STAR jockey JT McNamara has said the hardest thing about being paralysed after his fall at Cheltenham is not being able to play with his young children.
The Limerick father-of-three has been wheelchair-bound since breaking his spine in 2013 and now needs 24-hour care, which costs up to €400,000 a year.
JT and his wife Caroline have three children, Dylan (8), Harry (6) and Olivia (3).
“Not being able to play with the kids is the hardest thing, and it always will be,” said JT (40).
Caroline said that when their children started to visit their dad in hospital she told them they had to be strong for him.
“Guys, it might be hard but we don’t cry. If you get upset you’ll have to go outside,” she told them.
He is now back at home after spending 15 months in hospital, where his initial prognosis was very poor.
JT said that the lack of positivity from medics made him even more determined to fight back and regain strength.
Now he successfully trains
horses at his Springfield Stables in Croom.
“Of course there have been low days, and the worst were when I was in hospital in
Dublin because they gave me no hope,” said JT.
“That just made me more determined and I said to myself ‘this is not going to beat me’,” he added.
JT also had high praise for millionaire horse owner JP McManus (63), who has helped with his medical bills.
JT now uses an electronic wheelchair to get around, and gets down to the yard every morning to oversee the training.
He controls the chair with his chin but has had some trouble adapting it to his needs.
“It arrived without any reverse, and we’ve sorted that now and now I can use it without any help from anybody so that’s a major boost,” he said.
JT was told in hospital that he would not be able to breathe without a ventilator, but found he was able to survive for five minutes, then 10 and then longer. He now only needs the ventilator for part of the day.
Caroline has praised JT for being able to adapt to his new life.
“John has accepted that this is the way it is,” she said in the interview with the Racing Post.
“He has amazed me with the way he has dealt with his total surrender of privacy and dignity,” said Caroline.
“I see John as the same man I fell in love with and married,” she added.