A PUNCTURED lung, nine broken ribs and a chipped shoulder appear to be the least of Henry Brooke’s worries as he recovers from the injuries which left the Yorkshire rider fighting for his life.
He says he is struggling with the mental pain of watching rival jockeys win races on horses that he would have been partnering before calamity struck at Hexham and left the 25-year-old in a medically-induced coma to aid his breathing.
Yesterday’s Sedgefield meeting, a track where Brooke excels, was a tough watch. Likewise Wetherby’s Charlie Hall Chase meeting that begins today; he relishes these big occasions.
This is typical of so many jump jockeys – they are only happy when in the saddle, despite risking life and limb.
Three weeks after his fall, Brooke is already planning to make up for lost time. He wants to resume riding in time to race over Aintree’s world famous Grand National obstacles on December 3 – the former champion conditional recorded the biggest win of his career when landing last year’s Becher Chase on Jimmy Moffatt’s Highland Lodge.
He has promised to donate prize money from his first comeback win to the Injured Jockeys Fund and, specifically, Jack Berry House in Malton where he is now stepping up his recovery.
He also hopes to stage a major fundraiser next summer in aid of the Great North Air Ambulance and its paramedics who treated the unconscious rider on the turf for his injuries and internal bleeding – Brooke was told he lost three pints of blood – before he could even be airlifted to hospital.
“Look, I was bloomin’ lucky,” he told The Yorkshire Post.
“The reason I’m here is the air ambulance and all the medical staff at the course.
“I don’t remember it, I’ve only watched the fall back, because they put me in a coma. My younger brother (Danny) said it was pretty gruesome, but that they knew what they were doing.
“You see the first-aiders every day, and only when you’ve had a cut or broken bone. You don’t realise they’re also trained to do the stuff they did on me. I’ve messaged them all...you take them for granted, I never will again. Without them, who knows?”
Tadcaster-born Brooke, who lives in Middleham where his mother, Julia, is a trainer, had already ridden 26 winners, and was on course for a career-best season.
Riding the Brian Ellison-trained Old Storm, the horse came to grief at the tricky downhill second fence. Too keen, the chaser buckled on landing, throwing the jockey onto the turf, a relatively innocuous fall by racing’s standards, before he was kicked violently by a pursuing horse, which caused the real damage.
“It could have been worse. It could have kicked me in the middle of the spine and I may never have walked again,” said Brooke philosophically. “The hospital called Mum and said my condition had slipped, and she had to be there.
“I can’t thank everyone enough for their messages. I hope I’ve got back to everyone. Sir AP McCoy and Dickie Johnson were two of the first. Dickie deserves to be champion, not just for his riding, because he’s such a nice guy.
“Dickie has texted the whole time. Our sport’s lucky to have such a great role model. If it was a lad having their first ride, I’m 100 per cent sure he’d be the same.
“As the week went on, I felt myself deteriorating mentally the longer I was in hospital. I lost a whole stone – I came out 9st 2lb after just a week. I had to get out. I’m better at home, even when ill.
“My ribs are fine, it’s just the breathing and I’m sure there’s nothing wrong with the shoulder – I’ve nearly got all the movement back. I started walking two miles each day to the High Moor gallop to watch Mum’s horses. It was tiring, but I felt stronger and better.
“I’m now at Jack Berry House, there’s an incredible hydrotherapy pool, and they will get all the money from my first win.
“This place is unreal and Jack Berry himself has not got enough credit for all he’s done. I’m sure they will have me back in no time – the Becher Chase, one hundred per cent. It’s difficult watching the races I would have ridden in, but it’s only a month of my life. It could have been much worse.
“It’s not put me off. I had had a brilliant summer. I’d made a quick start, like McCoy always did. I was never going to be champion like him, but I wanted to be in the top 10 for the season.
“My agent Richard Hale had been fantastic and all the trainers – they kept their horses in good spirits. There’s no reason why it can’t be the same next year, perhaps even better. That’s how I see it. I’m hoping to be back riding out next week.”
Brooke, who has been given the second chance denied to so many stricken riders, concluded: “It’s a good thing I got these injuries, not a bad thing. Positive thinking.”