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Two-plus years and 8 surgeries later, Memo Gidley still hopes to race again

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It’s been more than two years since a horrific crash during the 2014 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona left Memo Gidley with a broken back and extensive injuries to his left arm and left leg.

Gidley has gone through eight surgeries since then, including two last week to implant spinal stimulators to help him with lingering pain issues he continues to go through.

Gidley shared the experience in the latest post on his own blog. To read about what he’s gone through dating back to his crash is fascinating, especially if you go back in his blog archives from the first entry he posted after his terrible wreck.

“Trust me, I am not addicted to having surgeries,” Gidley quipped in his most recent blog post. “It sounds bad – and it is – but the goal is to get back to doing many of the things I love to do, and doing these things with my friends and family. I also really appreciate everybody’s continued support.”

Gidley had spinal fusion surgery last November and continues to recover. It’s the second time he’s undergone a spinal fusion. And while the surgery, like the others, helped somewhat, the pain issue has continued.

Ergo, the implantation of the spinal stimulators, which Gidley has high hopes for in diminishing the “unmerciful nerve pain” he said he suffers from.

“I have tried dozens of treatments over the last year and a half to potentially help break-up my scar tissue to reduce the pain,” Gidley wrote in his blog. “I mean dozens – from DO holistic and energy treatments, Chinese herbs, acupuncture, watching my diet, pills, hyperbaric treatments, cryotherapy and many more. … This all takes time as every treatment requires a certain number of sessions. None have really worked for me, yet.”

Gidley had surgery last Tuesday to implant a temporary spinal stimulator for a two-day trial to see if he could tolerate it. Three days later, a permanent stimulator was inserted into his back.

“To describe what a spinal stimulator does is fairly simple,” Gidley wrote. “It is attached to your spinal cord but higher up from where the “real” pain is coming from. Imagine the size of a small band-aide but with electrodes attached to it. This is then attached via a wire to a controller box which is about the size of an Oreo cookie. The controller box, which has a battery in it, is then implanted into the fat of your glute (butt).

“The spinal stim sends its own signals and the hope is that these fill up your nerve pathway so that the “real” pain signal is blocked from getting to your brain.  What you feel with a spinal stim is a vibration which is much easier to deal with. And then you can set it (wirelessly) as light or as strong as you want/need it to cover up the ‘real’ sharp pain.”

Gidley then asks “was all this worth it? Is the pain less?”

Thankfully, the spinal stimulator appears to be working, although its full effects won’t come for another several weeks.

“As of now, I have felt some improvements, which is great,” Gidley wrote. “My pain is not 100% gone…but is less than what it was. The controller box is fully programmable so that the device specialist can tailor it to my pain, which will happen again in a couple of weeks.

“So, now I am trying to get back to doing what I do so that I can really feel where the improvements are.”

Even though he can’t race himself, Gidley has been coaching, serving as a boat captain in the San Francisco Bay area and working on his own boat, “Basic Instinct.”

“I am in a rush, as always, to get back to being stronger because the stronger I am the more I can do,” Gidley said. “I will continue to work hard to move my body back through my 70’s, 60’s, 50’s, and then finally GET BACK to my 40’s where I belong.

“I still have a lot of goals and desires in my life that have been hard or nearly impossible to do during the last two years. I am not asking for pity from readers, I am just hoping my story helps those that are facing things that are seemingly impossible, but less than what I have dealt with.”

Click here to read Gidley’s latest blog entry. It hurts just to read all that he’s gone through in two-plus years, but it’s also heartwarming and inspiring to hear him say:

“I dream of the day that you all get an email from me that says ‘I am back driving’ and looking for a ride!  I do believe it will happen.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Indianapolis Motor Speedway can have 10,000 fans for IndyCar races

Indianapolis Motor Speedway fans
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Indianapolis Motor Speedway will have crowds for its NTT IndyCar Series race weekend next month, the first time fans are allowed at the track this year.

The track announced Friday that up to 10,000 fans will be allowed in the grandstands daily from Oct. 1-4. The IndyCar Harvest GP race doubleheader will be held on the track’s road course Oct. 2-3.

IMS has played host to several events this year without fans, including the 104th Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23 and a NASCAR-IndyCar weekend July 4-5 that included the Brickyard 400. Plans originally were made to have fans at the Indy 500 before reversing course a few weeks ahead of the race. In a letter last month, Roger Penske vowed that fans would return for the 2021 Indy 500.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS president Doug Boles said in a release. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

Fans will undergo temperature screenings upon entry and also be required to wear face coverings at all times on property. The track said each attendee will receive a mask and bottle of hand sanitizer.

The Friday, Oct. 2 race will be shown at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA, and NBC will broadcast the Saturday, Oct. 3 race at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Here’s the release from Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020 – For the first time in 2020, Indianapolis Motor Speedway will welcome fans to the Racing Capital of the World for the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR weekend. Up to 10,000 spectators can be in the grandstands each day of racing action Oct. 1-4, per approval from the Marion County Public Health Department.

Tickets are available now via IMS.com and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

The massive facility, which holds more than 300,000 people, will provide two spectator zones with up to 5,000 fans in each. The zones will be located in Turns 1 and 4 of the oval, offering strong sightlines of the road course. Strict health and safety rules will be in place, including the following:

  • Face coverings must be worn throughout the property at all times;
  • All fans will receive temperature screenings before gate entry;
  • Grandstand seats will be marked for distancing;
  • Attendees must use pre-assigned gates and remain in their designated zones.

Global Medical Response, the world leader in compassionate, quality emergency medical and patient relocation services, will be the presenting sponsor of the penultimate weekend of INDYCAR racing this season.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

The plan, which includes each attendee receiving a mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer upon entering the track, was developed in consultation with state and local health officials.

This event weekend is highlighted by an NTT INDYCAR SERIES doubleheader, with races Friday, Oct. 2 and Saturday, Oct. 3. It will be the penultimate event of the series’ season as the field pursues the champion’s prestigious Astor Challenge Cup to be awarded Sunday, Oct. 25 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The INDYCAR Harvest GP will pay tribute to a storied IMS event, the Harvest Classic in September 1916. The Harvest Classic was the only racing event held outside of May at IMS from 1911 through 1993. The event featured three races, all won by legendary driver Johnny Aitken.

Fans also will see a host of facility improvements during the event weekend, including more than 30 new LED video boards, refreshed concession stands and restrooms, and 5G wireless connectivity throughout the facility.

The first race will air at 3:30 p.m. (ET) Friday, Oct. 2 on the USA Network. NBC will broadcast the second race at 2:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday, Oct. 3, with WTHR-13 airing the action live in Central Indiana.

Also racing that weekend will be the first pairing of two major sports car series — the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli and its North American counterpart, GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS. Former Indianapolis 500 pole winner Ryan Briscoe is among the drivers in the Indianapolis 8 Hour event held Sunday, Oct. 4.

The event also will showcase drivers in SRO America’s Pirelli GT4 America, GT Sports Club America and the TC America series.

The full on-track schedule is available at IMS.com.