A JOCKEY who was told she would never walk again after becoming paralysed in a horror fall is nearing an incredible return to racing.
Maija Vance was preparing to spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair after a sickening incident in September 2018.
Vance was told she would never walk again but is now planning an astonishing return to racing
She was paralysed after crushing her spinal cord in a fall
Vance almost bit her own tongue off after landing on her neck
Her life changed forever in September 2018 on just her fourth race over jumps
Vance, 29, smashed 13 ribs, broke her back in five places and was left with no feeling or movement from the waist down.
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She needed blood drained out of two punctured lungs, shattered six teeth and nearly bit off her own tongue.
It all happened after Vance was catapulted through the air when her horse fell.
Fighting for the lead at a race in Rotorua, New Zealand, Vance landed on the back of her neck when her mount went down at the penultimate jump.
But amazingly, just over two years on, she is already back riding horses on the track and planning her return to racing competitively.
Recalling her injury and recovery, Vance told Radio TAB Australia: “They said it was pretty unlikely that I would walk again.
“I had 13 rib fractures, which were probably the most painful.
“The ribs punctured my lungs so they filled up with blood and they had to drain my lungs.
Even everyday things like wearing heels represent small victories for the jockey
“I had five vertabrae broken and when the T8 broke it crushed my spinal cord which was what left me paralysed.
“But now I’m doing really good. I’ve been working very closely with my physio, trying to get back to riding racehorses.
“I’ve just started back on the track now and it’s going really, really well.
“It’s hard for me to put timeframes on things because my legs don’t work like a normal person’s, so I kind of just have to try and see what works for them and how long they take to recover, so I leave a few days in between when I ride trackwork to let them recover properly.
“Then I put my irons up a little bit and ride a bit shorter.
“I’m in a little bit of pain all the time but pain doesn’t really affect me that much.
It looked like the promising rider was going to live out the rest of her life in a wheelchair
She needed 14 screws inserted to hold her back together
“The more I do in the gym and the more trackwork I do, the more I am strengthening up my back.
“The more I can strengthen it, the better protected it is.”
Vance, who has ridden 175 winners in New Zealand and Australia, suffered some of the worst injuries of any jockey ever.
The nightmare came in just her fourth race over jumps.
She has documented her return from life-changing injuries, but plays down suggestions she is an inspiration to others.
She added: “I think I am just very lucky.”
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