March 29, 2006
BOISE, Idaho (USST Press Release)—Olympian Dane Spencer (Boise, ID) is working his way back from a racing crash and feels he's "starting to turn the corner" after surgery to stabilize a broken neck.
He underwent fusion surgery March 15 on the C2 and C3 vertebrae in his neck earlier this month and left a Boise hospital March 21, returning to his home.
The crash, which also included a broken pelvis, took place in a NorAm race Feb. 14 at Big Mountain, Mont.
"It ended up being a double fusion, so they put a titanium plate into the anterior and posterior side of my vertebra. It was very involved, a seven-hour surgery," he said in a telephone interview. "I'm lucky to be alive. Things are progressing. I'm turning the corner on this surgical procedure. It was a very difficult recovery, in general, for the first three or four days. ...But it was successful, according to the surgeons. It went well."
No definite plans for the short-termBut he has no timetable on moving forward with physical therapy or anything else. "Who knows what my future holds at this point? It's hard to judge," he said.[pagebreak]Spencer, 28 and a 2002 Olympian, said he had no memory of the crash. "Honestly, I have no idea. I remember going through the turn before the crash and then I remember waking up three days later and that's it. That's all I know," he said.
U.S. Coach Tim LaMarche "stayed with me until I woke up," Spencer said. "He stayed for a whole week, which was pretty special. He had a lot of things going on. All athletes had left two (after the accident), so I haven't really talked to anyone who saw it. I've just heard. I somehow got out of whack going into the jump."
A special ramp has been built onto his home to facilitate movement as needed. "Obviously, it's been very difficult. I'm real limited and can't do a lot. I can't move around much, only partial weight-bearing on my left leg. It's a major lifestyle change. It's obviously life-altering in general. You have something happen like that, and you're lucky to survive," Spencer said. "I have to be thankful..."
Spencer: "...Definitely new ground..."
"It's definitely new ground for me, hopefully new for the first and only time," he added. "It makes a lot of the other things I've done in my life seem real easy. It definitely changes my perspective on a lot of things. ...It's very difficult going from leading such an independent lifestyle where you do everything on your own to being totally needy on everything." He and his girlfriend had been doing renovations on their home with an eye toward selling it and moving, he said, but those plans are on indefinite hold; she's turned her attention to helping make things happen for Spencer, he said.
His days include a lot of e-mails and reading, heavy on American history, especially the Civil War. He's been reading Stephen Ambrose's "Undaunted Courage"and enjoys the Ken Burns TV specials.