“I said, ‘Shit, I’m not doing this,'” said Glen. “For some reason he tried to do it himself [again a few days later]. The massager was on the ground, he was here, and the horse was gone.
Coach Bob Milligan after the stall accident.
“I put it on and it was a mess. We got a racing kerchief and I just said, “Put that on your head.” He wasn’t up to it, so Vicky and I picked him up, put him in the ute, and drove to the hospital. I dropped her off and said I would be back if I can as we still had horses on the walker at home. “
But Bob wouldn’t be home for another six months.
Although Milligan was conscious, he was later placed into an induced coma and given life support. He stayed at John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle for three months.
His facial fractures were so bad that doctors compared his forehead to “eggshells”. There was bleeding in the brain. In the hospital, he suffered two heart attacks and went into his brain without oxygen for 15 minutes at one time. A seizure occurred the day after one of the heart attacks.
“It’s been a long journey, but he’s come a long way because he’s such a fighter.”
“I can’t even remember how much happened to him, but everything went wrong,” says Ms. Margaret, now Bob’s full-time supervisor. “They had sedated him in the intensive care unit and I would say in his ear: ‘You have to fight it because we have a great-grandson we have to meet.’
“I never thought he’d get out of John Hunter.”
When he did this before being transferred to another hospital in Taree, the nurses told Bob it had been 101 days since he was wheeled through the doors of John Hunter.
“That’s 101 days without a beer,” he replied.
But having a conversation is a little more difficult these days.
As a result of a tracheotomy that has now been removed to help his breathing, Milligan had to work with a speech therapist to help him speak again. Every word spoken a little over a whisper is a small victory, as if it had trained a winner.
Due to his injuries, Bob has not eaten any solid food in over three years. Margaret will feed him through a tube in the stomach every four hours throughout the day. She buys some mousse and pudding for Bob, but that’s about it. He’s completely lost his sense of smell, but not the thirst for the occasional stubby on a Wednesday afternoon.
“I wish I could give him something to eat,” says Margaret. “He’ll be sitting with us at the table on Christmas Day, but he can’t eat anything. It’s been such a long journey, but he’s come a long way because he’s such a fighter. “
While he was having his tracheostomy, Bob wrote notes for his family as his only means of communication. Some dealt with everyday affairs, others with the horses for Glen.
“I would say, ‘what is that?’ I couldn’t understand, “laughs Glen.” But the horses are still an interest for Papa. “
Nowadays they can have a quick chat about races over the phone. Bob is still being brought out to see a couple of horses one morning or two. He doesn’t say much while he’s over there, but then again, he never did.
And if Charmmebaby can shoot up close to the field to win the Country Championships final, Margaret might shed a few tears at home. Glen will no doubt say a few more words in front of the cameras than his father used to do.
As for Bob?
He probably won’t say much, but it won’t be 101 days before his next beer.
Adam Pengilly is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.
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