Triple amputee returns to the saddle against the odds

  • A dedicated equestrian and triple amputee is determined to return to eventing despite her physical setback.

    Tennessee-based Jessica Thoma has ridden all her life and owns two horses, Sugar and Albert.

    In 2017 she started feeling unwell and was suffering from a mysterious and uncomfortable rash that would not clear up.

    “The itching was unbearable so I tried not to ride when it was too hot,” she told H&H.

    “Then I had absolutely no energy, I was getting sick at work and eventually I just couldn’t work any more.”

    Jessica was misdiagnosed several times and her condition deteriorated.

    “A huge skin lesion appeared on my hip which doctors were able to biopsy and they found I had polyrteritis nedosa (PAN), which is a rare form of vasculitis [diseases which result from inflammation of the blood vessels],” she said.

    “Unfortunately this was not a quick enough diagnosis, as my limbs had started to die.”

    PAN is a very rare disease which can affect any organ in the body but commonly the muscles, joints, intestines, nerves and skin.

    Jessica’s lower legs and left arm were amputated on 3 January this year.

    She was kept in hospital for more than five months and says her family, friends and finance helped her cope.

    “They stuck by my side through it all and they’ve been a huge part of my recovery,” she said.

    “They’ve helped me mentally, especially when i feel like banging my head on the wall.”

    Jessica was desperate to get back to her horses and described the moment of seeing them for the first time after her surgery as “magical”.

    “You dont really realise how much you’ve missed something until it’s right there in front of you, breathing into your face and nickering at you,” she said. “I cried incessantly.”

    Since then she has returned to the saddle with Sugar and has not looked back.

    Continued below…

    “Riding again was like I never stopped,” she said. “Now I’m working on trying to ride three times a week.

    “I’m still only walking on the lunge until I get more confident, but I am steering on my own. I plan on going back to the sport I love, eventing, and I want to teach kids to ride and hopefully getting an equine degree of some sort.

    “I’m hoping to have [prosthetic] legs in a couple of months, insurance willing.”

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    This week’s pony special, out 7 June, features Britain’s naughtiest ponies and how to find the dream smaller equine. We also look at the pros and cons of equine treadmills, talk to showing producer Aimee Devane and have reports from the H&H Festival of Eventing, Tattersalls Horse Trials, racing at Epsom and much more

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