National Hunt jockey Bridget Andrews is on the path to recovery after breaking her neck in a fall at Warwick racecourse on 21 April. But the Cheltenham Festival-winner only discovered the true extent of the damage two weeks after the tumble.
She had been riding the seven-year-old Dazzling Glory, trained by her brother-in-law Dan Skelton, in a handicap chase and the pair were making a strong challenge when the mare fell heavily at the last fence, firing Bridget head-first into the turf.
“Initially I thought I was OK,” Bridget told H&H. “But then I just didn’t really get better in the couple of weeks afterwards, which made me go for some scans. But an MRI and X-ray showed nothing, so I thought ‘Well that must be OK then, maybe I’m just stiff and sore’.”
Bridget, 28, only later went for a CT scan in the hope she’d receive the all-clear to resume race-riding again.
“It was only when I had that CT scan that they picked up the injury – it turns out the MRIs and X-rays had missed it,” said Bridget, who was told she’d broken her neck in three places – “two fractures to the C2, the C6 into C7, as well as the C5”.
“Fortunately I hadn’t been riding during that time – something was telling me not to – but I’d driven to the CT scan myself. I was immediately taken by ambulance to hospital in Gloucester – even though I’d been walking around for two weeks!”
There, Bridget was seen by a neck specialist who sent her home in a neck brace to begin the healing process and they are optimistic she will make a full recovery.
“So I’m unlucky to have broken my neck, but lucky in so many ways – it could have been so much worse,” said Bridget, who has to wear the brace until next Thursday (2 June) when it will have been a full six weeks after the fall and then she can “slowly start to get going again”.
“I’m feeling fine – I went for a check-up today [Tuesday, 24 May] and that was good news as they said I can start sleeping without my neck brace on, which was definitely the best part!” said Bridget, whose father-in-law, Olympic gold medal-winning showjumper Nick Skelton, also broke his neck in a fall in 2000.
“When I’m up and about I’ve got to keep the brace on but I’ve been really lucky as they said I can walk as much as I want, so I’ve been walking down to the yard and we’ve got three showjumpers in at the minute so I’ve been watching Harry [Skelton, Bridget’s husband] ride them and I can get out and about – I’ve been to the races a bit, too,” added Bridget, who has been competing William Funnell’s former top showjumper Billy Angelo in recent years as well as enjoying riding the great Big Star at home.
“Summer racing for us is so quiet anyway – last year I went nearly five months without going racing, it was so quiet – so the showjumpers will keep us busy!”
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