Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Saturday, August 27, 2011
Canadian Kid Makes Giant Steps in Recovery
BY JENNIFER SALTMAN, THE PROVINCE
Two years ago, doctors had nothing positive to tell Travis Rutz’s parents.
They told Doug and Kathy that Travis’s brain was so injured that he would never recognize them or know who he was, and encouraged them to look at alternatives for their son’s care.
Now, Travis’s memory is as sharp as ever, his sense of humour is intact, he uses a spelling board to communicate and he has big plans to get out of his wheelchair as soon as possible.
“He silenced all the critics,” says Doug at his home in Langley.
One of the dirt track kings in the northwest, Travis was known as the Canadian Kid by the time he was 21. The trophies piled in his parents’ garage and the records he holds are evidence that when he raced sprint cars he won — a lot.
“Travis won at every level. He was really a natural at it,” Doug says.
Racing runs in the family and Travis began at age 7, when he was introduced to asphalt quarter midgets. After about five years, Travis moved on to racing mini sprints, then full-sized sprint cars.
He was riding high when a crash changed everything on Sept. 27, 2009.
Twenty-two laps into the 30-lap Construction Industry Classic at the Terre Haute Action Track in Indiana, a racer blew his engine and smoke billowed out of his car as he slowed, then stopped in the middle of the track. Unable to react in time, Travis and another racer hit the stopped car.
Doug, who was in the stands with his dad watching, says the track was dried out and dusty, and going into the straightaway, where the wreck happened, drivers were looking into the sun.
“In his race, there was almost a perfect storm for disaster,” Doug says.
Doug says the crash didn’t look as bad as some of the others Travis had been in, but “unfortunately, he got hit in the head and, obviously, that was the game changer.”
Doug says he “never, never, never” worried about Travis getting hurt.
“I really didn’t think it would happen,” he says.
Travis was rushed to the hospital across from the track, then flown to Methodist Hospital of Indianapolis. He had fractured most of the bones in his head, ruptured an artery behind his eye, fractured ribs and mangled his right arm. As Doug drove the hour from Terre Haute to Indianapolis, he had no idea if Travis would be alive when he arrived.
It upsets Travis to hear his father talk about the crash. He scrunches up his face and the sounds he makes are heart-wrenching.
“You made it, buddy,” Doug says.
“You’ve done it all. We’ve just been here to help you,” Kathy says.
Travis spent a month in Indiana — in a coma — before being transferred to Langley Memorial Hospital. At home, the Rutz family quickly realized that there were no facilities in B.C. that could help Travis.
“A province that’s as big as ours should be ashamed that there’s nothing here,” Doug says, adding that Travis would have to be much stronger to enter a facility such as GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre in Vancouver.
Luckily, they happened to hear about the Halvar Jonson Centre for Brain Injury in the Centennial Centre for Mental Health and Brain Injury in Ponoka, Alta. Last summer, Travis went there for rehab and Doug moved with him, living out of a trailer. Kathy and Travis’s brother Kenny visited regularly.
“How many people have the potential to get better but their families just don’t know?” Kathy asks. “Maybe somebody will read this and somebody will get there.”
After 13 months of intense therapy, the family reunited in Langley on Aug. 2. The house has been renovated and outfitted with lifts and equipment to help Travis. A van gives the family freedom to take Travis wherever he needs to go.
“As bad as it is, we’re blessed,” Kathy says. “We brought him home.”
The family has received tremendous support from friends, family and the racing community.
Tens of thousands of dollars were raised to pay for the family’s expenses, signed helmets and wing panels have arrived from well-wishers and there were so many visitors that Travis’s parents had to turn them away so that he could rest.
“All of that stuff was done without us being involved at all,” Doug says.
Kathy says people continue to support Travis, now 23, because of the racer he was — helpful, friendly and never too tired or busy to sign an autograph.
“There wasn’t a little kid out there that didn’t worship him,” Kathy says.
Travis’s “bring the pain” attitude, drive and determination have kept him on the right track in his rehab.
“It was just amazing to watch. He’s just tried so hard,” Doug says.
Walking is the next step for Travis, but he’s got only one thing on his mind. When asked about his plans for the future, Travis gestures with his arm like he’s holding a steering wheel and then spells it out on his board.
For more information, about Travis, visit travisrutz.com.
Friday, August 26, 2011
Guess that means I have to go back to work. Always a downside to being healthy.
Part of a CBC television tribute to Ayrton Senna from 1994.
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Monday, August 8, 2011
Saturday, August 6, 2011
Friday, August 5, 2011
Thursday, August 4, 2011
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Monday, August 1, 2011
A new track, the 3/4 mile Polo Park, I'd not heard of. I will have to chase down the Winnipeg Free Press from that era next trip to the microfilm morgue.