Injured jockey in good spirits

Published: May 14, 2006  |  Source:

Jockey Cindy Murphy spent an unusual Mother’s Day with her son Sunday.

Instead of helping his mother at home, 10-year-old Cody was her Physical Therapist at Iowa Methodist Medical Center. He spent the day helping his mom walk and urging her to squeeze his hand as she recovers from a spinal cord injury suffered in a spill Thursday at Prairie Meadows.

“C’mon, squeeze,” Cody ordered. And his mom tries, but while the left hand is improving, the right still struggles to make a fist.

“It’s my arms that I’m having trouble with,” Murphy said. “In my arms, there’s pain. My hands hurt really bad, but pain is better than feeling nothing.

For two hours Thursday, that’s what Murphy felt – nothing. She was unseated when Ninnescah stumbled coming out of the starting gate of the fifth race. Then Kentucky Risk, from an adjacent post, veered outward and hit Ninnescah. Murphy spilled to the ground headfirst.

“The first couple hours, I couldn’t feel anything below my neck,” Murphy said. “I watched the replay, and it doesn’t look that bad. Horses stumble out of the gate every day, but I landed hard. And then I had this floating sensation and I could feel nothing.

“They said there was bruising on my spinal cord where I had previous injuries.”

Murphy, from Muscatine, Ia., began riding in 1986. She has had other injuries through the years – breaking her pelvis and ribs in several places at Oaklawn Park, fracturing her wrist in another spill — but none were as dangerous as this.

“Nobody wants to be paralyzed,” she said. “That was my first thought – ‘Oh, my God.’.”

That fear might have come true had Murphy landed differently. She tucked her head inward to try to lessen the impact when she hit the ground, and thinks that might have saved her.

“I tucked my head to roll,” she said. “It probably helped me. If I don’t tuck my head, it’s going to snap my head backwards, and I probably would have broken my neck.”

She is hoping to be discharged today following a magnetic resonance imaging test. After that, she will need daily therapy.

But, with flowers and get-well balloons covering her hospital room, she said her spirits are good.

“On a one to 10, I’m probably a seven,” she said. “I have a little way to go before I feel pretty good.”