NASCAR driver Jerry Nadeau, having suffered a serious head injury in a racing accident at Richmond International Raceway in May, continues to make progress and will be able to celebrate Christmas with friends and family.

In a question-and-answer session, the 33-year old talks candidly about his ongoing recovery and how blessed he feels to be home for the holidays.

Q:
How special will this holiday season be for the Nadeau family?

Jerry Nadeau:
There's no doubt that I have been blessed to be here - I don't know how else to say it. I had a very serious accident and was lucky to survive. I don't remember anything about the accident - I was out cold. But, from what I have heard, there was a lot of concern that I wasn't going to make it. This is going to be a very special holiday for us, with it being my daughter's first Christmas, and me being here to enjoy these precious moments of life. Some people might say I had a very unfortunate year, but I look at it so much differently. We had a healthy daughter come into our lives and I survived a serious accident. That's anything but unfortunate and I feel extremely blessed.

Sadly, my good friend Tony Renna didn't make it. We raced together as team-mates in England in the Formula Opel Series, and I am so sad about his loss and feel for his parents and fianc?e. I was glad that my dad and I were able to go to Florida to visit Tony's parents after his accident. They were very supportive of him and, unfortunately, the Good Lord has a list up there and his name was up. He was a good person and I will miss him.

Q:
How has your recovery been going?

JN:
As fast as I can go. The good news is that I can do what normal people do everyday - I just can't race. I know I have a brain injury that I have to let heal and I am not rushing it. My left-side is not coming in as fast as I thought it would. I have feeling, but it just doesn't work right. It's like when your arm falls asleep with a tingly feeling. For me, it's like that 24 hours a day. The doctors say that it should go away, but the problem is they don't know how long it will take. I have accepted that I'm not fully recovered right now, but I am making progress everyday and I will get there. I know I will.

Q:
What have you been doing to keep busy?

JN:
As much as I can, but I do get bored pretty quickly. I have a shop near my house and built a little dirt track there and we play around with dirt bikes and mini bikes. I also have been making a number of appearances and was honoured to be asked again to go to Walter Reed Army Medical Centre in Washington DC to visit the wounded soldiers. The visits I had there really make you sit back and truly feel how precious life is. I hope I have been as helpful to the soldiers as they have been to me. I am so proud of all of our troops for what they do and the sacrifices they make.

Q:
At one time, you were planning to be back competing in Daytona for the 500. How hard was it to accept that you weren't going to be ready?

JN:
It was more of a relief because I was praying every night for somebody to zap me so I could get better. The guys and [MB2 Motorsports general manager] Jay Frye were encouraging me but, deep inside, I couldn't see myself being ready, and it was frustrating. I wasn't upset that Joe [Nemechek] was going to drive the US Army car in 2004 - in fact, I was more relieved than anything else.

You can only do so much to get better. I try to sleep as much as I can to get more rest for my head and do whatever I can to get better. The doctors say I am doing perfect and feel that I will regain at least 95 per cent. But what they can't tell me is how long it will take. I'm going to take it slow, hopefully do a few races in ARCA, Busch and Cup next year and see how I do. If I feel great, then I am going to bust my butt to make sure I am perfectly right for 2005. I can only do so much.

Q:
How much pressure are you putting on yourself to get ready for 2005?

JN:
None. I am not going to rush or force this recovery programme. There is no magic formula for a brain injury. The goal right now is to make sure the US Army car is going to be fast for Joe next year. I am proud that Joe will be driving the Army car -- he's a great guy The Army has been superb to me. They're such wonderful people to be associated with. The Army's motto is 'never to leave a fallen comrade behind', and that's exactly the way they've treated me. I am proud and honoured to be part of the Army team.

Q:
What have you learned throughout this ordeal?

JN:
I've learned plenty about myself. My view on life is a whole lot different. I want to tell everybody who has children to spend more time with them, play with them and be part of their lives. You never know when your day will come. I feel extremely blessed that I can be with my wife Jada and see our daughter grow up.

Q:
For the first time since the accident, you got back into a stock car and conducted a test session at Concord Motor Speedway - how did you assess your performance?

JN:
I wasn't totally back, but probably 80-85 per cent. What is important is the test session gave me a baseline to know where I am at and what I have to do. I was hoping to do better, but I set some very high goals when I got there. Concord is a hard track but, overall, I thought it went okay, especially considering I haven't been in a racecar for seven months.

Concord is the type of track that, if you make a little mistake, you can destroy the car. I didn't want to take any chances and probably didn't push it as hard as I could have. However, I learned a lot about myself and how far I have come since the accident. I know I have a problem and it's going to take time. I'm not going to put any pressure on myself or have a targeted date to return. This is going to take time and I'm not going to rush it. We'll probably test again next month at a different track.

Q:
It seemed like you stopped coming to races during the end of the 2003 season. Any reason for staying away?

JN:
Everybody knows I'm a racer and I have been doing this since I was four-years old, when I started in go-karts. It's really hard for me to go to a race track and just watch. I'm a racer, not a spectator. I still have that same motto - I am not interested in being a banker or to put shingles on houses. I want to race - it's as simple as that.

Q:
How much has the fan support meant to you?

JN:
The fans, NASCAR and everybody have been absolutely great. One night, I was listening to Benny Parson's radio show and somebody called and asked how I was doing. I said to myself 'oh my God, they're still thinking of me'. The same thing happened on Dave Despain's Wind Tunnel show - fans calling in and asking about me. When I hear that fans are still interested, it really gives me a big lift. It pumps me up and makes me more ready to come back. I just want to thank everyone for their continuing support. It is so overwhelming.

 

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