Swap paid a visit to Team Honda’s Ernesto Fonseca last night in his Denver, Colorado, rehabilitation facility. Ernie was in great spirits and up and about, trying to figure out how to use his new Mac G4 Powerbook (yes, the big 15′ screen). After catching up on things, The Fonz was happy to sit down with Maeda for a two-part interview…
Below is a transcribed version of the interview for all you dial-up users:
Ernesto man, it’s really good to see you up and about…
Yeah, thanks. I’ve just been trying to do therapy, and do all the stuff that they make me do at the hospital to try to get better day by day. I’m excited and I feel a lot better than I did. We are really pumped, and waiting for July 27th, when I get to go home to see how real life is. Here (Colorado) they help you out a lot—it’s kind of easy here. We are just excited to go home, but scared at the same time.
Are you going to go back home to California?
Yeah, we are going to go back to California, change some things on the house—maybe just put some ramps around the house and change the showers a little bit—and see how that goes. After that, we’ll see what we have to modify.
I haven’t spoken to you since the crash; do you remember much about it at all?
I remember everything about it, actually; I think about it all the time. You can’t turn things around or go back in life; life goes on. I’m happy, everything is good, and it happened for a reason. The day it happened, I was doing sprints, and we had this section of the track you would roll, double, jump on, jump off, triple, single or triple double into a corner. But I went roll, double, jump on, jump off, and then I tripled rather than doubling. I didn’t fully commit and cased it a little bit. When I cased, the seat hit my butt and I kind of went forward. Then when the next jump was coming, it threw me into a sommersault and I landed. I think I landed and just dug straight into the ground, and that’s what broke my C-6 and C-7 vertebrae. I knew as soon as I was on the ground. The first thing I thought was I was going to be in a wheelchair, just because I couldn’t feel anything.
One of the things Eric Kehoe said to me was that when you landed, you were super calm…
I mean, I wasn’t. Like I said, the first thing that came to my mind was that I was like, “Oh no dude, this sucks. I’m going to be in a wheelchair.” Dan was the first guy that came to me. I could move my left arm a little bit and I think my bike was on top of it. I could also move my right a little, but I couldn’t move anything else, and I just said, “Call 911!” They took my helmet off and waited for the ambulance to come. When they came, I said, “Hey, go slow.” They were going so slow, because it hurt. My body felt like it was on fire the whole time—it was weird. I didn’t want people to touch me; it felt really bad. I’m sure if it happens to anyone, that person would say the same thing.
What were some of the thoughts that went through your mind as you realized that it was a reality?
At the time, I just had to call my wife to have her call my mom; those were the first couple things I did. After that, I was just hoping for the best after surgery; I didn’t really know what to do. I was pretty drugged up right away, because I was hurting so much. Everything just happened so fast, and they gave me so much medication that I thought I was in Miami, but I was in California. It’s pretty crazy; you start thinking about the weirdest stuff.
Can you describe your injury and the surgery you had?
They fused my C-6 and C-7 vertebrae. It was pretty bad, I dislocated those vertebrae, and they had to put pins in the front, and pins and plates in the back. I have pretty good movement now, but at the time, my neck was not very stable at all. After the surgery, they put weights on the back of my head to, I think, keep it in position. I don’t know how long those were on, because I really couldn’t tel After that, I was in the hospital for about six weeks or so. They really don’t tell you much, and I didn’t really know much about the extent of the injury or how bad it was. Now that I’m here in Colorado, though, they teach you a lot, and you learn all kinds of stuff about what can happen—what are the worst and the best things—it’s pretty interesting. It’s pretty amazing what the doctors are trying to learn about this injury, and the new things in science that they are trying to come up with. Hopefully, at some point in life they will come up with a cure for a spinal cord injury.Part Two
It looks like you’re learning a few new things. I walk in and you have a giant Macintosh computer…I’m trying to pass the time and learn some other stuff. I’m just trying to do the therapy, and then go on the computer to check out some stuff and learn some new things.
So, Tony Gardea’s newsletter said you are studying for something?
I’m going to try for my GED, because I never finished school while I was racing. Now that I have all this time on my hands, I’m going to try to go to school and learn some new things.
Maybe you can start writing some articles and come work for us?
Yeah for sure, anytime.
Through this whole experience, you have had an outpouring of support from the fans and your friends in the industry—everyone is always thinking about you. How does that make you feel, and do you have any messages for anybody?
It’s been amazing. I mean, people all over the world that I’ve never known or thought they knew about motocross and myself—New Zealand, Brazil, Japan—have written letters to me and to my Web site. It has been really supportive for me to hear that. Like I said, I would never have thought that all those people knew and cared about me. It has been great, and I cannot thank everyone enough for what they have done. It’s been really good.
How has your family and wife Carolina been dealing with everything?
Pretty good. Carolina has helped me out a lot, and it would definitely be impossible if she were not around. My mom was here for a while too, so she learned some things and it’s been good. I can’t believe we have been here for a little over two months; it went by so fast. I remember the day when I was on the ventilator—now I’m tubeless. It’s pretty exciting, and I’m happy I’m doing a lot better.
What’s the first thing you want to do when you get home?
I don’t know; it’s kind of hard to say. It will be interesting, because here (Colorado) they help you out with everything, and any question you have, doctors are here to answer right away. I don’t know, hopefully it will be good, and I don’t go through any problems when I get home. I think that will be the biggest thing.
There isn’t a favorite restaurant back home or something? I mean, you have to miss something back home…
I don’t know, maybe. I love food, but after I didn’t eat for two weeks, and was just starving, I wanted to eat everything. Now, I’m kind of back to normal, since I have been eating everything I want. It’s been good. I don’t think I have any places that I would want to go eat. I really want to go to a MotoGP race, though. That would probably be one of the things Carolina and I would do after I get out of here. I want to go see Nicky win the world title.
Any closing thoughts or anything else you might want to add?
I just want to thank my fans, friends, family, and sponsors; they have really backed me up through this whole thing. I’m just going to start a whole new life, which will be a lot different, but I’m excited. It’s just something that is going to be a totally different experience, and I’m just going to see how it goes. I think you just have to deal with it and be strong.
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