Anne Von Rosen begins rehabilitation in Denver

Anne Von Rosen 03-5-14

There is a branch of the John C. Lincoln Hospital chain located on Dunlap Avenue in a residential section of Phoenix. Just a couple of blocks down the street are well manicured and attended properties devoted to llamas and horses, properties grandfathered into this section of the city.

On this particular Saturday morning neighborhood children have attracted the attention of the llamas with treats and are attempting to pet them through the fencing. Down the street is Sunnyslope High School, whose students from a former graduating class (it is widely believed) are responsible for the large white S emblazoned on the foothill overlooking John C. Lincoln.

A block away on this usually busy street a family is staging its version of a Saturday morning garage sale with household items displayed on the sidewalk in front of their house. All in all, this portion of Dunlap Ave. presents a peaceful setting, quiet and undisturbed, in stark contrast to what takes place within the walls of the building down the street.

Visitors to the ICU Unit at John C. Lincoln having been coming and going the last few days, paying their respects to the woman in room 291, the woman with the German name, the black and blue, bruised eyes and a voice that crackles with pain and wheezes when she attempts to talk.

The occupant of this room is Anne Von Rosen, a jockey who was transported here three days earlier fighting for her life after a horse fell on her following a race at Turf Paradise Race Track four miles or so north of the hospital. In the time since she has undergone two invasive surgeries, the first to save her life, the second to enable her to sit upright in the wheelchair she will occupy for the remainder of her life _ barring a miracle or a breakthrough of some unknown kind attributable to nothing more than the spunk and resolve of this fiercely determined woman.

Standing at her bedside as he has most of each day since arriving from Germany is Juergen Von Rosen, a medical doctor and Anne’s father. The two of them expect Anne’s brother Martin, an oncologist, to arrive from Germany as well within a couple of days.

A horse trainer from Turf Paradise is saying his goodbye as another visitor arrives, parting with words Anne has heard from countless others throughout the week. “If there’s anything you need, anything at all, just let me know, sweetheart,” he says.

A soft smile crosses her face briefly as she recognizes another visitor arriving to take the place of the one departing. It has been like this each day since the accident. The visitors are well received and appreciated but have taken a toll as well, requiring energy from Von Rosen she could better use for recovery. Her spinal cord was severed when the horse unexpectedly and inexplicably dropped to the ground after finishing the race. In a reversal of many other such instances at the race track, the horse was fine. It was the rider who was severely injured.

Her accident has taken a toll, too, on the backside at Turf Paradise, on the horsemen and colleagues who know her, many of them regulars at Canterbury Park, as has been Von Rosen.

Every rider knows the risks each time he or she mounts a thoroughbred, or in Von Rosen’s case in this instance a quarter horse. Riding a 1,200 animal at 30 to 35 mph shoulder to shoulder with other riders and horses carries with it inherent danger, possible injury and worse. Yet they race on, these jockeys, card after card, race after race, dismissing the fears and dread that are presented front and center each time one of their own goes down, as Von Rosen did.

Von Rosen has since left Phoenix. Last Thursday she was taken to the Craig Rehabilitation Center in Denver, the same place that treated the late Christopher Reeve following a horse accident that left him paralyzed and Tad Leggett, a three-time quarter horse riding champion at Canterbury Park.

“She was very excited about getting to go (to Denver),” said Turf Paradise chaplain John Shoemaker. “She has been pretty overwhelmed with the support of the racing community. She had two gift bags full of cards and letters from all over the world.”

Shoemaker also said that Von Rosen’s mother and father, who returned home after his time in Phoenix, are scheduled to arrive in Denver from Germany on April 6.

A fund has been established through Canterbury Park and another through the chaplaincy at Turf Paradise to benefit Von Rosen and help defray the prohibitive costs of care already received and yet to come.

“She’s doing well, looks good and her spirits are as good as ever. She’s basically off the pain medicine and is breathing good,” said Troy Bainum, Von Rosen’s agent. “She expects to be in Denver about three months.”

Bainum said that a benefit at nearby nightclub in Phoenix was well attended and that riders and others at Turf Paradise continue to sell bracelets with Anne’s initials to help as well.

“She was very excited to start rehab the day before she left here,” said Bainum. In the days since the accident, Von Rosen has slipped out of fourth place in the rider standings at the Phoenix track, where she had 54 wins for the meet.

Now she has started the grueling process of trying to regain what she can of her lower body strength, a process to which she is entirely dedicated according to friends.

Even in the painful condition she was in the day a visitor left her room at John C. Lincoln one quiet Saturday morning last month, Von Rosen managed to make a promise. “Tell everybody up in Minnesota that I’ll see them this summer,” she said.

by Jim Wells

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