Jockey who briefly died after 2013 fall returns to racing on Sunday

 Brian Toomey stopped breathing for six seconds after falling off a horse in 2013. Sunday, he'll return to the sport in England. (Images from Toomey's Facebook page)

Brian Toomey stopped breathing for six seconds after falling off a horse in 2013. Sunday, he'll return to the sport in England. (Images from Toomey's Facebook page)

Sure, the expectation that Triple Crown-winner American Pharoah will race Aug. 2 at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, NJ, is the biggest local news from the horse racing world.

But this weekend, the horse-racing world will focus on Nottinghamshire, England, where 26-year-old Irish jockey Brian Toomey will mount Kings Grey in a hurdle race.

What makes the event so special is the fact that, on July 4, 2013, Toomey was thrown from a horse during a race and, after being declared dead for six seconds, mounted a miraculous recovery from traumatic brain injuries to the point that he’s been medically cleared to ride again.

With a titanium plate replacing the portions of skull removed to allow his swollen brain recover, he’s been dubbed a “miracle man” overseas.

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If he harbors any fears of falling again, Toomey didn’t let on to them during a Friday morning phone interview with NewsWorks about cheating death and his weekend ahead.

NewsWorks: What’s the last thing you remember before the fall and the first thing you remember afterwards?

Brian Toomey: My memory was hit very, very hard by it. I was in the hospital 157 nights; I don’t remember any of it. Weeks beforehand, even, I don’t remember. I reckon I remember things from two months before. I don’t remember anything from the coma.

NW: Tell me a bit about the recovery process once you were conscious and getting your wits back about you. What was the low point? High point?

BT: I didn’t feel great for year and a half after injury. I’d say only now that I’m starting to get it back. I’ve found that amazing news, that good news, really, really helps. It cheers you up and inspires you.

The challenges hit me more mentally than physically.

There’s a bit of both, fear and confusion. It’s quite hard to tell people what you’re going through. There are parts of recovery that I don’t remember. I do remember pain and a lot of worries.

NW: When did you decide you wanted to get back on a horse, and what was the thinking behind it?

BT: Apparently, straight away. I can’t remember it, but I’m told I focused on that early on. I’ve always wanted to get back on horse. It’s hard to overcome that passion.

NW: When did you finally get back on a horse? What was that like?

BT: About a year after injury. That wasn’t anybody else’s idea. It was my idea. And many people didn’t want me to get back on. But once I was there, it cheered me up so much. People tried to tell me it’s dangerous, that there are other things to do. But my determination, will power, prevailed.

NW: Are there any fears about getting back on?

BT: No.

Obviously, as a jockey, there are always things to fear, but until I get back into swing of things, it wouldn’t sink in.

If I was at greater risk, I wouldn’t get back on. But I’m medically cleared.

In a lot of people’s minds, I was an invalid. People think they know about head and brain injuries, but until go through it yourself, you don’t have a clue. It’s unfair to have opinion because they really don’t know.

NW: What do you hope people watching from afar and rooting for you take away from your recovery?

BT: That there’s no such thing as impossible. Never say never. For the most part, it’s water under the bridge for me now.

NW: What do these next two days leading up to the race hold for you?

BT: It’ll be hectic. I’m on TV later this morning and on radio tomorrow. I don’t mind doing every interview because it could inspire someone with a head or brain injury to see what’s possible.

You never know with horse racing, but it looks like Sunday is a go.

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