April 8, 1976. Pimlico. A dozen maidens and their jockeys, half of them apprentices, were nearing the half-mile pole when 20 year-old bug rider Karin Yarosh was caught in tight quarters, went down and was trampled.
Rushed to Sinai Hospital, she came from emergency surgery in a coma and minus her gall bladder, spleen and two-thirds of her liver. Under a hoofprint beneath her right arm were six broken ribs and a punctured lung.
Four months later, at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore, Md., she received the liver's equivalent of the intestinal colostomy--a tube that required twice-daily irrigation. A fist could fit in the hole in her side.
Life would never be the same for this Jockey's Guild member, a rider Washington Post racing writer Andy Beyer hailed as Maryland's best female jockey. Unable to work, Karin filed for Worker's Compensation. She was denied; the law was specific: she was an independent contractor.
The Guild went to court on her behalf three times. After the first two hung juries, the Guild had House Bill 473 introduced into the Maryland General Assembly. The legislation would add jockeys and exercise riders to the Worker's Compensation law.
"We had (the juries') sympathy, they just wouldn't override the law and give her benefits, then-Guild attorney Lee Ogburn said.
A third jury said no.
In the years after her spill, Yarosh required hospitalization nearly every six months for liver dysfunction. Her visits were either a week or a month duration, depending upon the problem. Medicaid paid 80 percent of more than $1 million in medical expenses. Her paycheck-to-paycheck parents, however, were strapped to cover the remainder.
The Guild's lobbyists in Annapolis took up the cudgels. During three years of testimony, Yarosh appeared before committees twice, along with permanently disabled rider Sam Boulmetis, Jr. "(Karin) showed me her stomach," he recalled. "She had scars every which-a-way."
In spite of vehement HBPA opposition and one veto by the governor, House Bill 473 passed unanimously in 1985 and became law Jan. 1, 1986.
However, because Yarosh was injured in 1976, she was not covered.
Discouraged, Yarosh's health steadily declined. She tried training--saddling two winners--and breeding at the family farm in Port Deposit, Md., but what was left of her liver was spent. After her 15th surgery Sept. 10, 1986, Yarosh's doctors said her condition was not life-threatening.
Two days later, Karin's mother, Annelise Castrenze, found her daughter in a coma.
Yarosh lingered for a week in the ICU of a Havre de Grace, Md., hospital, where her doctors were amazed by her will to live.
Sept. 30, Castrenze gave her 31 year-old daughter permission to die, telling Karin she had fought a long, hard fight. "She didn't want to leave me," Castrenze said. "She didn't want to die. I just told her, 'Please, honey, let go. Mommy is okay. You go to your other mommy in heaven. She's waiting for you."
"I don't know how I knew Karin was dead, but I did. I called in the nurse, who checked her, and said, "She's gone."