Racing To Recovery: Steve Hmiel Opens Up about Shane Hmiel; Updated 10/24 1:56PM

Ashley McCubbinAnalyst IOctober 24, 2010

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - JANUARY 09:  Steve Hmiel, director of technical operations Chip Ganassi Racing observes drafting practice during NASCAR testing at Daytona International Speedway on January 9, 2008 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images

This Saturday at Martinsville marked Steve Hmiel's first weekend back to work following his son's injuries in a USAC crash.

Two weeks ago, Hmiel suffered a broken back and neck, plus additional injuries, following a crash in USAC qualifying. Steve Hmiel also revealed on Saturday that his son suffered a tiny percent of a basilar skull fracture, which is the injury that is believed to have contributed to the deaths of Dale Earnhardt, Adam Petty and Kenny Irwin.

Within 48 hours of the wreck, Shane went through a pair of surgeries to repair the damage, which reports show went well.

He still has one more surgery to go to repair a torn artery in his neck. Originally, it was supposed to be last Friday but was postponed because of Hmiel got pneumonia.

"That pneumonia scared the hell out of us,'' Steve Hmiel said in an interview with Dustin Long. "His heart stopped three times. You come around the corner (into the room) and they're hollering and they're pumping your kid's chest, you're like "Oh my God.' All it was he was drowning from all the fluid in his lungs.''

He has since fought through that battle and on Friday, he was put back in a regular bed as he had been in one that turned him over to keep his organs off his lungs and keep fluids away from the lungs.

On Saturday, they took Shane off the ventilator so he was breathing on his own.

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“It’s like walking a tightrope,” Steve told Bob Pockrass. “You walk in there and every day he is getting better in little bits. You want to see the kid get up and walk around. But every day his numbers get better and every day the doctors come in and say, ‘Wow, we’re very pleased with that.’

“The neurosurgeon is pleased at what’s going on. They’re not saying a whole lot about anything until he has his final surgery and they can start on therapy. They seem to believe with therapy, he’ll be OK.”

The doctors have been keeping Hmiel sedated most of the time due to him being nervous about things.

“He wakes up and looks around and looks at you, and frankly he’s terrified because he really doesn’t understand what’s going on,” Steve Hmiel said. “So they’ve kept him knocked out because he’s had so many tests and so many X-rays. He wants to pull the tube out.

“They think they’ll get the tube out this week shortly after the surgery.”

Though Steve said that Shane is aware of what's going on and knows what's ahead. 

"He understands the extent of his injuries,'' Steve said. "He's really scared because he thinks we're lying to him about his ability to walk and move  his arms and all of that. When we first talked to him, he cried. We're like "Shane, you have this, this, this and this and we're going to get this fixed.' Today, when he woke up, his mother talked to him and he understands. He understands he's got a long road ahead of him, but he's not just frantic.''

A lot of people have been worried about the talk of there being leg injuries, though they will recover over time, according to the doctors. Right now, according to Steve, they're making sure Shane could move his arms which he has done. Steve also added that the doctors are encouraged as there has been blood flow in his legs, and a pulse can be felt there. Lastly, Steve said that they checked and confirmed during the back surgery that "there was an unbroken line." Though for him to walk again, it will take long extensive physical therapy.

"They haven't done anything with his legs,'' Steve said. "It's going to take therapy to do his legs. It's going to take a lot more teach his legs because of where his injury was.

"They think in a year, he's going to be as good as they can get and (doctors) also think he will be fine,'' Steve said. "We'll have to see how bad he wants to go do it...I think he will come out on top.''

Hmiel has already fought through one battle before to get back into racing after being banned from NASCAR due to a failed drug test in 2005.

“I think the physical therapy will be a lot easier for him than the mental therapy of the last one,” Steve said in comparing what is to come with the drug rehab.

 At the end of the interview, Dustin Long asked Steve if he thought Shane would race again.

"Oh sure," Steve answered. "It's what he does."

Though for now, Steve is happy with the progress.

“I was real happy just to get there and for him to still be alive, to be honest with you, because the first reports were not good at all,” Steve Hmiel said. “From there it’s been a daily thing – wow he opened his eyes, wow he squeezed my hand, wow he’s moving his arms. It’s not like getting a cast on and your arm healing. It’s just a daily, tiny little step.”

Steve Hmiel says that he's thankful for all the support that the family has received.

“Thank God for my wife and the people at the hospital and Chip Ganassi and Juan [Pablo Montoya] and all the people that got me there,” Steve Hmiel said. “The first indications were really very bad and the next day, it looked like it was survivable but it wasn’t going to be good.

“Day by day, they give us more and more encouraging prognosis.”

Continued updates are posted on a Facebook page created by the family, Shane Hmiel—Road to Recovery Facebook page, where updates are posted daily from his mom, Lisa. Since the creation of the page, more than 20,000 people have joined and posted thoughts and prayers.

“It’s absolutely incredible,” Hmiel said. “People you race like mad against—USAC is a really tough division to race in because everybody is trying to make a living on not much money—USAC people, NASCAR people and people you don’t even know [care].

“It’s just been incredibly encouraging. I don’t want to put myself up as an incredibly religious person and suddenly start preaching, but from what I’ve seen over the past week, prayer works.”

To help raise money for Hmiel's medical expenses, USAC is selling "Racing to Recovery" decals on their site for $5.00, and RWB Motorsports is selling the 2010 T-shirt on their site for $25.00. Also, for every new fan who likes the USAC Racing page on Facebook, USAC will donate 10 cents to the fund from now till December 31.

Fans who wish to make a direct donation may write a check to BENEFIT OF SHANE HMIEL and send it to: Steve Pruett, 700 St. John Street, Suite 300, Lafayette, LA 70501. It was added that they're working on setting up a PayPal account to accept the donations electronically.

Update 10/24/2010 1:56PM

 Shane woke up with a fever this morning, however it was gone by the afternoon. Last night, they put him on the vent again so he could get a good rest, however they took him off it again and according to updates from his mom, he is doing well.

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