WEST ALLIS, Wis. (AP) — Sporting a full beard, James Hinchcliffe flashed a smile as he walked into an interview room without any trace of a limp.
He has come a long way since a sustaining a life-threatening leg injury during a practice crash in May at Indianapolis. And while Hinchcliffe faces more rehab, a finish line is now in sight for the IndyCar driver.
“I think as far as the doctors are concerned, being ready for offseason testing shouldn’t be a problem,” he said Saturday at the Milwaukee Mile, site of IndyCar’s 250-mile race on Sunday.
The goal is to start ramping up rehab and physical therapy after another surgery at the end of the month. For now, Hinchcliffe’s physical activity has been limited at a time of year when he is constantly on the move. A thinner Hinchcliffe said he’s lost about 15 pounds.
The 28-year-old driver is grateful for the doctors and physical therapists who have gotten him this far.
“In all honesty, it’s been pretty smooth,” he said. “I’ve been lucky.”
Hinchcliffe got hurt on May 18 when a piece of his car’s suspension broke during a crash and pierced his left leg. After acting quickly to extract him from the car, safety crews pumped him with more than 14 pints of blood as they rushed him by ambulance to a hospital.
Hinchcliffe was in critical condition when he went into emergency surgery.
The recovery process has been slow. Mobility is important, he said, because doctors want the infused blood to keep flowing since clotting and infection remain concerns.
At the same time, doctors are also being cautious. Sometimes he’ll disobey orders, like he went to friend’s house for a Fourth of July party.
“Probably shouldn’t have done that,” he said. “You can only spend so many days in the house on the couch.”
But he’s used to it. It’s mainly a light schedule.
“The big decision every morning (is) between how much time do I spend in bed versus how much time on the couch,” he said.
The closest he can get to being behind the wheel is playing the Gran Turismo 6 racing video game on his PlayStation system.
The next step on his way back to the track would be to get into a simulator, which, for now, is a challenge because of restrictions on how long he could sit up, and in what position.
The trademark dry wit is still there, though perhaps a bit toned down.
Recovery “feels slow for my speed,” Hinchcliffe said,” but the doctors are telling me everything’s going very quickly, so no complaints.”
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