show off the 6-inch scar across her midsection.
Wednesday, a determined Channing took Joe, her 1,205-pound Crossbred steer, into the ring.
Her parents, both former 10-year 4-H’ers, watched with pride.
“She’s got to build her confidence,” Tammy Bearhope said after her daughter returned from the arena. “That was the way to do it.”
Last year, friends and family showed Channing’s cows and pigs for her while she was in the hospital.
During the livestock auction at the end of fair week, her steer, which would have normally brought in about $1,000, raised $12,000 for the family.
“That’s phenomenal,” Tammy Bearhope said. “It was very overwhelming that the community went together and did that.”
While Channing couldn’t come to the fair last year, she was still determined to finish all her projects.
“I worked on my photography poster in my hospital bed,” she said.
But after Channing’s third surgery, she became so weak she could hardly move, Tammy said.
Remembering her daughter’s frail body, lying in a hospital bed and being fed through a feeding tube still brings Tammy to tears.
“She was so sick,” she said, sitting beside her daughter in the cattle barn at the fairgrounds Wednesday. “She said, ‘I don’t want to die.’”
But doctors assured the Bearhopes Channing would make a full recovery, and in September, she was officially cleared to return to all her normal activities – including 4-H.
When it comes to working with the animals, not much has changed since Channing’s accident – except who walks the cows back through that narrow space in the barn.
“I never probably will do that again,” Channing said.
Whether to return to the show arena was something Channing’s parents say they left up to her.
“I knew, at any point, (she could) throw her hands in the air and say, ‘We’re done,’” said her father, Burl Bearhope. “It was her decision. It’s always been her decision since the time she was 9 years old.”
But Channing never had a doubt she would be back this year and considers her accident a fluke.
“It wasn’t the cow’s fault,” she said. “She’s a really, really nice cow. She lets me pet her still. She’s tame.”
Channing’s attitude came as no surprise to her family.
“She was nervous – I’m not going to say she wasn’t,” her mother said. “Like fallin’ off a bike or fallin’ off a horse, I guess. She’s a very determined young lady.”