06/02/2009 12:00AM

Douglas breathing without ventilator


CHICAGO - Injured jockey Rene Douglas is breathing on his own after having been taken off a ventilator machine, but still has not regained feeling in his legs after suffering an injury to his spinal cord in a one-horse spill May 23 at Arlington.

Doreen Razo, wife of jockey Eddie Razo, and a close friend of Douglas's wife, Natalie, said the breathing apparatus was removed from Douglas at 4:30 p.m. on Monday by medical staff at the trauma unit of Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. So, for the first time since his accident, Douglas can speak.

"His request was for ice cream or Jell-O," said Razo, who has been to Northwestern nearly every day since Douglas was moved there from Northwest Community Hospital near Arlington the evening he was hurt.

Douglas is "still in a little bit of pain," Razo reported, but is being weaned from pain medications. He also has recovered from a case of pneumonia he contracted after a seven-hour surgery was performed to repair fractures in vertebrae near Douglas's neck, and to decompress and fuse the T-5 and T-6 vertebrae lower on his spine. It was the latter injury that affected the spinal cord and caused paralysis. Doctors told Natalie Douglas that it could take up to two weeks to fairly evaluate the long-term consequences of the spinal injury. Now that Douglas can communicate verbally, medical staff can find out more directly "what he can and can't feel," Razo said.

Douglas was hurt in the Arlington Matron Stakes when his mount, Born to Be, was jostled and pushed out by the filly Sky Mom at the top of the Arlington homestretch. Born to Be lurched outward, clipped heels with tiring pacesetter Boudoir, and fell violently, rolling over onto Douglas. Jockey Jamie Theriot is serving a 30-day suspension for his actions aboard Sky Mom.