Location: Belmont Park, New York
Date: May 30, 1988
On May 30, 1988, several top jockeys were preparing to race in Belmont Park, New York. One was 24-year-old Richard Migliore. His wife, Carmela, stated, "I just have to pray everyday that when he goes out in the morning, he'll come back at night and he'll be fine."
In the first race, Richard was to ride horse number #7, Madame Alydar. Her trainer was Winky Cox, who felt she was in good condition. Richard and Cox dicussed the racing that day and, when they called for the riders, Cox gave Richard a leg up and told him, "Good luck."
The riders got in the gates and the race began. As it was going well, a horse clipped Chris Antley's horse, Imanair. As Antley went down, Richard tried to jump over Imanair when he got up and they collided, causing him to be thrown off Madame Alydar and land on the ground. Imanair also collided with Julie Krone's horse, Pot O' Jam.
Morty Rosey, the head EMT on duty at the track, was the first emergency worker on the scene. He went to Antley, who was injured. Krone, who wasn't seriously injured, convinced Rosey to tend to Richard, as he was severely hurt and totally unconscious. He, along with Antley who was less seriously injured, was transported to Long Island Jewish Hospital 10 miles away.
Carmela received a call from the track that Richard got into the spill and was injured. She immediatelly left home to go to the hospital he was being taken to. She caught up with the ambulance he was in. As he was coming in and out of consciousness, Morty saw that Carmela was coming in behind them, but Richard couldn't remember being married and such, indicating a severe head injury. When they arrived at the hospital within 10 minutes, Carmela saw the extent of his injury and was devastated by the sight of it, for fear of him being paralyzed. "Racing is all he had done since he was 15 years old. 7 days a week, 365 days a year." she stated.
At the hospital, physician assistant George Barry examined Richard. He found that he sustained facial injuries, had pain in his neck and right arm, and had numbness and tingling in his lower extremeties below the waist line, which indicated a severe neck injury. Carmela thought that his injuries could be the end of their life plans as they know it and she was getting more worried about it.
X-rays reveal that Richard's neck was broken during the spill. Dr. Arthur Weber, a specialist in spinal injury, was called in to take over his care. Dr. Weber found that the bone in Richard's neck was extending from his spinal cord and milimeters away from paralyzing him.
Dr. Weber informed Carmela that there was a chance that Richard may not walk again, which frightened her more. Dr. Weber was required to tell her and Richard that the surgery could make things worse.
Richard underwent three hours of delicate surgery to reconstruct his neck. After it was successful, both he and Carmela were elated. But they knew it was only half a battle. Doctors told him that if he wanted to ride or even walk again, he'd face at least a year of grueling rehabilitation.
"It was more traumatic to me mentally, even though I had a lot of physical discomfort. Mentally, it hurt me a lot more. I went being from this fit athlete to this person that makes it living in this body and now I can't lift 5 pounds," Richard stated. "I just felt like I can do it quicker. And once they had told me I would be able to ride again, if that's what I choose to do, there was never any doubt in my mind that's what I wanted to do."
On Thanksgiving 1988, just six months after his accident, Richard beat the odds and returned to horse racing. He was grateful to the EMTs and the doctors who worked on him, especially Dr. Weber, who he feels to have a very special affection to him since he put him back together. But the person he's really grateful too is the faithful support of Carmela. "Without Carmela, I can't say I could've made it back. My wife is an incredible person and she's my best friend," Richard praised. "I think most people wouldn't have made it back. But then again, most people aren't jockeys. They're a very rare breed," Carmela stated.