FYI WIRZ: CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta Takes Heart with NASCAR's Brian Vickers

Dwight Drum@@racetakeCorrespondent IIIFebruary 25, 2011

Brian Vickers in the No. 83 Toyota at practice in Daytona
Brian Vickers in the No. 83 Toyota at practice in Daytona

Quotes by Dr. Sanjay Gupta are courtesy of CNN.com

Dr Sanjay Gupta, chief medical correspondent for CNN, recently probed and evaluated the blood clot and heart problems for NASCAR driver Brian Vickers during a broadcast interview on CNN. 

Dr. Gupta is no stranger to racing, as he has recently interviewed Jennifer Jo Cobb about her record setting role as a female NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competitor. Gupta, a neurosurgeon, is certainly no stranger to health issues, so his expertise was highly practical when he investigated the medical saga of NASCAR driver Brian Vickers.     

Vickers at first ignored sudden tingling, numbing sensations and hand discoloration, but continued doctor advice led to check-ups that startled Vickers and the motorsports world.  

A young and healthy Vickers had his successful stint in the Red Bull No. 83 Toyota interrupted by blood clot and heart problems resulting in his hospitalization during May of 2010. 

“Anytime you have a blood clot, it can be fatal,” Vickers said.

“Once you discover it and have it under control and you’re on blood thinners, that risk dramatically goes down.” 

Dr. Gupta investigated the fast career of Vickers.

“At age 20, Vickers had driven his way in the record books by becoming the youngest champion in the NASCAR Nationwide Series” Gupta said. “A mere six years later, Vickers’ racing career came to an abrupt halt.”

The impact of his medical problem was no easy burden. 
“You spend your whole life preparing to do something and you’re there and you’re doing it, and then all of a sudden, it’s taken away,” Vickers said. 

Dr. Gupta commented on the way the diagnosis became even more complicated.  

“Suddenly the 26-year-old was in the race of his life," Gupta said. “Vickers was also diagnosed with a condition where a vein in the pelvic area was compressed. A battery of tests found something else, a hole in his heart.  It made the perfect storm along with the cramped quarters of his race car for hours on end.  His health was at stake, and so was his career.”

Medical tests led to quick remedies.   

“I never thought I would be dealing with blood clots or having heart surgery at 26.” Vickers said. 

Dr. Gupta elaborated on the medical process.

“Vickers had heart surgery and he was put on blood thinners,” Gupta said. “Now, eight months later, he’s scot-free. There’s a stent in his left leg to keep the vein open, but his doctors have cleared him to race.  Vickers said he made one of the most difficult decisions of his life to get back in the car.”        

Vickers shared his thoughts. 

“Before I decided to come back racing, I wanted to accept mentally and emotionally with being okay with never racing again," Vickers said. "I got to that point.  I wanted to come back, but I was okay with it.

“Going through this is definitely going to change my perspective.  My opinion is that it’s going to show up in a better way.  I think it’s going to benefit how we perform on and off the racetrack.  The growth that I’ve had is going to be a positive out there on the racetrack.”

Vickers still maintains a very adventurous bucket list.  

“There are mountains I would like to climb—maybe K2,” Vickers said. “I want to learn to fly.  I love skydiving.  I would like to try to go through Navy Seal training.  A HALO jump would be incredible. (A military-style, High Altitude, Low Open parachute jump)

Dr. Gupta summed up the future for Vickers.

“Vickers says making the awareness of clotting issues will be one of his new missions,” Gupta said. “That and, of course, winning another championship”   

For Vickers, it appears that not even the sky has limits.  

FYI WIRZ is the swift presentation of pertinent motorsports topics by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com. 

Photo credit: Dwight Drum at Racetake.com


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