A punctured lung and bleeding on the brain: one jockey's long road to recovery
It's been a long journey back for 26-year-old jockey Jack Hill, who spent nine months recovering after a horrific fall almost killed him in March 2015.
Over two years later, Hill says he’s still working hard to try and regain his peak form from before the accident.
It was at a race meet at Donald in country Victoria, that Jack’s horse clipped the heels of another, spearing the young jockey head first into the turf. The horse rolled over him.
His unconscious, broken body was airlifted to the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne. He suffered a punctured lung and bleeding on the brain.
Hill survived thanks to some of the best neurosurgeons in the country, but it wasn’t until a week later that he finally regained consciousness.
His mother, Elvie – who also has two school-aged children – dropped everything to come down from Stawell to be by his side. Along with Hill’s fiancé, Nicarra, Elvie spent an anxious week in a bedside vigil, hoping against hope he'd wake up.
It meant a lot to Hill that the National Jockeys Trust (NJT) stepped in to pay Nicarra and Elvie’s accommodation and bills during the week they were off work.
LUCRF Super proudly supports the National Jockeys Trust ensuring they are there and have the resources to help injured jockeys and their families.
“A week off is a big impact on their lives so for the NJT to support them through it is fantastic,” he says. “They don’t have to be sitting at your bedside worrying how to pay the bills or what to do with the kids. It’s a big thing."
The NJT helps injured jockeys even after they have left the industry. Ian Duckling, for example, became a paraplegic at 22 after a terrible fall in a jumps race in 1960. He says the NJT recently paid for a new wheelchair ramp and a heater for his home. “They have done a hell of a lot for families of jockeys who have had bad accidents or fallen on hard times,” he says.
Hill meanwhile suffered post-traumatic amnesia, and his recovery took nine months. He was often confused during this time, constantly repeating himself and suffering from terrible headaches. "I had to wait to get the all clear (before racing again),” he says. “When you hit your head it does shake it around a bit so I had to wait for it to come good.”
Not having any memory of the accident meant he wasn't nervous about riding again in December later that year. He placed second on his first day back, and won a race the day after.
But the sweetest victory of all came in April this year, when Hill returned to his home town and won the Stawell Cup in front of his nearest and dearest.
"I think the emotion of that win just meant the world to him,” says Des O'Keeffe, chairman of the Australian Jockeys Association. “His comeback was complete".
Hill celebrated with some Cossack-style riding, standing up in the stirrups and saluting the crowd with his whip.
“To win the cup in front of family and friends was just great," he says.
The stewards fined him $400 for his exuberant riding.
"I was more than happy to pay it," he explains. “All the fines go back into the National Jockeys Trust which is a great thing - us riders can do the wrong thing but it goes to the NJT to help jockeys in need."
Photo credit – Racing Photos