Jockey Michael Martinez was discharged from the Santa Clara Valley Rehabilitation Center in San Jose Nov. 19, 68 days after being critically injured in a spill at Golden Gate Fields.
Martinez, paralyzed from the waist down as a result of his fall on Sept. 12, was thrilled to be heading home.
“I am looking forward to spending the holidays at home with my family,” said Martinez, who resides in San Pablo with his fiancée Charlotte Garcia and their baby daughter Merari, who was born nine days after her father was disabled.
Martinez, who was rejected as a candidate for embryonic stem cell treatment in Germany and his native Panama due to the severity of his injuries, faces a long recovery. But he said that he has been overwhelmed by the support he has received since his accident.
“I truly appreciate the prayers and support I’ve received from the fans, my fellow horsemen, and everyone at Golden Gate Fields,” said Martinez. “I am very grateful.”
Among Golden Gate's top jockeys at the time of the fall, Martinez suffered severe spinal cord damage and a major head injury in the accident. During Breeders' Cup weekend earlier this month, jockeys across the nation wore a decal on their boots honoring Martinez and the late rider Mark Villa and contributed to a fund to support Martinez and his family.
Martinez was picked up at the rehabilitation center by his agent, Dennis Patterson, who has been with his rider constantly since the spill.
“Michael’s spirits are great, unbelievably positive,” said Patterson.
Golden Gate Fields is continuing to accept contributions to the" Michael Martinez Fund." Those wishing to donate should make their checks out to “Michael Martinez Fund” and send them to Golden Gate Fields, 1100 Eastshore Highway, Berkeley, CA 94710.