It has been a year since I’ve given an update on what life has been like post Daytona crash, 2014.
Before I do this, I want everybody to know that I appreciate so much all the thoughts, calls, emails etc., from people because it is a BIG help with my motivation which helps me to heal and to recover. I wish I was able to respond to all the messages I have received. But please know how much I do appreciate all of my friends.
The last time I wrote, I said the next time you would hear from me was when I was sitting in a race car ready to race. Well, the healing challenge has had many ups and downs and I have not quite been able to make that happen yet. Trust me, it is not for lack of trying!
Three weeks ago, I had another spine fusion surgery (hopefully my last) to repair the not healed L4-L5 junction in my spine. Long story short, with the surgery after the accident, the level above (L3-L4) was fused. It was hoped that the broken vertebrae below would heal itself. However, ten months ago a CT scan showed it did not heal as hoped, and so another fusion needed to be done.
Then another search for the right doctor in my area and then making appointments that took months and months to get, well here I am now recovering from that second spine fusion. I was actually scheduled for surgery on Jan 11th, but an opening happened early and I took it. In my mind, the sooner I get this done, the sooner I get past this and on with my life, goals and desires.
Taking out the accident related things that I have had to deal with this past year, I have actually had some fun which is very good for healing and just good for life.
From a work standpoint, I have spent numerous days doing my other passion…boating! I have taken some really fun and adventurous trips as a standby captain/mate on the famous yacht “Acania”. This is a 300 ton vessel that was built in 1930 and owned by the famous Al Capone before he went to another famous place…Alcatraz penitentiary!
I also worked on a couple of other smaller vessels where I am a hired captain…like a 28’ 500HP Protector runabout…it moves! Also, I have chartered and captained my own sailboat through Sailing Memo Boat Charters LLC…a business I started a couple of months before my Daytona crash. I take people either out to experience the SF Bay or teach them to sail…always a fun time.
Go-Karts, driving and racing wise…also some good stuff. The week before my recent surgery I was working with a local racer and friend to coach/tune for him down at the SKUSA go-kart SuperNationals in Las Vegas. He did not win this year, but I believe my driver is going to win this race soon. This event is by far the best four wheel asphalt racing you will see in the US…bar none. To win this race is HUGE and for me as a driver winning it twice put my name on the map and gave me many opportunities and got me recognized as a top driver.
Also this past year I worked for RattleSnake Electric Sport to coach and tune for their kart team on race weekends. This team runs EV (electric) go-karts and races in the local Sanzaru Karting Championship held at Sonoma Raceway Kart Track. The owner of the team has built the karts and attracted so many drivers that they have their own class of all EV karts mixed into a normal kart race weekend schedule. The Rattle Snake EV karts are not slow. As a matter of fact, within half a second of the 125cc shifter kart lap times! I have also done numerous days with various other people coaching them in their own karts. I have not driven a kart in two years but I have not forgotten how to drive! I can’t wait to get driving them again.
And I have also had some days with cars. I have done a handful of days coaching drivers from Pro Formula Mazda to Porsche 997 Cup cars. Always fun to help drivers do what I love…drive.
And also me driving! One weekend I was asked by Sonoma Raceway to give charity rides during their lunch time of a big charity vintage race weekend that was going on. People were donating to a charity $500 to have two laps with me driving them in a Ferrari 250 GTO…a spectacular car!
I also drove another more modern race car for a few laps, a Porsche 997 Cup car. This made me feel like a pro-driver again…even if it was for only 8 laps! Of course all this driving was done not pushing it as I could not risk re-injuring my back while waiting for the recent surgery. But still nice to get back behind the wheel again…even for just a short time.
How about racing? Well, not cars but sailboats! My racing has been on my 35’ sailboat “Basic Instinct” and my team has done well. I have a crew that is fun, experienced and the racing has been great. This year we competed in eleven races and won five times! I have the ribbons we won draped over a chair in the living room as an inspiration to heal…where I am currently spending a lot of time recovering.
Racing my sailboat for some reason gets me to a place where I am pain free (nerve) at times…it is so great to get there. Actually, the two times I drove a race car this past year…also pain free!! Seems like a sign for me to race as much as possible! Being nerve-pain free is one of the many things I took for granted pre-accident. From a competitive standpoint, which is deep in my soul, racing my sailboat is also great – to be working with my crew (team) and competing for wins…like I am so familiar with in cars.
Other fun things were family time, camping and catching up with friends. Highlights were a great family reunion, going to a jet ski race where my daughter took an awesome second place in her race (her best finish), and then so many fun casual afternoon sails on the SF bay with my Mom, family and friends.
And some big news, I am now engaged to my awesome girlfriend, Mari! Speaking of my fiancé Mari, I adore her because of what she stands and what is in her heart. She has been put in a difficult situation with my accident and my recovery and has just been fantastic to me. I really look forward to having her as my wife and partner in life.
So now I am in recovery mode…once again. I have three things that I still need to fix. Get my back solidly fused (that is the recent surgery and what is healing now). My spine fusion could take six months to a year to heal fully. In that time, no go-karting, jet skiing, mountain biking, or racing cars etc., a true test of my patience!
Then, get rid of the nerve pain in my tailbone…this is important. Trying to get rid of this pain requires a different group of doctors that I will work with as soon as the fusion looks healed. This nerve pain is from scar tissue that naturally built up on my damaged vertebrae. The problem is that this scar tissue now pushes on my nerves which is felt in my tailbone area. I tell people that ask to imagine having a strong toothache or some form of chronic pain like this…except all the time which is no fun. This current pain is a sharp daily annoyance that takes a percentage of the fun out of my life. I dream of, many times a day, when this chronic pain is gone.
And finally, implant cartilage in my right knee or at least get it working better. I had a surgery months ago to remove a sample of cartilage to send to grow and then potentially implant back in my knee. To implant cartilage is a big surgery with a long recovery time. I need to weigh the time verses benefits down the road at some point to decide on moving forward with this.
It seems like still a lot to fix. However, from the list two years ago so much has improved. Because of the improvements, it is easy to forget where I was not long ago. I remind myself continually as inspiration for the future. Things like when I could not bend either knee, could not bend left ankle, could not bend left fingers, could not bend left elbow much, could not raise left shoulder to touch my head, could not bend my back (well cant now because of recent surgery), could not sit at all because of nerve pain and actually for nine months ate three meals a day lying on my stomach. I was in agony for so long with that nerve pain which thankfully has become less…but the list goes on. I have had many great people from doctors to physical therapists to energy healers and I thank them so much. It is also impressive how the body has a way to heal many, many things on its own.
Of course it is still frustrating to me as far as where I am at or what I can or can’t do. People who know me know that I was a guy that did it all and made a lot of things happen with my hard work and never give up attitude. One of my current everyday challenges is working past the daily reminders of what my current limitations are. As a guy that lived with excitement doing many things, my current state of boredom is not easy to deal with. I tell myself that I don’t have a choice and so let’s work to get through it. I can envision doing nearly everything that I did before the accident…some things not at the same intensity but most not a problem.
So, here I am. I want everybody to know that the Memo Gidley you knew before is here and working hard daily to recover and making improvements. And again, thanks so much to everybody for their support. You are all a great motivation and I really appreciate it.
So I will end this like I did before…next time I write I will be getting back into a car ready to race!