Horse trainer returns to track after cheating death

Bendigo horse trainer Brad Cole with stable favourite Kinjulator. Picture: DARREN HOWE
Bendigo horse trainer Brad Cole with stable favourite Kinjulator. Picture: DARREN HOWE

Brad Cole thought he had an ear infection.

Margaret Cole thought her husband had a classic case of "man flu".

Three months later they're both relieved that 55-year-old Brad is still around to tell the tale.

Doctors feared the worst for the Bendigo horse trainer after a severe bout of influenza A put him in an induced coma for two weeks.

"We were at a family reunion in Bright, but we didn't stay long because Brad was sick,'' Margaret recalled.

"I took him to the Bright Hospital and once the nurse saw him she knew straight away something seriously was wrong and she rang the ambulance straight away.

"They took him to Wangaratta Hospital and the next night they decided they were going to put him in an induced coma.

"The next day they flew him to Melbourne at The Alfred where they kept him in an induced coma for nearly two weeks.

"He had influenza A, pneumonia and fluid on the lungs. Once he was out of the coma he fell, cracked his head open and had slight bruising on the brain.

"His kidneys were starting to shut down, so he was on dialysis as well.

"When the doctor tells you that he might not live... that was hard."

Brad Cole gives Kinjulator a walk ahead of Wednesday races at Bendigo. Picture: DARREN HOWE

Brad Cole gives Kinjulator a walk ahead of Wednesday races at Bendigo. Picture: DARREN HOWE

Doctors said Brad, who combines horse training with a full-time job at Symons Dairy, might not have survived had it not been for his active lifestyle.

He spent one month in hospital and lost 16kg in the process.

"I heard somewhere that more than 180 people died this year because of influenza A,'' Brad said.

"I know I was lucky. One minute I was in Bright then I woke up in Melbourne and I’d lost three weeks of my life.

“I didn’t know Richmond had won the grand final until Margaret told me.

“I've had to learn how to walk again and learn how to feed myself again. I was pretty scared there for a while.

“It took a lot of work just to be able to walk with a frame."

Brad's passion for his family and horse racing helped him through the recovery process.

"It took me a while to get my senses back. I probably wasn't a good patient because I wanted to get back into things,'' Cole said.

“I’ve recovered pretty well all things considered.

“I’m very lucky that the nurse at Bright picked it up so quickly. The staff at The Alfred were great.”

Bendigo trainer Aileen Vanderfeen took over the training of Brad's horses while he was sick and she saddled up Red's Sister Rosie for an impressive win at Ballarat.

After a better than expected rehabilitation progran, Brad is fit enough to return to the training ranks.

Fittingly, his first runner since his illness will be on home soil at the Bendigo Jockey Club on Wednesday.

Cole has stable favourite Kinjulator running in the 1600m Class One Handicap.

"I'm looking forward to getting back to the races,'' Cole said.

"He (Kinjulator) is probably my favourite horse. He's no world-beater, but he's a lovely horse.

"It's nice to start off with him."