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Life after surviving an Indy Car crash

Life after surviving an Indy Car crash

[Announcer] This is the track they call the tricky triangle because each of the three turns can ruin a racers day. It’s a tough track because all three corners are very different. [Announcer] Ready to go at Pocono Raceway. I was really confident going into the race. I was very confident. I knew exactly what I wanted to do at the start. [Announcer] Drivers, start your engines. I was really happy to qualify sixth. I think I was sixth. [Announcer] Watch out for this guy, Robert Wickens. He will be on the move. I do remember going around the outside of one car, or two cars I don’t know. In turn one. [Announcer] Wickens on the outside making a move. But then I remember having a really good
run down the back straight and trying to pass on the inside and to turn to and that’s all I really remember. [Announcer] Here comes the Red Machine — Canada’s Robert Wickens. That’s going to be tight through there. [Announcer] That was very scary accident. I’ve rethought that accident time and time again. Looked at the footage and I always think like why couldn’t I have just maybe not tried to pass him? But I got to where I am in my career because of the type of driver that I was. Because I always was attacking. I was never content with where I was. [Reporter] Robert Wickens body was pummeled by the crash. Broken bones from head to toe. The extent of his injuries are easier to see on a chart than to list off in order. The bones have healed. His bruised spinal cord has not. It’s not a broken leg where you know you’re eight weeks in a cast and then you’re right back at it. It’s this thing like no one knows what the outcome is. The fact that people told us at the beginning that I’ll never walk again. They don’t know. A lot has happened since the accident. Most days you can find him at this suburban Indianapolis rehab facility trying to teach parts of his battered body how to work again. [Reporter] Do you feel like you’re like ramping like you’re on the curve upwards over the last few months? How do you feel both emotionally and physically? When you have a good day typically it follows by a couple bad days. Because I think whenever I do have that good day I’m so excited to utilize it that I probably over train and work too hard and then I’m fatigued for the subsequent kind of like 48 hours that follow. [Rerporter] Taking it slow just isn’t in Robert Wickens’ DNA. Wickens has always gone fast. He started racing go-karts as a kid. His family sold their home in Guelph, Ontario so he could drive in Europe as a teenager. Back in North America, Wickens was a rising star destined to reach the sports highest levels. I was racing the best I’ve ever raced prior to the accident. And right now rehabs that full-time job. [Reporter] Some of the hardest work takes place on this treadmill. Wickens is fitted with special shorts and sealed inside. The system calibrates his weight and air blows upwards filling the sealed chamber reducing his body weight, making it easier to move his legs. [Wickens] But at the beginning of my walking I was always like walking a tightrope. My legs just wanted to go like over top of one another and that’s gotten a lot better lately. As well so I can actually kind of keep them in line with each other but you can see like my left leg starting to shake now. [Reporter] I can see you really using your upper body to make that come through. [Wickens] Yeah. Which isn’t ideal. I’m at 20 minutes, I’m gonna stop here. 0.2 of a mile. [Reporter] He would like to push things further but his legs have nothing left. Rehab can be grueling. Hard on the body. Harder on the mind. Almost as difficult as this injury is physically, mentally it’s — I think it’s almost worse. It just rattles my brain. [Therapist] That left quad? Let’s do it. [Reporter] But Wickens isn’t going through it alone. I’m Carly Wickens. It’s the first time saying my new last name. The couple was married just this fall. [Reporter] Wickens promised the first dance and 13 months after being told he would probably not walk again Wickens rose to the occasion. [Carly] I think with our relationship we had already lived together for four years before we got married and before the accident so we were always together. So I think we already knew each other so well and the accident just brought us closer together. There’s literally nothing hidden anymore. Everything is out there. There he is. [Wickens] What’s going on? What are you guys talking about? Talking about you dancing at the wedding. Show them your arm. [Reporter] The Wickens’ have been very public about their lives together. Documenting every step of Roberts recovery on social media. We have this great opportunity where we can help raise awareness and kind of show what a recovery might look like. And it’s been so supportive it’s blown me away. [Reporter Wickens is back behind the wheel. Not exactly the breathtaking speed and risk he craves but what’s possible for now those days. There’s days where Carly and I will sit on the couch and I’ll just tell her that like I’m in a mood right now where I’m just really mad at the state that I’m in. And it’s just uncontrollable and I don’t know how long that’s going to happen for. [Reporter] Carly is the bright light on his darkest days. A committed passenger and navigator wherever the road takes them. However hard it may be. We’re in therapy every week. We do therapy together. I do therapy on my own and I think that is so important for anybody going through any grieving process or spinal cord injury that not only the person that’s injured should be going through therapy but also the significant other. [Reporter] It’s all unfolding, one small step at a time. The next chapter of their lives slowly being written full of stops and starts and uncertain turns. Comebacks like the one Wickens imagines can’t be willed. Each injury is unique and each body responds differently. [Wickens] My dream is obviously to get back into a racecar again but there’s a lot that needs to happen. A lot that I need to still get on top of on a personal level. There’s a lot of unknowns with this injury still you know I’m still trying to just become stable in everyday life. I’m still trying to figure out how to live this life. Wickens says the crash is part of the inherent risk in racing. One he accepts with no regrets. It’s how he’s always done things. Always pushing. Never giving up. Always trying to go faster. For The National, I’m Jaime Strashin, in Indianapolis.

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