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"I got one for you to ride today in the fifth," Whittingham said with a wink.
Shoemaker grinned. "Wish I could," he said. "Yeah, I'd like that."
Whittingham wandered away, and Shoemaker glanced up at his attendant Cox. "Give me a little coffee, will ya?" he asked.
"You want a muffin or a banana?" Cox asked.
"Half a muffin would be good," he said. A few minutes later Cox was back at Shoemaker's side, alternately holding the coffee and muffin to his mouth, so he could sip and nibble. "Larry, zip this jacket for me," Shoemaker said. He relies totally on those around him for his needs, from blowing his nose to scratching an itch. His day is a litany of small favors quietly asked: "Larry, call the house" and "Larry, can you shave me now?" and "Larry, give me a cough, will you?" Phlegm builds up in his trachea, and Cox has to push on his chest to clear it.
What he can still do now, he says, is train a racehorse. "Some people think I can't do it anymore," he says, "but I can train as well now as I ever did. I can still see, and training is a seeing game."
He wards off self-pity with stoicism—"You have to play the hand you're dealt," he says, "and I was dealt this one"—and attends physical-therapy sessions two or three times a week in hopes that he can regain some use of his arms. He can twitch the muscle next to the thumb of his right hand, and he has feeling now in one of his biceps. Sitting in front of his fireplace at home recently, he felt the warmth on his face. "Fire feels good," he said. "My body thermostat is all screwed up because of, ah, this condition. I get chills. It doesn't adjust with the weather. Sometimes it's hot outside, and I'm cold; sometimes it's cold, and I'm hot." Looking at Cox, he said, "Larry, you can take my jacket off...."
Shoemaker misses riding his own horses and taking off his own jacket and picking up a banana and holding a warm cup of coffee in his own warm hands. "I miss all the little things," he says. "I miss brushing my teeth, combing my hair, taking a shower by myself. Pouring a glass of water. I'm told that I should have use of my upper body, but I lost that in the hospital. If that's true, I'm damn mad about it. If only I could get my arms going...."
The question of whether Shoemaker was quadriplegic when he entered Glendora Community Hospital—or whether, due to malpractice, he became a quad between his arrival at 8:35 p.m. and 4:10 a.m.—is the central issue of Papiano's case against the medical defendants. Papiano argues that notes taken that night reveal that Shoemaker had some movement in his shoulders after his arrival; that almost four hours after his arrival, the early X-rays done on his cervical spine were termed "not adequate" by a consulting neurosurgeon, Celedonio Fernando, because they did not reveal the fracture; and that at no time until Fernando looked at new X-rays, at 4:10 a.m., was Shoemaker diagnosed as quadriplegic. Papiano says that hospital documents show that it was only at that late hour that Fernando finally saw a new set of X-rays and scribbled the note, "Patient a quadriplegic now. C-Spine reveals a dislocation of C-6/C-7 to about [4/5] vertical width."
"We did nothing to him that, in any way, shape or form, harmed him," says Robert Reback, Fernando's lawyer. "His course was set when he rolled over and hit his head."