Friday Feature: Catching Up With James Marshall

One year ago, the AMA Supercross series headed to San Diego, and along with it, a young privateer from Texas named James Marshall. Early in the evening, the 2006 San Diego Supercross seemed no different from any other race. Then, out came the red flag when James Marshall crashed in the opening laps of the second heat race. When James had to be carried off the field by the Asterisk Medical crew, it was clear that he was seriously injured.

In the hours and days that followed, the news came out that James had suffered a severe spinal cord injury and was paralyzed. Because of the severity of his injuries, Marshall couldn’t return to his hometown of Houston, Texas, and was in the ICU of a San Diego area hospital. It was there that I had the chance to meet James and his family and friends. I will never forget walking through the long halls of the hospital, and meeting James’ mother and father before going in to see him. Once inside James’ ICU room, our visit was brief. James had a variety of tubes going in and out of his body, and was dependent on several medical devices to stay alive. But what stands out the most from that visit was not just the severity of his condition, but the amazing attitude shared by James and his family. Despite everything going on around them, they stayed positive; they laughed and listened to music, and James asked to hear a few of his favorite comics on CD.

In the weeks that followed, the motocross community rallied behind James and held a well-attended benefit ride at Glen Helen Raceway. After the benefit ride, James and his family were finally able to return home to Texas where he could begin working on his recovery program.

As it turns out, I wouldn’t see James again until this year, when Supercross returned to San Diego. I must admit, I was down right excited when I saw James cruising through the pits before the race. I was even more excited to hear that James still has that amazingly positive attitude, and that he is making progress on his long road to recovery…

TWMX: It’s great to see you again, James. Can you update us on how you’re doing?

Marshall: I got hurt one year go, on February 11th, here in San Diego. I actually got to watch the crash for the first time last Sunday. Since then, I’ve spent five-and-a-half months in the hospital, and went to TIRR for medical rehabilitation. That really didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to, because their goals were different than mine. I want to walk again, but they just wanted me to be mobile in a wheelchair.

Once I got out (of TIRR), I looked at some other options. I did biofeedback for two months, and after that looked into Project Walk in Carlsbad, CA, and I’ve been going there for two weeks now.

I got my feeding tube out last Friday. Actually I pulled it out on accident, and when that happened we decided to take the trach(eostomy) out at the same time. I’m dialed now. We haven’t had any problems.

So you’re eating on your own for the first time since the accident?

Man, I had chicken soup the night I was released to start drinking stuff, and oh dude, it was my favorite meal in the whole world. I can’t even explain it. Now, when I get in the bath tub my girlfriend gets mad because I ask to just let the water run over my head for thirty minutes; I couldn’t do that when I had the trach in. I love to just sit there under the water. When things were taken away by the accident, and now I’m getting them back almost a year later, it’s like I don’t even know what to do with myself. I feel like a kid again.

I’m getting better, and I’m making progress. I can move my legs a little bit, and I have signals from my brain down to every part of my body. It doesn’t mean I can function normally, but over time I shouldd be able to. As long as we’re working hard and going forward, that’s what I’m all about.

From the video that’s been circulating online, it looks like Project Walk is pretty intensive…

Compared to TIRR, it’s the real deal. I guess it would be like comparing racing an 85cc beginner class, to racing Ricky Carmichael or someone like that. It’s pretty intense. We show up there and get out of the chair for two hours; they hate this chair as much as I do. I think we’re on the same level, and I’m just happy that I got in.

I’m really working my butt off, and I am glad to be back at the races, hanging out, and seeing my buddies.

Obviously there has been a lot of talk lately about safety issues in the sport, and specifically the Leatt Brace. What’s your take on the safety issues in the sport?

One of the guys that works with Leatt came to my house a few months ago. We talked about the brace and maybe doing some stuff with the company. They said my crash really had an impact on what they’re doing with the brace. There’s no telling if the brace would have affected my crash, and back then I worried too much about how I look, like a lot of guys. But if I could go back, I would wear that thing in a heartbeat.

The spine is like an extension cord, and if you don’t have enough cord to reach the wall, nothing’s going to work. People walk without thinking about what they’re doing. I used to throw my running shoes on, grab a bite to eat, and just go running. Now, it’s the hardest thing to move my legs. If you get hurt and don’t have that extension cord to reach the wall, I promise you, you will ask God if you can go back and wear that brace. Even though it’s tough, that doesn’t mean I’m depressed or anything, and I don’t want anyone to think that. But if I could go back, I would wear it for sure.

You were definitely on our minds coming into this weekend. It’s good to see you here at the races, and it’s great to hear you are making progress…

Thank you. I got the gas card last year at Anaheim 2, but I showed up to the podium late and never got the chance to thank all my sponsors. I’m not sure if it really matters to them anymore, but all the sponsors I had last year were awesome. First off, I want to thank my family for the best 13 years of my life. Since I was eight years old, until February 11, 2006, I lived a dream. I still live a dream everyday of my life.

I want to thank my parents, friends and family—everyone that stayed with me. The guys that I’m staying with now, the Binns family, they’ve been behind me my entire life. Bardwell Yamaha, Honda of Houston, Kawasaki Team Green, Highlands Kawasaki, Pasadena Kawasaki, Axo, Fly Racing, Steve and everybody at Moose, Enzo, JM Racing, EBR, Alpinestars, VP Race Gas, Dunlop Tires, Colleen and Davey Millsaps, Martin Davalos, Riverside Yamaha, and Heath Voss. I’ve had so many supporters; we could be here for another couple hours. I just want to say thanks to everyone that has been behind me.

I’m stoked that everyone is still supporting me, helping out, and helping to raise money. If it weren’t for them, I would probably still be lying in my bed crying like I was a year ago.

I’m ready to kick some ass, and get back up on these legs.

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See the latest video of James at Project Walk, here.