05/16/2011 10:36AM

Paralyzed jockey Michael Martinez seeking entrance to Swiss treatment program


David Seftel, the Golden Gate Fields track physician, is trying to expedite Michael Martinez’s request for permanent residency so the paralyzed jockey can be admitted into a special stem-cell treatment program in Switzerland. Seftel said over the weekend that Martinez has only about two weeks to be admitted into the program for the treatment to be most effective.

Martinez, a 24-year-old citizen of Panama, was paralyzed in a Sept. 12, 2010, racing spill at Golden Gate Fields. Without permanent residency status, Martinez would not be allowed to return to the United States if he left for the treatment.

Seftel is petitioning the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service to speed up the processing of Martinez’s request for permanent residency so that the jockey can travel to Switzerland to be part of a stem cell study at Balgrist Hospital in Zurich. The study is geared to people who have suffered injuries within the past 40 weeks. The hospital is affiliated with the University of Zurich and is conducting the study for StemCells Inc., which is based in Palo Alto, Calif.

“This is his last best chance,” said Seftel, who said the program could help Martinez regain some control over bladder and bowel activities even if it did not cure his paralysis.

Martinez has completed all necessary steps to acquire permanent residency in the United States except for the final oral examination, which usually takes three to four months to schedule, Seftel said. Martinez and his wife, Charlotte, who is an American citizen, have a 6-month-old daughter, Merari.

Martinez suffered fractures of his fifth, sixth and seventh thoracic vertebrae.