When Rose Thompson attended a professional baseball game in 2013, she couldn’t have known how one pitch would change her life. And almost snatch it from her.
The career police officer loved sports, and was excited to have seats right behind the dugout. At the top of the fourth, a pitch fouled off the bat, straight back and straight into her head. The ball was clocked at 90 miles per hour.
She remembers everything up to that moment.
“One second you are there, the next second you are dreaming, or floating around, not sure if you are dreaming,” she says, trying to describe a state that can’t be described. “I remember fighting to stay awake, of passing out and coming to, then passing out again.”
She is convinced her police training helped pull her through those first critical moments.
“In our training, we heard interviews of officers who had been shot. They said, ‘yes, you can fight unconsciousness.’ Every time I lost consciousness, you feel you can’t stay awake anymore, you are fighting, fighting, fighting. You can fight against passing out the same way you fight to stay awake when you are tired, but to a higher level. You can stay conscious if you really have that drive.”
Thompson had the drive to survive. But she soon learned that was only the first step in finding her way back to “normalcy.” Physically, she could not think clearly or walk a straight line, as she had vertigo. Mentally, Thompson grappled with depression and other issues brought on by the brain hemorrhage.
One day, she had an epiphany that not only changed her world; it is changing the world.
“I feel no matter what's happening in life or where you are, you need a purpose,” she says. “My career as a police officer was going to end, so I felt no more purpose. Then I said, 'I love animals–why not go back to that?'”
With support from her husband and daughter, Thompson opened Ole Fox Equestrian and Holistic Pet in Moyock.
It’s not your typical feed store.
Ole Fox Equestrian and Holistic Pet started off as a tack store that carried a small selection of dog items. Thompson began stocking more dog food, at first with popular national brands. But she started researching animal nutrition and did not like what she found
“For years when I saw a commercial, I thought you could trust that company,” she says. “But I was wrong.”
She learned how to read labels and gradually switched to holistic animal foods, with no corn, wheat, soy, or byproducts, using only U.S.-sourced ingredients. Now her business focuses mostly on animal health and nutrition, for dogs, cats, horses, and livestock.
Customers flock to Ole Fox not only for quality products, but also for expert advice.
“We are known for addressing issues dog might have, such as age, skin conditions, yeast infections, and allergies,” she says. “If there is an issue, we look at different types of grain. If a pet has certain sensitivities, we can go grain free. Then, we can look at meat proteins.”
Under it all, is her undying love for animals.
“I love animals. In animals we find the honesty of life. It is such a blessing for us to have animals, that it is our responsibility to care for them.”
Thompson believes Moyok is the right place to be, both personally and for her business.
“Currituck is a step back in time,” says Thompson, who admits she now “lives in the moment.” “Things move a little slower–you don’t get honked at if the light changes and you don’t go right away. People take the time to say hello. That’s why we moved there in the first place.”
Thompson is a big community supporter, especially for the Currituck County animal shelter, where she is known to drop off extra bags of food or give a discount on feed.
Her favorite pet?
“That’s like asking who is your favorite family members,” she says. “They all have quirks. I like cats, because they are easier to take care of. Dogs require a lot of maintenance, but I love their personalities. And I like horses. They can read us, sensing our sadness, fear, or happiness. One way to figure out people is to put them on a horse.”
Just as horses are rich in empathy, people who have experienced traumatic brain injury have discovered it changes the way they perceive relationships. Thompson knows this phenomenon, though she understandably has a difficult time explaining it to someone who hasn’t gone through it.
“Oh, my God, yes,” she says. “One thing that happens with severe injury is severe depression. You become more aware of the environment; when you are not welcome, you can sense it.”
And there is more.
“One thing happened that was unique, and I cannot explain it to people who have not experienced it. When I would sit and look at a person, it almost felt like I was sitting two feet to the right of me looking at the person. It was an ‘out of body’ experience. It was the oddest thing, and actually very exhausting. You had to remind yourself you were in your body.”
As many who survive a tragic event report, she now has a greater appreciation of what she previously took for granted.
“The fact we can coordinate where we are at any given time in our movement is amazing,” she says. “When eating, that you bring your fork to your mouth, then chew the food. That’s amazing. You don’t have to think about that. I had to think about that at first. That’s why a person with a head injury is exhausted a lot.”
But the biggest challenge is one that no one can see.
“The hardest thing with a head injury is that it is in your head,” she says. “People look at you and say you are fine. You can see a broken arm; you can’t see swelling in the brain.”
All these years later, while she is content with where she finds herself, she still struggles with differentiating between dreaming and reality.
“I did not know what happened would change me, my personality and my path in life,” she says. “It was surreal, and I have sort of been in disbelief ever since. Sometimes I still think I’m going to wake up and be the old Rose I used to be.”
But this is where she is.
“I don’t think too much in the future or in the past. I’m living in the moment. It’s right now that counts.”
It’s a message she hopes others will consider.
“The advice which I could tell the world is this: social media and TV, that’s a show, it’s not real. What is real is when you talk to somebody face to face, to have a conversation.”
Her other advice?
“Read the back label on the bag of dog food! Do a little bit of research, and don’t just trust the big names so much.”