Crash rider on mend and home for Christmas
A horrific speedway crash last month left Adam Shuttleworth with multiple broken bones, but it has not dampened his love for the sport.
Just six weeks after slamming into a wall at Oreti Park Speedway at high speed, the courageous 16-year-old has been discharged from Southland Hospital and celebrated Christmas at home on Tuesday.
Adam's night of racing started out like any other on Saturday, November 10 - Oreti Park's opening meet of the summer season.
Racing in the 250cc class of the Brian Reed Memorial Trophy evening, he completed his first two laps of the circuit, as usual, on board his Jawa solo bike.
Adam's third lap would prove fateful, though, when he misjudged a corner, hitting a rut in the track, which caused his bike to rear out from underneath him and career into the wall.
Adam's father, Warren, who is president of Oreti Park Speedway, was watching from the opposite side of the track, and immediately raced to his son's aid.
The impact of the crash drew gasps and groans from nearby spectators, with many longtime speedway fans describing it as the worst incident to ever occur at the Sandy Point track.
Warren instantly learned his son had suffered a broken leg from trackside paramedics, but it was only later in hospital that the full extent of Adam's injuries became apparent.
His injury list included multiple breaks in his pelvis, two broken legs, an elbow, a broken arm, hand and knee, as well as two breaks in his back.
Warren said it was a stressful time for the family and said they sensed the worst when they heard Adam had hurt his back.
"When you start talking spines [you start to worry]," Warren said.
"Other things heal, but when you start talking backs. There was that sense of not knowing for a while."
Luckily for Adam, there were no internal or head injuries in the crash, which had been a major relief, Warren said.
The day after the crash, Adam underwent surgery to repair and stabilise his broken body. He also spent two days in the hospital's critical care unit. Adam started physio, the day after his surgery, which has been integral in his recovery.
Adam is moving around in a wheelchair, but he will be able to switch to crutches soon once his elbow has healed. He is also wearing a back brace for support and to stop him bending back and forth too much.
Warren said the word from doctors has been positive with Adam expected to make close to a full recovery from his injuries. He will head back to hospital in two weeks to have stitches removed.
"They're really happy with his progress so far. He'll hopefully make a full recovery in time," Warren said. "He might have a bit of a limp and one side [of his leg], might be shorter than the other. It depends on how he grows."
Adam, who will be in year 12 at Southland Boys' High School next year, will have to take it quietly during the next few months while his body heals.
Warren and Adam have both been back to the Oreti Park Speedway since his crash. Some riders might have experienced flashbacks or been filled with fear, but not Adam. "I wanted to get back on [the bike]," he said.
Adam, who has competed in speedway for the past four years and has won two junior Burt Munro Challenge Speedway titles, said his love for the sport had not diminished. Motorsport competitors knew there were risks and that every race could be their last.
Warren said it was only natural to worry about his son out on the bike, and he would be behind him fully if he decided to race again.
"I think he should stick to badminton," he joked.
Injuries like Adam's should be a thing of the past at Oreti Park Speedway, thanks to the installation of a special air fence crash barrier, supplied by Auckland-based motorsport enthusiast and entrepreneur Bill Buckley. The inflatable air fence was invented by Tony Briggs, the son of speedway legend, Barry, after Briggs Jr crashed into a fence and broke his back.
Oreti Park Speedway is sharing the fence with Auckland's Western Springs Stadium.
The Shuttleworth family were extremely thankful to Southland Hospital medical specialists and ambulance staff at the speedway on the night of the crash. They were also appreciative of the support of the speedway community, many of whom had visited Adam in hospital and sent well wishes.
- © Fairfax NZ News