“Angels” Who Saved the Life of Juan Matute Guimon, 22-Year-Old Spanish Team Rider

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Dr. Claudio Rodriguez (2nd from the left) with his team from Madrid’s Foundation Jiménez Díaz hospital’s brain neurosurgery unit. Photo courtesy Foundation Jiménez Díaz

May 10, 2020

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

Juan Matute Azpitarte on Sunday described as “angels” the surgical team that performed a delicate high risk operation in Madrid for almost seven hours to save the life of his 22-year-old son, Spanish dressage team rider Juan Matute Guimon.

The surgical team was well established at the Jiménez Díaz Foundation in Madrid, as one of the most highly regarded in Europe for the kind of operation required when Juan Matute Guimon collapsed last Tuesday after riding.

“The procedure is very unusual and involves high risks,” said Juan’s father who with his wife, Maria, were in Madrid where Juan moved two years ago from the family home in Wellington, Florida to pursue a career as a professional dressage rider.

“There are very few doctors that can do this with success.

“We are very proud of them.”

The operation to repair a “congenital malformation” was undertaken by a team led by Dr. Claudio Rodriguez from Argentina and included Drs. Alberto Gil Garcia and Pedro Ruiz Garcia.

Juan had been helicoptered to Hospital Universitario la Paz in Madrid last Tuesday. He had collapsed after riding as part of his daily exercises to improve his dressage on his way to what he hopes will be a place on Spain’s Olympic team at the Tokyo Olympics in the summer of 2021, delayed for a year by the coronavirus pandemic.

He was initially operated on for three hours to stanch bleeding in the brain.

Although successful, the the doctors found the “congenital malformation” that require an operation involving the hypothalamus, a small region of the brain located at its base near the pituitary gland. Although very small, the hypothalamus plays a crucial role in many vital functions such as releasing hormones and regulating body temperature.

Specialists around world offered to fly to Madrid to perform the operation required to save Juan’s life.

It turned out, Juan’s father, a three-time Olympian for Spain, told dressage-news.com, “We didn’t even have to look far.”

Jiménez Díaz Foundation hospital was just 15 minutes away by ambulance, a private and public facility with a world class brain neurosurgery unit.

“They came to us like three angels and saved Juan’s life,” the father said of the doctors who performed the surgery. “Now we’ve learned that patients from all over Europe come to them for surgery in Madrid.”

After seven hours, the operation was declared a success.

Juan will remain in the hospital for about another week to recover.

Hundreds of thousands of messages of support and prayers have been sent to the Matute family from around the world in the past week.

The Matute family all became American citizens two years ago and a decade after moving to Wellington, Florida. But Juan but continued to ride under the Spanish flag. On the world standings, he is the second and third highest Spanish rider on different horses.

He has lived in Madrid for the past two years pursuing his riding career and attending university.

For the past 10 months, he has been on a hectic schedule, competing throughout Western Europe and the Middle East before returning to Wellington this winter to clinch a start at the World Cup Final that was to be staged in Las Vegas a month ago but was canceled because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In addition to his competition schedule, the popular rider traveled extensively to perform riding clinics that provided much of the income he lost when a sponsorship ended after six years when he moved to Spain from the United States.