NST: Lonny Parsons medical update 2006-09-19

Lonny Parsons ready to return to the track URBANDALE, Iowa -- National Sprint Tour co-owner and team owner Lonny Parsons continues to improve after being hit by a water truck Aug. 5 at Selinsgrove Speedway in Pennsylvania. While Parsons has...

Lonny Parsons ready to return to the track

URBANDALE, Iowa -- National Sprint Tour co-owner and team owner Lonny Parsons continues to improve after being hit by a water truck Aug. 5 at Selinsgrove Speedway in Pennsylvania.

While Parsons has been slowed a bit during recovery, his wit is just as quick as ever.

Parsons was attempting to cross the track to the infield pits in turn 4 that Saturday afternoon when a water truck making a lap around the muddy track hit him. The impact, which sent the 65-year-old Parsons flying at least 25 feet, had many fearing the worst.

Parsons was airlifted by helicopter to Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pa. where he was in the intensive care unit.

Only thing is, Parsons was under heavy sedation and didn't realize where he was.

"I thought I was in a hotel," Parsons recalled Monday afternoon at his home in the Des Moines suburb of Urbandale. "I thought it was a cheesy hotel. The room didn't even have its own shower!"

So Parsons left several times -- his sons told him it was six or seven times -- in search of a better room.

"I was dead set on finding a way out," Parsons said.

Each time, the same nurse would guide Parsons back to his room. Due to the drugs like morphine, Parsons didn't realize it was a nurse at the hospital.

"I thought this lady kept hitting on me," Parsons said.

Parsons, well known for his smoking habit, had another reason to try and leave his room: he wasn't allowed to smoke in the hospital.

"The hell of it was, I could see the nurses getting cigarettes out of their purses, and going out to smoke," Parsons said. "I thought, 'I wonder where they are going?'"

Parsons was released from Geisinger on Aug. 11 -- the day before the Knoxville Nationals -- and flown to the Iowa Heart Center in Des Moines. Parsons wanted to be released earlier, but kept getting delayed.

"The doctors found some irregular heartbeats," Parsons recalled. "I said, 'I got hit by a truck. Would that have something to do with it?'"

On a similar note, Parsons had an explanation for what might have poked a hole in his lung, which healed up in a couple of days.

"The water truck," Parsons quipped.

The impact at Selinsgrove seemed to be the latest hard blow for the NST. Tim Shaffer, the Pennsylvania native who drove for Parsons until being injured at Knoxville in June, and Dean Jacobs, who has been filling in for Shaffer, both called it a miracle Parsons survived the impact.

Parsons, who lost both his wife and brother to sicknesses this year, doesn't quite see it that way.

"You either survive it or you don't," he said simply. "Everyone says it's miraculous. It doesn't seem unbelievable to me. It is what it is."

Parsons doesn't spend time dwelling on why he wasn't hurt worse than he was.

"It's just one of those deals," he said. "It's just one of those things that happens. You don't know why. I'm a quality of life advocate rather than quantity of life. I'm not crippled up. I've always been afraid of being crippled up. That's my biggest fear."

Since coming home the weekend of the Knoxville Nationals, Parsons has continued to improve.

"I've been doing a lot better," he said. "I'm having trouble with my right leg, but that could also just be old age. My rib cage is sore on my right side. I'm just getting to where I can sleep on my side. The right leg is the biggest discomfort. My stamina is getting better, and that's probably due to better sleep."

Parsons was on a soft food diet for about three weeks, and could hardly open his mouth.

"My cheekbone was broken," Parsons said. "They were talking about cutting my face open and fixing it. That didn't sound like a good time to me."

In talking with doctors and racers who have been in bad accidents, Parsons believes it's likely his mind has mentally blocked out much of what happened at Selinsgrove.

"I remember getting my pit pass," Parsons said. "I vaguely remember the truck coming. I looked to the left before crossing, but the truck came from the right. Bob Ward crossed the track ahead of me, and he said the truck driver didn't blow his horn that time and was coming like hell.

"I was trying to run down the hill, because in that soft mud I wasn't going to be able to go up the track," Parsons added. "(The truck driver) probably jumped on the brakes and slid down the hill into me."

Parsons, who does not recall the impact, briefly remembers being put into the helicopter. His next memory is being at the hospital.

"They were keeping me awake (at the hospital)," Parsons said. "That's what my boys said. At that point, I had no idea what had happened."

The day after the Nationals, August 13, Parsons was back at the shop. The next NST race is the Sept. 26 Bob Kinser Fall Classic at Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville, Ind., and that is tentatively scheduled to be the first race back for Parsons.

Though he hasn't been at the track, it's clear Parsons hasn't been forgotten by the racing community.

"People have bent over backwards," Parsons said. "They sent a plane for my sons to come to the hospital, and another plane to pick me up. The racing community is pretty tight knit. We're all pretty much willing to do whatever it takes to help one another."

The support hasn't come from just those in the pits.

"I've gotten cards from race fans and all that," said Parsons, who got a big card from Knoxville with hundreds of signatures. "I get cards every day."

The veteran car owner has kept busy by looking for new shop space in Urbandale, but is looking forward to returning to the tracks.

"I've missed it quite a bit," he said. "It's what I've done for a long time."

-credit: nst

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About this article
Series Sprint
Drivers Tim Shaffer , Bob Ward , Dean Jacobs