06/14/2007 12:00AM

Rider paralyzed from waist down


Jockey Andrew Lakeman suffered paralysis from the waist down and doctors informed him Wednesday night that he would not be able to walk again, according to a friend of Lakeman’s who spoke Thursday on behalf of the family.

Lakeman, 32, severed his spinal cord from the T-5 vertebra down and suffered multiple other injuries as a result of a spill he was involved in at Belmont Park on May 25. His mount, Our Montana Dream, clipped heels with a horse in front of him, and Lakeman was hurled hard to the ground.

In addition to the paralysis, Lakeman suffered a fractured sternum, punctured lung and he broke a couple of ribs, according to Tom Daughn, who said he is a close friend of Lakeman’s. Lakeman is also suffering from a case of pneumonia.

“Andrew was very frustrated, very angry, and very scared hearing this all of a sudden,” said Daughn, who was at the hospital Wednesday night. “They needed to sedate him a little bit. I told him we’ll work through this.”

Daughn said Lakeman underwent a tracheotomy and has a feeding tube through his nose. He can breathe on his own, though when his heart rate and blood pressure rise, he is put on a respirator.

Daughn said Lakeman would need to spend another week to 10 days at North Shore University Hospital on Long Island before being transported to a yet-to-be-chosen rehabilitation facility.

“The rehab is going to deal with trying to teach him how to live life with a wheelchair,” Daughn said. “We’re just here praying with him trying to keep his sprits up. Andrew is a fighter, he can overcome this.”

Lakeman’s father, Billy, his mother, Lynn, and sister, Lynnette, have been with him at the hospital since they arrived from Europe about two weeks ago.

On Wednesday, it was announced that the Backstretch Employee Service Team had established the Andrew Lakeman Assistance Fund to help offset his medical expenses.