Champion jockey Jamie Kah has revealed the horrific extent of her injuries following a sickening race fall, which left her with a brain injury so bad she thought it was nearly 10 years earlier.
27-year-old nine-time Group 1 winner and fellow hoops champion Craig Williams was involved in a horror fall at the Sires Produce Stakes at Flemington on March 11.
Kah was taken to hospital in critical condition after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage, a broken wrist and a broken foot; while Williams’ list of injuries was also extensive, with a broken collarbone, ribs and a finger, as well as a concussion.
She was kept in an induced coma for nearly a week to allow her brain to settle down, and after a considerable period in hospital, she has returned to her farm on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula and is now finally looking forward to returning to the racing in the coming months.
But it’s been a very long road to get to this point, and Kah has broken her silence about the fallout from the incident leading up to “time to disappear” for her.
Champion jockey Jamie Kah (pictured at the launch of last year’s Melbourne Cup Carnival) has revealed the horrific extent of her injuries following a racing fall in March
Kah was rushed to hospital after the nauseating fall in March, which left her with a brain injury. She had to remain in an induced coma for several days to allow her brain to rest before undergoing a long rehabilitation program and finally being released from the hospital.
“The main injury was a hemorrhage in the brain. I was in a coma for about five days,” she said in an interview with Channel 7 from her farm.
“I broke my wrist, which I only found out long after the fall. And my foot was broken, and I think my nose. But that wasn’t really relevant compared to the brain injury.
“When I fell I was told I couldn’t breathe for about 20 seconds or maybe more… I was put into an induced coma and then I couldn’t wake up because of the drugs I was on, I just kept sleeping.” It took ages for me to wake up.
“I whined about my wrist at Epworth (hospital) and then they X-rayed again. They said, “Your right wrist, it’s broken!”. So yes, I found out long after that my hand was broken because the focus was on straightening my head.”
It’s safe to say that her brain went through some very serious trauma.
Kah doesn’t remember the fall, or even being at the track that day – much of the month after the incident is indeed a “blur” for the world’s top female jockey.
She can’t remember which hospital she was taken to by ambulance after the fall – the Royal Melbourne, where she was from March 11 to 20 – or the first few days after being transferred to Epworth.
Kah, pictured with the Group 1 Black Caviar Lightning trophy earlier in February, has been sidelined since the fall and is yet to get back in the saddle – but a return is now on the horizon
Shockingly, Kah revealed that the injury to her brain was so extensive she thought it was almost 10 years ago when she began her stunning rise to stardom in her home state of Adelaide.
“I woke up in Epworth thinking I was 18 years old and I was living in Adelaide again,” she said.
‘I kept saying my address, that was my old home address in Adelaide. I remembered that, but they told me it was wrong, but I couldn’t remember where I lived.’
To fill in the important gaps in her memory as she tried to put the pieces together of what happened, and the decade of her life she had “lost,” Kah revealed that she had to go to a 21st option.
“I started googling myself to get all the pieces together. It was like some kind of movie. I couldn’t remember how old I was, so I wrote my name and Google told me, I’m like, ‘Oh, 27, not 18. Here we go,'” she said.
“A lot of things came back after I googled myself. I saw articles about what happened during the race.
“I didn’t know what had happened to me, so I started reading about it. I calculated that I was in the hospital because I fell off a horse, but I had to find out what really happened.’
Kah said her partner, fellow hoops champion Ben Melham, told her her eyesight was so bad after the accident that she ran into walls
It’s a startling revelation about the severity of her brain injury, and perhaps most terrifying for those close to her was the fact that she didn’t remember who her parents and partner were at first, or couldn’t see very well. It was the worst concussion she could have had.
My eyesight wasn’t good at first. I couldn’t see anything and kept running into walls. I didn’t know that until Ben (partner Ben Melham, also champion jockey) told me. My sight is fine now,” Kah explained.
“When I woke up I couldn’t remember who dad was, or really who I was, then there were some worries.
“They (doctors) told me there was a scale between 3 and 15, and 3 was the worst. I was 3.’
It was an incident that shocked the racing world, and one of three serious crashes over consecutive race weekends.
It started with Ethan Brown suffering internal injuries after a fall in the Group 1 Australian Guineas at Flemington on March 4, with the fall of Kah and Williams the weekend after. Then Teo Nugent was left with a broken C1 vertebra and his mount Florescent Star had to be euthanized.
The nine-time Group 1 winner admits that although she suffered serious injuries, she feels “lucky” after the sickening fall that recently killed fellow jockey Dean Holland.
Tragically, that culminated in the death of beloved equestrian Dean Holland after a “sickening” fall in the country of Victoria on April 24, leaving a still recovering Kah devastated and feeling “happy” despite her serious injuries.
“To be honest, I feel incredibly lucky and blessed to be here. I feel very happy. My friend and fellow jockey Dean (Holland) is not there. That’s me,” she told her fellow Adelaide resident.
“I’ve known him for a long time and he was a great jockey. But other than that he was just a great person. He has done so much for so many people around him.
“It was absolutely horrible to happen and I am very sad that he is gone. We must now continue to do everything we can to support his family. I am heartbroken for them.
“He was a really good friend who supported so many jockeys and people around him. He took care of everyone. He was such a worker too… he drove every day, everywhere, and he loved his family.
“He was such a nice person and he was always fun. He will be very, very missed by so many people. It will be very difficult on Monday (Dutch funeral) when we all have to say goodbye.’
In a tragic twist of fate, Holland won its second Group 1 – the Newmarket – just weeks earlier following the fall of Kah.
The Newmarket was ridden on the same day as the incident, and with Kah unable to ride In Secret, Holland, an extremely lightweight jockey, was the only rider able to saddle up.
He went on to win, but instead of celebrating with the enthusiasm and joy he deserved, his only thoughts were with Kah and Williams.
Before his tragic death, Dean Holland took the Newmarket Handicap – his second G1 win – after replacing Kah following her fall earlier that day
Holland only secured his ride, and second Group 1, in the Newmarket after Kah was rushed to hospital by ambulance earlier in the meeting (pictured)
“The last thing I wanted to do today was carry on – win, lose or draw – it’s a real shame what happened to Jamie and Willo (Williams), and my thoughts go out to them,” Holland said at the time.
“I was just the lucky one to ride light today and pick up the ride on one of Australia’s best sprinters.”
After his death, the interview re-entered the public consciousness as brilliant proof of the kind of man he was.
“Dean has been so well behaved the day he raced in secret, on the track and off. The way he talked about me and Craig Williams afterwards when he won summed up how remarkable and selfless he was,” said a grieving Kah.
Kah, Melham and thousands of people from the racing world will descend on Flemington to attend the Dutch funeral from 2pm on Monday, which will be streamed live for the many fans and friends unable to attend.
Holland’s family fundraiser continues and has now raised more than $1.7 million for his wife Lucy and four young children. You can donate here.