During the race, the unthinkable happened.” Our Montana Dream” clipped the heels of another horse, lost her footing and tumbled to the track. Mr. Lakeman was thrown to the ground and then trampled by a trailing horse.
The accident nearly killed Mr. Lakeman. His neck was broken in three places and his spinal cord was severed. He also suffered five broken ribs, two punctured lungs and his sternum was cracked in two places. He spent five weeks at North Shore University Hospital , where Mr. Lakeman spoke of the injuries that nearly killed and five more in another hospital. He is still paralyzed from the chest down.
But beyond the physical challenges posed by debilitating injuries that have required years of rehabilitation, Mr. Lakeman has found new meaning in his life, and his perseverance has served as an inspiration to his friends and the jockeys he used to ride with. Mr. Lakeman described his determination to lead a rich, new life during a news conference held Thursday at North Shore University Hospital, where Mr. Lakeman spoke of the injuries that nearly killed him, the horse that has given him a new reason to live, and his new goal of training a horse that will win at Saratoga .
Last year, Mr. Lakeman purchased a horse that he named “Thisskysabeauty.” Confined to his motorized wheelchair and struggling with his weight, Mr. Lakeman said he trains his three-year-old colt nearly ever day inside Barn 2 at Belmont, yards away from the accident that ended his riding career. Determined to prove that he can be a good trainer in a wheelchair, Mr. Lakeman said: “ I consider this horse to be a gift from God. The accident four years ago took a lot away from me, both physically and mentally. This horse has brought me back to life. I’ve learned that just because I’m in this wheelchair, my life is not over.”
Mr. Lakeman was joined by his doctor, Adam Stein, MD, a spinal cord injury specialist and chair of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the North Shore-LIJ Health System. Speaking of Mr. Lakeman, with whom he has become very close during the past four years, Dr. Stein said, “This is a story of someone who overcame adversity and re-invented himself. Right now, there is no cure for spinal cord injury. But Andrew, through his determination and spirit, shows us that he can still enjoy life.”
To learn more about the North Shore-LIJ Department of Physician Medicine and Rehabilitation, go to: www.northshorelij.com/NSLIJ/Physical+Medicine+and+Rehabilitation+(PMR), or call 516-627-8470.
Contact: Michelle Pinto