Page Jones: A modern day miracle

Page Jones is not your average human being. He is not an average college student, not an average employee, not an average husband. Nearly 10 years ago, Page was an established racecar driver, perhaps above average, running all three USAC...

Page Jones is not your average human being. He is not an average college student, not an average employee, not an average husband.

Nearly 10 years ago, Page was an established racecar driver, perhaps above average, running all three USAC national series. With seven midget wins and one sprint car victory to his credit, Page was hoping for the break so many dreamed of moving up in the racing world and driving an Indycar or stock car.

The 14th annual "4-Crown Nationals", which took place Sept. 25, 1994 at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, was a USAC tripleheader at the 1/2-mile dirt track, with the first feature consisting of the National Midget Car Series, then the National Sprint Car Series, and finally the Silver Crown Series. Page was entered in all three series and qualified for each feature the previous night, one of only two drivers scheduled to run all three events.

The native of Torrance, Calif. started out race night with a fourth-place finish in the midget race. Heading into the sprint car feature, Page was ready to add to his win earlier in the year at Marne, Mich. He would start high in the field, and following the 25-lap feature, he would run to another car, just as he had done earlier in the night.

At least that was the plan. It appeared Page would finish high in the sprint feature after jumping into the lead early. But while he was maneuvering through slower traffic, he lost traction in turns three and four, clipped the wall and flipped. That's when Page's world and life changed instantly.

Another car slammed into Page's rollcage, causing, among others, severe head injuries, which became permanent. Page said at that time he was no longer alive, but a former racer told him to go back to Earth.

"When I had the accident, I was dead," he said. "I had a brief moment when I went up to heaven. I saw Kara Hendrick up there. She told me 'Page, it's not your time. Go back. You've got more to do down there." I was virtually dead. But paramedic Darick Brunson brought me back."

Page was the third victim who needed to be transported to the hospital and, accompanied by Brunson, flew via helicopter to the Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Ohio. At one point, he had stopped breathing.

Meanwhile, Page's famous father, Parnelli, was in Utah at a vacation home. Page's brother P.J., participating at a race in Tucson, broke the news to their father.

"One of the kids who was with Page called P.J. and P.J. called him back, and the kid said that Page had been hurt really bad," Parnelli said. "So P.J. called me and told me that."

P.J. jumped on Vince Granatelli's Learjet in Phoenix and headed to Los Angeles to pick up his mother Judy. The jet then landed in Utah to pick up Parnelli, and the family headed to Dayton, where Page was fighting for his life.

When the Joneses arrived early the next morning, several of the drivers racing at Eldora were already waiting in support of Page. Parnelli, Judy and P.J. were able to visit with Page, who remembers them holding his hand and talking to him. Though Parnelli said he looked fine but numb, nobody knew if Page would pull through.

"During the first three days, they didn't know if he was going to live or not," Parnelli said. "He was really critical at that point."

Page battled for those three days, much as his family thought he would. Still, there were workers who said he would never walk again, would never be able to undertake everyday activities. He would later prove them wrong. "My family never accepted the fact that he wasn't going to get well," Parnelli said.

His family would stay with Page in Ohio for 3-4 weeks before going back to California. During his stay, Parnelli and Judy found that Daniel Freeman Hospital in Inglewood, which had a rehab center, would be the best place for Page to do therapy. After his time in Dayton, Page made his way to Daniel Freeman.

It was a struggle. Doctors told Parnelli that Page was still coming out of a coma. They also said he would need special attention the rest of his life. "One of the doctors told me that he was going to need 24 hours of help a day the rest of his life, as well as a special training table, a handicapped bathroom, wheelchair, the whole shebang," Parnelli said. "He gave me the worst scenario in the world."

Page needed none of that. He worked hard to improve physically, thanks in part to motivation and his positive attitude, eventually learning how to walk again, as well as doing special exercises and stretching. Though he made the biggest jumps in his recovery over his two years at Daniel Freeman and Casa Colina, another rehab center, it wasn't easy.

"It was like being born again," Page said. "The simplest things were difficult. Instead of being a baby two or three feet off the ground, I was six feet above the ground."

That time was also frustrating for Page, who Parnelli said tore up nearly 150 T-shirts.

"He would reach down, grab them and put them in his mouth and just rip them right off his chest," Parnelli said. "He was just nervous; it was just unreal. But he never ran out of T-shirts because his friends kept sending them to him. One of his friends sent him a T-shirt that had a dotted line across it, and it read, 'Tear here, Page'. His friends really, really stuck by him."

By the time two years had passed, those tending to Page felt they got him as far as he would go in life. But that was just the beginning.

Parnelli and Judy sent Page to Indianapolis for a year, where a computer program helped him progress. Next, he went to the Rusk Institute at New York University in Manhattan, which specializes in assisting people with brain injuries. There, he made strides in communication, standing up in front of people and giving speeches. Professionals at NYU also taught Page how to cope with his injury.

"They basically taught him that he was going to encounter obstacles in life and how to go around them," said Jamie Jones, his wife of three years. "And the one thing about Page is that he's so positive about his accident that he's been moving forward. They haven't really seen any limitations on his recovery because of his positive attitude."

During his time at NYU, Parnelli and a group of 17 others made a trip to South Africa. One of those people was Jamie Zupanovich, who later became Jamie Jones. She became Page's roommate on the trip, and the two hit it off almost instantly, and were married April 14, 2001.

"He has the biggest heart in the world," Jamie said. "He is emotionally generous with me. He's incredibly handsome, so that helps. And he is so cheerful. He's taught me so much about life and not to take anything for granted. I think that was the biggest lesson learned. And I just fell hard." Added Parnelli, "They love each other like you can't believe."

But Page made another step in life by regaining his driver's license, perhaps the biggest goal he has reached thus far. Three years after his accident, Parnelli took him to Danny McKeever's Fast Lane Racing School in Lancaster, Calif. He turned some miraculous laps, Parnelli said.

"I was really shocked at how well he did," Parnelli said. "I'm anxious to take him back to do it again. Not that he's ever going to race again, but I think it might make him feel better about himself."

And it was a step, perhaps, in regaining his license. Parnelli hired a professional instructor, and Page re-learned how to drive in a car equipped with two steering wheels. For his efforts, Page learned how to become patient in a car, something difficult for racecar drivers to do.

"It's difficult for a racecar driver to do everything by the law on the street, like going the speed limit and not taking the corners too fast," Page said. "I had to learn how to do all of that."

Jamie used to kid him by jumping into the back seat, but has no problem with his driving abilities. "He's a really safe driver, plus he had to prove himself twice as hard as we did, with him having a brain injury," she said. "Anyone who suffers a brain injury, it's more difficult for them to come back, and it's pretty miraculous that he got his license back."

Parnelli has ridden with Page several times, noting his amazing recovery. The one thing Page has not done, though, is drive on his own.

"The thing that we haven't done is turned him loose to just take off by himself," Parnelli said. "But he drives fine."

Page has also attended several local colleges near his San Pedro, Calif. home, including the Coastline Community College. There, he took a number of business classes in addition to his computer and cognitive classes. He also studied current events and comprehension. All of his classes have been designed to teach students like Page concentration and motor skills.

Again, Page's attitude surpassed many people's imaginations. He spoke at his graduation ceremony from Coastline and is now attending Santa Monica City College, which has a program for people with brain injuries.

His positive qualities have helped him gain a part-time job at his father-in-law's business, Harbor Diesel, which specializes in diesel engine parts and repair. His attitude will help him as a father, as Page and Jamie are scheduled to welcome into their family a baby boy in mid-September. The unborn child is expected to be healthy once born.

"That made Page really proud," Jamie said. "We're starting a family. We're moving on, which is nice. He decided to become a father."

As Page continues to step forward and better himself, Parnelli has seen vast improvements between Page before and after his accident. Page has never been opposed to complete and attend different functions, therapies and programs to better himself. Though Page is not the same, he is better in other ways.

"He's just a little bit different than he was before," Parnelli said. "There's a lot of the same things. He's got a lot of great qualities. One thing that's really helped him is that he's always been able to tell the women how beautiful they were, kiss them on the hand, and give them a hug. Boy, that has really helped propel him through his recovery. Anytime a nurse was down, all she had to do was come in and talk to Page for a little while. He'd be telling her how beautiful she was and that sort of thing. He's got a great quality there. What he might have lost he gained in a lot of other ways."

Page still talks about racing, about his days with USAC and its officials, about the drivers he used to compete against. But has his accident changed his attitude on racing?

"No it hasn't," he said. But it's not something he dwells on. "I try not to think about it," he said. "I'll support all of my friends who are still racing, and I try to help them out as much as possible. I'm not down on it. I feel that my role now is to instruct, be their coach, and basically help out as much as possible."

Page Jones enjoys sharing his story with others. Anytime he finds tasks too difficult to complete, he said all he needs to do is "look at the video of myself, and that inspires me to keep going forward."

And Jamie said Page has taught her so much about life.

"He's really motivational to other people who suffer similar injuries, or just people who are everyday people," she said. "He's been an inspiration to me. He's taught me all sorts of different things about life; not to take things for granted, and he loves to share that with people."

Nobody would expect anything different for an above-average guy who has a positive attitude on life.

-By Michael Harker/USAC-

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