Tompsett back to work after 12 month recovery

Isabel Tompsett - back with the horses

The last race on Fakenham’s Sunday afternoon card on 22 May last year was an ordinary looking handicap hurdle for lady amateur riders. For one, Isabel Tompsett, it was a life-changing race.

Tompsett was riding Leopold for trainer David Thompson. Normally a safe conveyance, Leopold had fallen just once in 46 previous races. But this time a mistake at the third flight saw him down, and Tompsett’s head became a football midst the legs of the horses. Channel 4 Racing broadcaster Derek Thompson, who was commentating on the race, has clear recollections of the fall. He told the programme: "The horse seemed to jump the fence all right, but Isabel seemed to come down head first, like a rocket going into the air but it was going down into the ground and I knew straight away it was really bad.”

She had to be resuscitated twice on the way to hospital, and once her condition had stabilised she was transferred to the neuro-trauma high care unit at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.

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She was in a coma for six weeks, and when she woke up from that, found her left side completely paralysed. A year on she still has major health problems, but is now able to walk, and last week completed a shift in her day job as a vet.

The recovery she has made is in part a testimony to the work of the team at Oaksey House, Lambourn rehabilitation centre run by the Injured Jockeys’ Fund. Tompsett spends five days a week there undergoing exercises and physiotherapy under the guidance of an Oxford based neurological team. She says, “I’m getting there slowly, but it’s annoying how long it’s taking. It is a fantastic place and I am very lucky to be here. Everybody has been so helpful and the physiotherapy here is really good.”

One area that continues to annoy her is her eyesight, which remains blurred in the left eye. An operation may be possible in the future, but that’s on hold for at least a year for fear of slowing down the healing process. “My left-hand side is totally disabled, but my eye just doesn’t seem to be improving at the same rate and that is getting me down.”

That’s an understandable frustration, but Tompsett would far rather people concentrated on what she can do now. A day on the rounds at the stables of Dai Burchell, Tom Symonds and her boyfriend’s father Bernard Llewellyn saw her in scrubs, scanning horses and administering flu jabs to horses. Underplaying its significance for her, Tompsett simply said, “We did the usual rounds and I really enjoyed myself.”

You bet she did! And having reached one goal of returning to work as a vet, Tompsett will be doing her utmost to achieve her other objective of riding again.

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