BRISTOL, Tenn._ Talking with the media for the first time since announcing he would be forced to sit out the remainder of the season, Brian Vickers provided an update to his medical condition and confirmed he would be back in the No. 83 in 2011.
Sitting in the Bristol Motor Speedway media center, Vickers looked like Doogie Houser as he discussed how doctors repaired a hole in his heart, added a stint in his leg and how all of that came about.
“A lot has happened since the last time I saw you,” Vickers said. “I had heart surgery, never thought I’d have that at 26 (years old). I’ve had a stint put in, never thought I’d have one of those. But they both went extremely well. I’m on Coumadin and Plavix still, and will be the rest of the year, so I will be out of the car, but they gave me full clearance for next year. I will be back next season. I will be racing in January and I’m really excited about that. They feel like I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in in my life.
“I am going to be back in the 83 and I’m very excited about it. I’m very excited to be back with Red Bull,” Vickers added.
Following initial diagnosis, doctors discovered Vickers also had a blood clot in his left finger. In order for this to occur, the clot had to pass through a hole in his heart. When a blood clot travels through this hole it has two places to go, the arm or the brain, leaving him more at risk for a stroke rather than a heart attack.
Knowing the risks associated with the condition, in addition to the stress of driving a race car, Vickers decided to have a procedure on July 12 to close the repair the hole.
“It was a difficult decision, it wasn’t my easiest for sure,” Vickers said. “My decision was this, if I had the operation and something went wrong, God forbid I died, that wouldn’t be too good, but I feel pretty good about where I’m going next, so I’m good with that. The other option was not to close it and then run the risk of the stroke. How I made the decision…is I would rather die than have a stroke. That was kind of my thought process. I don’t want to live like a vegetable.”
In the process of operating to close the hole in his heart, doctors also looked to see if Vickers had May-Thurner Syndrome. According to the Cleveland Clinic, May-Thurner Syndrome is caused “when the left iliac vein is compressed by the right iliac artery, which increases the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in the left extremity. DVT is a blood clot that may partially or completely block blood flow through the vein.”
Doctors found he in fact had May-Thurner Syndrome, which Vickers said was “bad news, but great news.” A stint was added to his leg to help open up the blood flow the day after having the procedure to close the hole.
When initially talking with the media in Charlotte this May, Vickers said he planned to attend nearly every race, watch from the pit box and spotters stand learn all he could about the various working parts of the team. Once he began doing that, his stress level became so high that his blood thinners were not getting the job done.
As a result, doctors suggested the Red Bull Racing driver take time away from the track to relax and focus on lowering his level of stress. During that period of time, Vickers went to various Red Bull events such as the air race in New York City, the Formula One Canadian Gran Prix, among other things.
Vickers will have to stay on blood thinners for the remainder of the year, so he is not cleared to be in the car until January. Despite not being in the car and away from the track, Vickers says he has lost his competitive edge.
“I haven’t been in any simulators,” Vickers explained, adding, “I’ve been playing NASCAR on Xbox a few times, not really sure if that counts.”
The Red Bull Racing driver says he has not discussed his return with NASCAR, but does not foresee any issues with his return.
What makes this situation even more interesting is the fact Red Bull Racing recently signed Kasey Kahne to drive for the 2011 season before he jumps to Hendrick Motorsports in 2012 – something Vickers said he learned about by reading it online. Team vice president and general manager Jay Frye told AllLeftTurns.com earlier in the year he did not foresee the organization expanding to three teams, but a lot has changed since then.
Friday at Bristol, Scott Speed, current driver of the No. 82 Red Bull Toyota, told AllLeftTurns.com he was not worried about not having a ride for the 2011 season, despite Frye’s statements against expanding.
“I’m not worried about it at all.” Speed said. “I honestly don’t know about Brian. I think it’s one of those things that is a lot more complicated than it is let on. Brian’s deal is going to be what it’s going to be, and in any case, I’m really confident in my position. I honestly don’t think I’ll ever be in the position where I would be without a ride. I’m pretty much 100% positive about that, so I haven’t even thought about it.”
All in all, Vickers looked upbeat, healthy and pleased to be at the race track. At only 26-years-old, this very serious medical condition has opened his eyes and given him a new lease on life.
“I have a new appreciation for life, I’m looking forward to it and I feel great and I’m excited to race,” Vickers said.
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