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Doctors Confident Alessandro Zampedri Can Walk _ and Race _ Again

June 5, 1996

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ Race driver Alessandro Zampedri faces months of rehabilitation to restore mobility to his badly injured left foot, but his doctors say the 26-year-old will likely walk _ and race _ again.

``If he can walk again, our experience with the drivers we know is that he will then race again,″ Christopher S. Jones, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon at Methodist Hospital, said Tuesday.

Zampedri has undergone five surgeries in a nine-day span that began May 26 after his lower legs, ankles and feet were severely injured in a crash on the final lap of the Indianapolis 500.

During a news conference Tuesday, Jones, colleague William C. Sando and orthopedic surgeon D. Kevin Scheid stopped short of saying Zampedri will walk again. But if his rehabilitation goes well, they agreed the Italian should be able to return to the cockpit.

Scheid said that a portion of Zampedri’s left foot _ including three toes _ had to amputated. He said the initial condition of Zampedri’s foot was ``nearly the equivalent of amputation.″

``His bone injuries were severe, similar to those suffered by Nelson Piquet,″ who was injured during practice prior to the 1992 Indy 500, Scheid said. ``The differences were the injuries to his soft tissues and blood supply. In that way, this case was more challenging.″

That’s where the expertise of Jones and Sando contributed.

``Our experience has shown a gradual declaration by the tissue of whether it will survive, and we wanted to be careful not to remove too much (tissue) too quickly,″ Sando said. ``At the same time, we also worry about infection and keeping the area clean.″

During surgery on Monday, a muscle was moved from Zampedri’s right shoulder to his left foot. Surgeons sewed arteries and veins the diameter of pencil lead using thread thinner than human hair, Sando said.

The doctors said Zampedri would will remain hospitalized for about two more weeks. That time period will determine whether the transfer of the muscle, arteries and veins was successful.

If no complications occur, Zampedri will be released from the hospital and begin several months of rehabilitation.

``Initially there will be a long period of rest to allow the bones to heal,″ Scheid said. ``He’ll be able to start rehab sooner on the right leg than the left, the delay due to the amount of injuries to his left side, but we expect him to recover fairly well and be fairly self-sufficient.″

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