Interview: An inspirational Wayne Garrett
Wayne Garrett suffered a devastating injury in July that rocked the whole motocross community in Ireland. The popular multi-time Irish and Ulster champion crashed after an unlucky mid-air collision at an Irish championship event and the result was Garrett being airlifted to a Dublin hospital with a broken back.
Four long and difficult months later Wayne is now in the middle of a rehab process at Musgrave hospital. Looking well and full of positivity, Wayne is determined to make the best of his situation even if it is still not an easy daily process for him.
During the following interview (conducted at the end of November) you will discover Wayne’s amazing attitude to a life-changing accident that he is tackling head on, just like he did in his racing career. As friendly and chatty as ever, Wayne still can’t stop talking about motocross, and in classic Garrett style, thinks the physios aren’t pushing him hard enough compared to the training he used to do for racing!
You can also see a video interview with Wayne by the BBC here.
First off, how are you feeling four months later?
It has been a long four months but thankfully now we are feel a hell of a lot better than what we were at the start. The first couple of months were a bit of a blur. It took a bit of time to get stabilized as such and four months down the road I’m feeling as normal as I have since the accident. We are getting there slowly but surely.
Mentally has it been hard to deal with?
At the moment it hasn’t been too bad, in hospital everything is done for you, it’s like a holiday camp in here. The doors open for you, the floors are like snooker tables, the hard bit is adjusting when you go home. I have been home and yea, it’s a big change, the carpet pulls the wheels down, getting through doors you have to be careful you aren’t banging into stuff. Probably the hardest bit is trying to get in and out of a car. At the moment I have no balance, you are pulling your legs in then you are trying to get everything else in and set up which makes it a lot harder. But like I say it’s a new learning curve and we are starting to get the hang of it now.
Going back to the crash, do you remember much of the day or the accident itself?
Yeah I remember every bit of it because thankfully I wasn’t knocked out. I remember the back end of the back end of the bike being hit and then hitting the deck basically. As soon as I lay there I tried to get myself off my front, my face was buried in the sand but I couldn’t lift my arms because of where the fracture was to my sternum and then with my back. So I was left face down and my legs were tingling and from my waist I couldn’t feel anything, so I sort of knew then. I had a ring of fire around my chest but my legs were numb basically. I could breath but it was more the pain around my chest and not knowing what that pain was, it felt like my legs were dead and I kind of knew what had happened. It is just one of them things I suppose.
And you had two big operations because the first one didn’t go well?
Yeah they flew me in the helicopter straight from Athlone to Dublin and was rushed straight into surgery. I got the back plated, rods and screwed (8 hour operation stabilising the T6 to C8) and Monday morning I was in intensive care and I think it was the Wednesday or Thursday they took me for a scan and on the back some of the screws and come loose. So they come in on the Friday morning to tell me I was going back into surgery for more or less the same surgery again, so they took me in on the Friday opened me up and did another 8 hour surgery then they were happy this time with the job they had done.
I am only really going by what people have told me because I can’t really remember too much about what happened at that stage.
I was in Dublin for seven weeks, at the start they had been trying to get me transferred to Belfast but the problem was I needed an anaesthetist to travel with me in the ambulance because I had the tracheostomy in my throat to help me breath. So I needed a certain ambulance and every time there was an ambulance there was no bed and every time there was a bed there was no ambulance. This went on for weeks and weeks, then I had an open wound on my neck, what they call a pressure point and the pressure wouldn’t let it close. So they put a vacuum pump in my neck to get it to close and it was in for 3.5 weeks. So as soon as I got it out they said you are going to Belfast tomorrow.
So I got transferred to Belfast on the Friday which was a bit of a disaster because everything you told them you needed they didn’t want to do. So I ended up getting another pressure sore and within three days I had an infection which knocked my out for another week. So I ended up spending three weeks in the Royal when it was only meant to be a week. So it was the guts to two months in Belfast and Dublin before I even got to the rehab.
Lying in bed was the easy bit and I was lying there wanting to kill dead things, get moving and get going. But the first day I get into the chair I didn’t last too long until I nearly passed out, after lying in bed, getting elevated was a bit of shock to the system.
It was the simple things then that meant a big deal to me. When I got in the chair I was happy to just get outside and feel some fresh air for the first time in two months. It makes you look at things a bit differently. I was happy to sit outside and get soaked, I thought it was nice just to feel the rain again! Sometimes it feels like you’re locked in an over here so just to feel a bit of fresh air was unreal at the time you know?
I’ve been here seven weeks (Musgrave) and to be fair it has gone in quickly.
Has it been hard doing the physio?
Well everybody told me in the Royal they are going to kill you in physio. I was like, ‘ brilliant that’s what I want.’ But after the first week here I thought they must be just taking it easy on me because it wasn’t hard and it went on and on and seven weeks later we are still looking for the hard stuff! Don’t get me wrong a lot of the stuff isn’t easy because it’s different and I am not strong, and you are trying to build strength. But I was expecting to be tortured in here, expecting it to be more challenging.
Do you think that is because of the training you had been doing?
I would say that is probably what it is. From what I was doing before hand compare to what I am doing here wouldn’t even be a bloody warm-up in the gym! You kind of laugh a the other guys, although they are old, because after they just want to lie down and sleep but I don’t think it’s hard. I suppose it depends on the mentality too and what you class as hard.
A lot of people have mentioned how positive you have been since the accident…
Well for me the way I look at it is, you have to embrace it. I could lie here and feel sorry for myself but feeling sorry for myself it’s not going to change how I am. In my opinion your body reacts to your thinking and mentality. I look at it that it’s not a dead stick yet, I’m happy to be in chair for a year or two years or whatever it is, but deep down I still believe I can walk again.
And your spinal cord wasn’t broken?
The T3 was broken and it was the T4 where the spinal cord was damaged, but through the surgery of fixing the T3 they said It was a cord compression at T4. The more they have to work at it the less chance you have of recovery but they said mine more or less went back in itself.
You said you have seen the crash, was it hard to watch?
Things like that don’t really bother me, the initial crash wasn’t really a scary crash. Maybe if it had of been more graphically detailed to see the impact and to see what happened but you aren’t going to see that with a motorbike crash. I’ve watched it a few times, I was third at the time and I was taking off in control and I felt a bike hit me and it basically pulled me down. I think it was the bike that hit me landing on my back that did the damage not the falling. The way the other bike hit me it came down on my back, I think it was that impact that broke it. People said other people ran over me, and yes I had a mark on my back where a bike ran over me, but at the same time as soon as I hit the ground I knew my legs were gone so that’s how I know it was the bike hitting me.
Pain-wise how has that been?
Pain has never really bothered me, they ask me do I need them but I havn’t really took them because I don’t feel I have needed them. At the beginning I took a bit to keep me settled but after a few weeks I haven’t needed any. They give me tablets to calm the nerves and spasms, bladder tablets but nothing really for pain.
The spasms seem to be your biggest problem at the minute?
They are my biggest issue because if I hadn’t spasms I could do the transfers, I could do everything. I would say if it wasn’t for the spasms I would be ready for home. It’s only this week they put me into a proper shower chair because they were scared I would spasm and fall out of the chair.The other night Sarah has to put her feet in front of mine to stop me going into spasm because my legs fly out, the other night the leg locked and stood up but it wasn’t me doing it, it was the spasm that caused it.
In here they say my level of spasm is dangerously high but I just try and deal with it as best I can. But that is my big issue, they could give me an easy fix ( an operation to fit a stomach pump) but I am not going there yet incase it hampers my recovery so I am just hoping to deal with it and hope I get some reward from putting myself through the torment of it.
Is there any talk of you getting home?
At the minute they don’t want to give me a definite date because of the spasms, they don’t want me to go until I am ready but we are hoping to be home before Christmas, if that happens it will be a bit of a bonus.
You have had a lot of support from everyone including some of your rivals, that must feel great?
Yeah it has been unreal the amount of people contacting me, people far and wide. People are going out of their way, travelling to Dublin, people that have rang, Johnny Rea has rang numerous times even Jamie Dobb was on looking to help out. Just people you wouldn’t expect because they have busy enough lives themselves and making the time and effort for me. The fundraiser that Kenny and Chris Ross had done, for me I’m not one that is in to all that, I don’t like to be the centre of attention, you feel the amount of hassle people have went to and the amount of people that turned up that night, it was quite overwhelming to see so many people had went out of their way for me. I’m used to that attention and you nearly feel you have to get out of hospital and visit them all and thank them for all they’ve down.
I can’t say enough for Sarah here, she spent seven weeks in Dublin living with Jim Jones and Mary, without them doing what they did, they didn’t have to do that so we appreciate their help a lot.. Sarah has been here day and night for the last four months and it’s nice to have that support here.
I was just looking back at the numbers and you have 40 career Ulster race wins, second only to Gordon Crockard, you have achieved a lot in your career when you add in all your titles, what you did at British level and racing the MXDN for team Ireland at Budds Creek
When you start winning races you think it won’t be long to you rack up a few, last year I got six or seven wins till I got hurt. But when you look at the numbers, to be second behind Ireland’s biggest motocross name, ok you have other guys that don’t do as much racing over here, but it’s still nice to be up there. It’s not easy to win ten races with injuries and everything that can happen in this sport so it’s nice to be sitting where I am.
I think I maybe scudded myself with the Des Nations because I remember saying if I got to America for that Nations I wouldn’t care if I never rode a Des Nations again! Then a few other years it was looking good to be on the team but injuries stopped it. In 2011 I was probably having the best year in British championship ever, I finished seventh overall at Desertmartin and was up to 11th in the championship and I was thinking I could get into the top ten but then it went upside down with injuries. It was hard every year coming back at that level when you weren’t getting winter’s preparation and training.
But if I had to do it all again I wouldn’t change anything that I have done. I enjoyed every minute of it. It’s just unfortunate this is how it turns out but I would rather it happens doing something I enjoyed than getting hit by a bus and ending up the same way.
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