Monday, June 1, 2009

Douglas’s wife says injured jockey’s mind is sharp

.Jockey Douglas Paralyzed in Lower Extremities

Natalie Douglas, the wife of seriously injured veteran jockey Rene Douglas, said Thursday on HorseRacing Television that she is disappointed by media reports that her husband is paralyzed from the waist down and remains optimistic that he could regain feeling in his legs.

Natalie Douglas confirmed that her husband does not have feeling in his legs, but said it is far too early to say that his condition is permanent.

Douglas spent about seven hours in surgery on May 24 at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago as doctors operated to decompress the fifth and sixth vertebrae of his spinal cord. It takes ten days to two weeks for the swelling to go down, after which doctors at Northwestern Memorial Hospital will have a better grasp of his long-term prognosis. Douglas also sustained significant damage to his neck and broken ribs.

"He had a very long surgery—a very difficult surgery, that was a success,” Natalie Douglas said during the television interview. “They are waiting for the swelling to come down to see what happens. But, as I said earlier, Rene's such a strong person, and he's so determined, that it's in his mind and he will get it done.

"As you well know, he had problems with his back, where he has some fractures ... and he had several broken ribs, which makes it a little bit hard for him to breathe on his own. They're draining his lungs on a daily basis."

Rene Douglas, 42, was injured when his mount in the Arlington Matron Stakes (G3), Born to Be, was bumped by Sky Mom after that opponent was angled out entering the stretch. Born to Be then clipped heels with fading pacesetter Boudoir and tumbled straight down, leaving Douglas no chance to react as he fell headfirst to the main track. The filly was knocked unconscious and rolled over onto Douglas.

Dennis Cooper, jockey agent for Rene Douglas, said shortly after the surgery that doctors said they did not think the rider would walk again, but that they would not know for sure until the swelling in his spinal cord went down.

"I think that there was a lot of miscommunication between a lot of people ... I think thoughts were not expressed the proper way,” Natalie Douglas said. “I think probably what it was, it was too early to tell.

“He's very strong in the upper part of his body. His mind is clear, he's sharp,” Natalie Douglas said. “He's Rene at his best. He gets mad when he wants to get mad; he's happy, cranky. And he communicates with us. Whatever he wants, he wants to get it now.”

Natalie Douglas complimented the staff at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

“The management of the hospital has been great,” she said. “They are doing a fantastic job with him. I want to thank the people who have sent their best wishes, and prayers, and support ... that's what we need right now—positive energy and prayers. And we're going to come out of this fine."

A virtual get well card for Rene Douglas has been created and continues to grow on the free social-networking website Facebook. The Rene Douglas Get Well Card group on Facebook was created the day after the Arlington Matron Stakes. Since the group was formed, more than 2,700 Facebook users have become members of the group leaving more than 450 messages.