FOUR lost days in the life of Walter Swinburn and a girl's death from the Wilson Trail fire have changed the outlook of one of the world's best-known jockeys. Shaven-headed and almost skeletal from enforced weight loss during 12 days in hospital after his horrific fall on the rails at Sha Tin, the triple-Derby winning jockey spoke yesterday of how his life had changed. 'I did not know much about the hillfire. It happened the day before the race and I only saw the headlines in the paper. 'I could never have imagined it would get personal,' said Swinburn, 34, who is well on the way to recovery from the accident a fortnight ago. He was treated in the intensive care unit at the Prince of Wales Hospital by doctors who were already rushed off their feet looking after the burns victims from the Pat Sin Leng fire. He spent four days and nights in a twilight world of pain-killing drugs, knowing nothing about his fall from Liffey River. 'When I first saw myself in the mirror it was a real shock. I knew I had been in a fall but I wasn't able to talk to the doctors because I was breathing through a ventilator. 'Before that day I have little recollection except in the last seconds before the horse hit the rail. 'I had been trying to keep him straight and it sort of flashed through my mind that we were going to hit the rail. I knew there was no way out of it and after that I just don't remember,' said Swinburn, who had to re-live the experience yesterday when he helped chief stipendiary steward Bernard Hargreaves complete the race inquiry. But through the pain, which became almost unbearable when he was taken off morphine, came the realisation that there were some people a lot worse off. 'The doctors were treating the children. I never saw any of them but my father was deeply involved with the father of one little girl, and I was caught up in that. 'It was a very humbling experience because her father came in to see me and hoped that I would quickly get better. His own daughter was fighting for her life yet he still had time to be concerned about me. 'I would like to think it will give me a much clearer idea of what is really important.' As the jockey's father, Wally, was sitting waiting to see his son, tired, worried, and jet-lagged after flying from England, he was approached by Francis Yu, another parent who feared for the life of his daughter, 13-year-old Hiu-woon. 'He just said to me he knew who I was and hoped and prayed that my son would be all right. I thanked him and asked him what he was doing in the hospital. 'He then told me about his little girl who had been trapped in the fire and was not in good condition. After that both Walter and I were asking about her every day and we became involved. We knew the situation was not good because she was going to have to have a leg amputated but we were praying that she would recover. 'When I spoke to her father last Tuesday, he told me that she had not had a good day. She died later that night.' Her death had a profound effect on the Swinburn family and they are supporting appeals towards the official fund set up for victims of the hillfire. Her funeral took place yesterday at the Po Fook memorial hall, Sha Tin. Swinburn, whose injuries included a broken shoulder and eight broken ribs, will not forget the day he came off the morphine shots. 'I knew I had to get through it but it was the worst I have ever experienced. I have known pain before from falls and from a punctured lung, but it was nothing like that.' Yet even when the pain was at its worst, Swinburn never considered giving up riding. 'I can say with complete honesty that it never even crossed my mind. I have been involved with horses all my life and that will not change. 'I am not going to rush it but I am coming back and I am looking forward to it,' he stressed. The support of his parents, Wally and Doreen, and girlfriend Britt, also helped. 'My family have been magnificent. Dad was there when I finally woke up and then my mother arrived. Britt had been there with Dad from about the second day. 'The Jockey Club were great. As soon as I was awake and knew what was going on [chief executive Major-General Guy Watkins] sent a television set and I have had visits from Philip Johnston and Bernard Hargreaves. All have been tremendously supportive and it is something I will not forget.' He has received sackfuls of cards from all over Britain, Ireland and Hong Kong. 'I have had over 400 letters or cards and they are still coming in. I have read every one and have been touched and amazed. 'It is not as if they are from people I know. They are from ordinary people who can only know me through reading papers or watching me riding on television. It gives you a good feeling but also makes you appreciate that you are in a rather privileged position. I can only say that all those cards and letters have meant an awful lot to me.' Swinburn faces another fortnight of visits to doctors, specialists and physiotherapists as he continues to recover. He will then leave for the sunshine of Dubai to catch up with weighing room colleagues and others involved in the desert racing scene. 'I will not rush things because it would not be fair to owners, trainers and myself. I will be back when my body tells me it is ready.' The South China Morning Post has contributed $10,000 to assist the Yu family.