DANVILLE — Seth Stickney didn’t get the news he was hoping for when he met with his doctors last week.
The race car driver from Danville who broke his neck in an accident at Lee USA Speedway in October was told he will have to undergo surgery to fuse his C1, C2, and C3 vertebrae together.
Stickney has worn a neck brace since the accident on Oct. 12 and was optimistic the injury would heal on its own, but his hopes were dashed when a spine surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital told him that without the surgery he would have to wear the brace for the rest of his life.
“My condition actually worsened in the last month and a half since the accident and they said it’s nothing that I’ve done. If I had laid in bed for the last month and a half it still would have done the same thing. I took a shot in the dark hoping the vertebrae would fuse themselves together and they’ve actually separated further,” said Stickney, who was injured when his race car slammed into a concrete barrier wall during the track’s Octoberfest event.
As he faces surgery, Stickney is also looking at ways to improve the safety of race cars and wants to design an impact absorber for the concrete barrier wall to reduce the risk of injury in future accidents at the track.
Even with the surgery that will require pins and screws to fuse the vertebrae, the 34-year-old Stickney said he will lose about 50 percent of the motion in his neck — mostly when turning his head from side to side.
If he opted not to have the surgery, Stickney said the surgeon told him that his injury would likely affect his spinal cord and cause more problems.
Stickney said he plans to seek additional medical opinions to put his mind at ease, but will likely undergo surgery in the middle of December.
The surgery will require three to five days in the hospital and then another three to four months of recovery at home, he said.
The accident forced the veteran racer to take a break from the sport he’s enjoyed since childhood, and at this point he’s not sure if he’ll ever be able to return.“It’s unknown. In a perfect world and if the stars and the moon align I will be able to. That’s my objective. This is what I love. I’ve got to keep my shoulders up and my head held high and hope for the best. I’m not going to lay down and rot over it, I’m going to do whatever I can do physically and mentally to overcome it,” he said.
No matter what happens, Stickney said he’ll still be in involved in the sport. If he can’t race, Stickney said he could become a crew member.
“I’ll always be around it one way or another,” he said.