05/19/2011 10:05AM

Paralyzed rider Martinez gets hearing in stem-cell effort


The paralyzed jockey Michael Martinez will have an expedited oral hearing before the United States Customs and Immigration service director, Robin Barrett, on Monday, said Golden Gate Fields track physician Dr. David Seftel. Seftel has been assisting Martinez in the jockey’s effort to acquire a travel visa so that he can travel to Zurich, Switzerland, and undergo an experimental stem-cell treatment. The hearing is part of the process of granting Martinez permanent residency in the United States so he will be allowed return to the U.S. from Switzerland.

Such hearings are usually scheduled three months after completion of all the other necessary steps to acquire permanent residency, but Martinez’s hearing was moved up 10 weeks.

Said Seftel: “Senator Barbara Boxer’s office was instrumental in getting the hearing moved up on compassionate grounds. And there was a groundswell of support for Michael with people in the racing industry and paraplegics world-wide sending letters and e-mails asking for the early hearing.”

Martinez could be able to fly to Switzerland as early as next Friday, Seftel said.

Martinez, 24, was paralyzed in a Sept. 12, 2010 racing spill at Golden Gate Fields. The Panamanian-born Martinez and his wife, Charlotte – a U.S. citizen – have a daughter, Merari.

The procedure is part of a stem-cell study at Balgrist Hospital, which is affilitiated with the University of Zurich. The study is the second phase in testing a new procedure developed by StemCells Inc., which is based in Palo Alto, Calif.