Sport Horse Racing

Sunday 21 January 2018

'I've been left with no side effects... except that half my head is titanium' - Irish jockey who died for six seconds on remarkable recovery

Brian Toomey's horrific injuries required major surgery
Brian Toomey's horrific injuries required major surgery

Cormac Fitzgerald

A jockey who died for for six seconds after he was thrown from his horse has said that he thought he would never recover.

Brian Toomey (26) suffered a severe brain injury two years ago when his horse fell at the third last hurdle in a race at Perth, Scotland.

Following the incident, Brian, who comes from Co Limerick, was put into an induced coma and given a 3pc chance of survival by doctors. The chances of him emerging from the injury without a serious mental disability were put at 60 to one.

“The brain was swelling up so much that they had to remove part of my skull to make room,” Brian told RTÉ’s Brendan O’Connor on Monday.

In order to save his life, doctors had to cut out a hand-sized section of his brain to battle the swelling that had occurred. The hole, which was protected for a while just by skin, is now covered by a piece of titanium. 

Read more: How Brian Toomey came from having a 3pc chance to live to ride again 

Brian spent 157 nights in hospital, where it was expected that he would be severely brain damaged following his incident.

He then underwent months of intensive rehabilitation and occupational therapy to aid him in his recovery.

“I treated that like being back in playschool. It’s very full on and it’s like brain training,” he said.

Brian made what many call a miraculous recovery, emerging from the injury to race once again on Saturday, 11 July, at Southwell in England.

“Thankfully people don’t enough about head and brain injuries… but most people aren’t as lucky as me

“I’ve been left with no side effects, I’ve been very, very lucky… except that half my head is titanium, but you wouldn’t even notice that,” he said.

Brian said that now that he has recovered he wants to focus on becoming a successful jockey, and that the desire to race again is what helped his recovery.

“I want to be known as a jockey who has done very well, or a jockey who has been very competitive, more so than a jockey who came back after this injury.

“I want to be very competitive and I want to do very well,” he said.

“It’s very important to have a goal, and keep that determination, because it helps in any injury… you need to have that kind of willpower.”

Brian lost his first race back but says he is determined to keep going. He will race at Galway on 3 August.

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