KRAUSE’S GROVE, 2 Beach Road, Halfmoon, NY


1:00 PM TO 6:00 PM ~ RAIN OR SHINE

$30.00 per adult ticket at gate - $20.00 for children under 12

includes donation to Harvard Stem Cell Institute.

5 hour picnic with soda, beer, games, raffles, 50/50, live music




Abundant food and dessert being served 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Those who wish to join a pre-picnic motorcycle cavalcade around the beautiful Tomhannock Reservoir in Ali’s honor will meet at the Troy Plaza on Hoosick Street at 10:00 A.M. for sign up and the cavalcade will kick off at 11:00 A.M. sharp.

For more info: https://www.facebook.com/Rally4Ali

For Further Information


For the Run, Wally Urzan


For the Picnic & Cause

Alison Fisk


Monday, May 2, 2011

Jockey Douglas lives in hope

By Barry Abrams
Special to ESPN.com

Rene Douglas remembers one of his greatest challenges as a jockey. At the 1996 Belmont Stakes, he willed Editor's Note over the finish line because the horse did not have the constitution to do so himself. Yet since his devastating spill in 2009, trying to coax that kind of heroic effort from his own body has proven to be much tougher. Now when he falls out of his wheelchair, his wife, Natalia, has to scoop him up.
Just getting around on a daily basis is as big a victory for Rene Douglas these days as winning a Breeders' Cup race, which he did in 2006. "I had a bad bedsore (stage 4), and every day, I couldn't go to sleep," Douglas remembers.
In the hopes of finding the finish line in this difficult race, the Douglases have grown exponentially desperate.
"To find the cure, I'll pay whatever I have to pay, even if I have to milk a goat in the highest hills I can find, in stiletto heels. To see him walk again, it's priceless," Natalia has said.
On May 23, 2009, Rene Douglas rode a 4-year old filly named Born to Be in a stakes race at Arlington Park in Chicago -- where he had won six riding titles in the decade. Douglas guided his charge in the second path around the far turn when she was bumped from the inside by a horse named Sky Mom, ridden by Jamie Theriot. Born to Be then veered out slightly and clipped heels with the filly, Boudoir, just in front of her. In a frightening flash, Born to Be flipped head-over-heels, throwing Douglas down to the dirt. The horse somersaulted over her neck and shoulders like a gymnast on a mat, flipping up in the air momentarily with her head facing up and bottom side down. Then as Douglas landed, the horse crashed rump-first directly on top of him as she continued flipping.
Born to Be was euthanized. Douglas underwent seven hours of spinal surgery at nearby Northwestern Memorial Hospital. He had broken several ribs and his sternum, but the bigger problem was the pair of compressed thoracic disks (T-5 and T-6) pressing into his spinal cord. During the surgery, Douglas was opened up from his neck to his tailbone as doctors relieved compression on the disks as well as inserting screws into his upper vertebrae.
Since his spinal cord had not actually been punctured, There was initial hope for a recovery. But the reality soon set in that he would not regain the feeling in his legs. The family -- including Natalia, and two sons, Giancarlo (then age 13) and Christian (then age 8) -- started searching for a miracle. "Because one of our friends is a doctor, he told us right away about stem cell therapy," Douglas said. "[The doctor] said, 'That's your hope.'"
What Rene and Natalia found was a new frontier, untamed and potentially dangerous. Stem cells are naturally occurring cells harvested from various places in the body. When strategically re-injected back into the body, stem cells can regenerate into the various specialized cells that become bodily organs. The hope is that injecting stem cells into the spinal cord of someone like Rene Douglas will regenerate the pathways needed to connect his legs to his brain.
Unfortunately for the ex-jockey, breakthroughs in medical practices in the United States happen slowly. Any new biological drug has to go through a rigorous, expensive, and time-consuming three-tiered clinical trial before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will approve it. These studies could take decades, which is far too much time for patients like Douglas.
"We did a lot of research," Douglas said. "We thought about Germany, Portugal, and China … We didn't know [anything] about Panama. I mean, it's my country but it's a small country. I didn't expect we'd have that treatment in Panama, and the doctor [Jorge Paz Rodriguez, medical director of the Stem Cell Institute] knew who I was, so it made it easier for me to connect with that doctor."
So Rene Douglas made a pilgrimage back to his native Panama, to a clinic called the Stem Cell Institute. Begun in 2005 by Phoenix, Ariz., researcher Neil Riordan, the Stem Cell Institute claims it can treat a variety of chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis, auto immune diseases, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, and of course, spinal cord injuries. Some, however, see that kind of as more of a red flag than a panacea.
"Unlike specializing in one type of discipline -- like orthopedics," says Dr. Chris Centeno, founder of the International Cellular Medicine Society (ICMS). "They try to be all things to all people. That strains credibility when you see that, when a clinic is willing to treat every common malady of mankind."
In these early years of stem cell research, the lack of uniform standards opens doors to risky and potentially fraudulent practices. Patients, many of whom are from the United States, continue to pay these clinics up to $5,000 per week for "miracle" treatments. No organization has the authority to unify standards of stem cell clinics around the world, just as general practitioners operate somewhat differently from country to country.
"There should be ethical protections involved and you shouldn't be charging people tremendous amounts of money to try this," notes Larry Goldstein, director of the UC-San Diego Stem Cell Program and a member of the International Society of Stem Cell Research (ISSCR).
The Wild West element is one part of the stem cell controversy. The other part lies in the source of the cells. Using stem cells from unborn embryos, of course, flings open deeply held right-to-life issues. There are also smaller, but significant issues in using stem cells taken from the umbilical cords of recently born babies.
Rene Douglas' treatment involves neither embryos nor umbilical cords. His stem cells come from his bone marrow, and after harvesting, the stem cells are injected into his spinal column. "We're using our own cells. We're not killing babies," he says.
The FDA mandates that cells taken from one spot in the body and re-injected elsewhere in the same person's body require the same rigorous, clinical trials as newly developed drugs. "You can take the heart or kidney out of someone and put it in another person [which is not FDA controlled]," says SCI's Riordan. "You can take someone's bone marrow out, freeze it, and put it back in as bone marrow -- that's exempt. But you can't … inject the stem cells [from the marrow] into the spinal cord. It has to be bone marrow for bone marrow."
With that kind of stem cell treatment unavailable in the U.S., Douglas has made three pilgrimages to Panama City -- in August, November, 2010, and February 2011. It has taken over a year for the wiry jockey to recover sufficiently from the initial trauma and be strong enough to undergo the stem cell treatments.
Each two- to three-week stay at SCI begins with the stem cell injection, right into his spine. "I'm excited when the needle comes," Douglas says of each of his stays at the clinic. "It's exciting. I don't get nervous, I get anxious … I used to get more nervous before I jumped on a horse because you see all the owners and they're … telling you how to ride the horse. I just wanted to get on the horse and then it's just you and the horse."
Still looking muscular and athletic, Douglas has not experienced the headaches or other immediate aftereffects of the treatment. Jockeys are used to keeping their weight down, so Douglas is well programmed to deal with the grueling rehab regimen which accompanies the stem cell injections. He uses a kind of elliptical machine where his arms force his legs to move. He will also soon be starting biofeedback, where electrodes on his skin send impulses to the brain in the hope of stimulating it once again to send messages to the legs.
Before leaving for his third treatment, he said that he could move a toe on command ever so slightly. Sometimes, he felt like he could move a lower body part, even though it did not actually move. Douglas said, "It's a big step when you feel like you can move something."
Despite a lack of tangible results, Douglas remains steadfastly optimistic. "I know we made the right choice, even if it doesn't work for me," he notes.
That, of course, is the main question. Will this story end with the triumphant image of Douglas climbing up on a horse again?

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