Pain-racked jockey will sacrifice leg
December 28, 2008
KYLIE KEEBLE has been in pain 24 hours a day since she was crushed by a 450-kilogram horse.
On December 30, 2006, while preparing for race one at Kembla Grange, near Wollongong, the young jockey was thrown and pinned under her mount, Walking Street.
“It reared up and flipped over and fell on to the ground on top of me. As soon as they pulled me out I couldn’t feel my legs,” she said.
At Wollongong Hospital she was diagnosed with a bruised right leg, told she needed physiotherapy and given crutches.
But 3 months later, as the pain worsened, she had an MRI scan. It revealed a minor fracture, which had almost healed.
“It was getting to the stage where I couldn’t put my foot to the ground and I was fainting and sick, and I couldn’t eat. It was getting worse and worse,” she said.
As another month passed she was referred to Royal North Shore Hospital pain-management unit, where she was diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome, or CPRS.
Today Keeble remains in acute pain. “I don’t get a break from it. Sometimes it eases; sometimes it’s more. My life revolves around how much pain I’m in day to day,” she said.
Such is her despair, she is prepared to take extreme measures: “I am fine with getting my leg amputated but I just want to see [what happens next] before I make the final decision.”
She was earning $1500 a week before the fall but hasn’t worked since, living on $200 a week (after tax) in worker’s compensation from Racing NSW and one-off payments from the NSW Jockeys Association. She is waiting for Racing NSW to review her case for compensation.
Keeble said she had lost count of the number of trips she had made from Wollongong to Sydney for pain treatment, having learned to drive with just her left foot.
She has had a spinal cord simulator implanted in her stomach.
Professor Michael Cousins, from Royal North Shore Hospital, said treatment of CPRS was very difficult.
“The condition is not in question at all, in our view. It is quite complex because it involves changes in nerves which provide sensation to a limb, nerves responsible for controlling blood vessels and sweating, and nerves that control muscle function,” he said.
“She had a large horse fall on her and an injury. Injury is one of the causes of CPRS.”
Keeble, who uses crutches to walk, said she had lost movement in her ankle and toes, and was losing it in her knee.
“I feel like I’m 21 within a 50-year-old’s body sometimes. I just ache all over at the moment and it’s just getting worse. I am really starting to wonder what else they can try.”
Racing NSW chief executive Peter V’Landys told The Sun-Herald: “Racing NSW will do their utmost to get her back to some sort of normality but it really is out of our control medically, what can happen.” At Ms Keeble’s request, Racing NSW had approved expensive, experimental surgery.
“The cost [of the surgery] didn’t come into the calculation and her payments are in accordance with WorkCover regulations,” he said.