Newlywed fighting for life after horrific injury from horse kick

A 28-year-old Melbourne woman is fighting for her life after suffering a severe head injury at Flemington Racecourse last week.

Professional jockey Juana Andreou was kicked in the head by a horse she was grooming in the stables and is now in an induced coma at Royal Melbourne Hospital.

The horrific injury comes less than a year after her husband Jesse Hemmens experienced his own medical emergency, as he remembers occupying the same intensive care unit as his wife and his grandfather two years earlier.

Newlyweds Juana Andreou and Jesse Hemmens wedding
Juana Andreou is fighting for her life just three months after marrying Jesse Hemmens. Source: Facebook/Jesse Hemmens and T-one Image Wedding Photography

Mr Hemmens suffered from chronic colitis, inflammation of the colon, and has been in and out of the hospital for treatment.

He underwent surgery to remove his large intestine a year ago after doctors found pre-cancerous cells, and is still recovering.

"I was supposed to have surgery in the next four weeks to get everything put back together, and to check what’s left in there is actually usable," he told Yahoo News Australia, adding that's no longer the case.

Mr Hemmens said he "nearly died" following the surgery so he was held in the ICU.

"I suffered a major haemorrhage and lost about four litres of blood," he told media.

'It was supposed to be me, not her'

Mr Hemmens has been forced to put his own recovery on hold to be there for his wife who he married just three months ago in Victoria's Yarra Valley.

"It was always supposed to be me first, not her," he told Yahoo News Australia.

"There’s not much we can do except sit here and wait. Just sit, wait and hope."

After being rushed to the hospital last Monday, Ms Andreou had two surgeries to stop the bleeding and reduce pressure on the brain. But her condition is still critical, and she's not getting any better, her husband confirmed.

Juana Juana Andreou and Jesse Hemmens after proposal with horse
The couple got engaged in 2020 before getting married in April this year. Source: Instagram/_hemmo

Mr Hemmens remembers his own traumatic hospital experience in which his wife "never left my side" and now, he vows to do the same.

Mr Hemmens was driving home from work when he heard the news, but he never expected her condition to be as bad as it was.

"You get told there’s been an accident, when you work in racing there’s always accidents, but I didn’t really realise the gravity of it until I got to the hospital," he said.

"I knew it wasn’t great but when I got to the hospital I found out the seriousness of it."

Even now, Mr Hemmens said "she’s not in a good way".

"They’re taking it hour by hour," he told Yahoo. "It’s really not good."

Family and friends seek help

Bulla Adult Riding Club, where Ms Andreou is a member, voiced their support for the jockey on Facebook, where they described her as a "wonderful asset" to the club.

"She has an awfully long road to recovery and her beautiful Thoroughbred, High Valley, will be missing her greatly," they wrote.

In a GoFundMe page set up for the couple, family friend Daniel Deleo said it's a "horrific time for her family and friends".

Juana Andreou professional jockey on horse
Juana is a professional jockey and was working when she suffered the injury. Source: Facebook/Juana Hemmens

"Her husband, Jesse Hemmens, has also struggled with his own medical issues, which have consistently seen him in and out of hospital over the past few years," the page reads.

"Jesse is by Juana's side, supporting his wife. Unfortunately, Jesse’s medical condition will not see him working for the next 2-3 months at a minimum."

Mr Hemmens was working up until recently when he took time off to help his wife.

But once undergoing yet another surgery himself, he'll be forced out of work once more.

Since it launched, the fundraiser has raised almost $50,000, surpassing its goal of $40,000. The money will be used for ongoing surgery, treatment and "other medical or living expenses".

Ms Andreou's accident was the third of its kind in as many days, according to reports.

Two other women, Leah Kilner, 24, and Elissa Meredith, 27, are also in critical condition in separate and unrelated incidents.

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