DR. SCOTT BJERKE, LORNE PRIESTLEY Aug. 13, 2002, 4 p.m. (EDT)
Dr. Scott Bjerke: Mr. Priestley is currently in guarded condition, but showing remarkable improvement. He is a strong-willed young man who is doing great. We expect him to continue to do so. He is being cared for by basically some of the best trauma team specialists in the country from orthopedics, spine surgery, neuro surgery and general surgery, and we're going to keep working and keep trying here.
Lorne Priestley (Jason's father): A couple of reasons I wanted to say a couple of words: I don't normally do this type of thing, but the response we've had literally from around the world has been just amazing. We want to thank everybody. We want to thank everybody at University of Kentucky Medical Center. They were absolutely incredible. The reason we moved Jason here was -- as Dr. Bjerke mentioned -- there are specialists here. There are people that Jason knows in this hospital that have worked on other drivers that he has been with over the years. So there's a bit of a comfort zone for all of us. We have family and friends that live in the area. So we have a large support group in the area, as well as in the hospital. It is a huge comfort zone for us to be at Methodist. We just really want to thank all of the medical people. They are working real hard. I have to say, too, that you guys (media) have been very respectful and treated us very well, and we thank you for that too.
Q: Can I ask you a question about the extent of the injuries? Can you describe to us the similarities that other race-car drivers have had who have been treated here at Methodist?
Dr. Scott Bjerke: "He's got some of the more common injuries that we expect in high-speed motor-vehicle crashes with a number of more severe injuries actually having been ruled out at this point in time. Methodist has the benefit of having people who actually follow the racing league around and so have the highest concentration of experience with both some of the foot injuries and spinal injuries that you frequently see in the high-speed motor-vehicle crashes that we see in racing.
Q: You mentioned guarded condition today; that is different than what we heard earlier today, which was serious condition. What is the difference?
Dr. Scott Bjerke: It's a little bit of semantics. In some places you have critical, guarded, guarded but stable, and then ready for discharge. In other places there's serious. Serious and guarded are pretty much similar.
Q: What kinds of injuries have you been able to rule out? You said some more serious things were ruled out.
Dr. Scott Bjerke: It's common for people in high-speed accidents in normal driving to have tears to both the heart and the biggest blood vessel coming out of the heart, called the aorta. Race car drivers are at high risk for this but because of their basically dedication to safety and their four-point restraint systems we infrequently see it, but one of the last major injuries we had in a race car driver (Eliseo Salazar) was a torn aorta, which essentially pumps all the blood, or carries all the blood after it's pumped out of the heart directly.
Q: No signs of paralysis? Is it too early for all of the..
Dr. Scott Bjerke: There is no signs of paralysis, and we expect him to be, except for hospital policy where he's got to go out in a wheel chair, we expect him to be walking from the wheel chair to his car when he's ready to be out of here.
Q: Any idea how long it will be (before he's out of hospital)?
Dr. Scott Bjerke: That's always the loaded question. If I was God, I could tell you. We're anticipating probably 10 to 14 days although depending on how well he does. He's surprised me so far. So I expect it may be even less if he has his wishes.
Q: What about driving again?
Dr. Scott Bjerke: While there are other physicians who will examine him pre-race and determine his absolute fitness for driving, I see no reason why he can't get back to racing and driving on city streets in the near future.
Q: Will he be having surgery on his feet here? If so, do you know when that will take place?
Dr. Scott Bjerke: I'm going to defer that question. Yes, he will be having surgery. Yes, it will be here, but.
Q: What kind of communication have you had with him? Is he talking, moving legs, responding to commands, that sort of thing?
Dr. Scott Bjerke: Oh, he is actually talking to us. It's gratifying to see he recognizes his family more than he recognizes me, so he gets into more conversations with them than he will with me. But when he needs to be, he's alert and oriented, and at other times he's doing what we want him to do which is rest and heal up.
Q: What kind of conversations have you had with Jason? How much interaction have you had?
Lorne Priestley: More as time goes on. It's very gratifying to get that reaction because a couple of days ago it was worse. It's getting better and it feels good. The whole family of course, we feel better as that happens. It's gratifying, and as I say the support we're getting is phenomenal.
Q: When was the first time that you've had interaction with him, today, yesterday?
Lorne Priestley: Oh, yesterday. I got to Kentucky late Sunday night and probably early Monday morning was the first time he, we contacted, yeah.
Q: Any fears for him climbing into a car before all of this? Is this something that you feared as a parent?
Lorne Priestley: It's always in the back of your mind. It has to be, but skiing too, snow boarding. You always worry about your kids, don't you? Yeah. Sure we were.
Q: Is he going to want to drive again, do you think?
Lorne Priestley: I don't know. That's for later.
Q: Were you watching him on TV when the accident occurred?
Lorne Priestley: No. I was sleeping. I was in Vancouver. One of the guys from Kelley Racing, Jim Fruedenburg (General Manager of Kelley Racing) phoned me instantly, and I got on a plane.
Q: People around here are familiar with this particular type of news conferences. As a newcomer to this situation, what are your interpretations of the racing community and the ways that they've responded?
Lorne Priestley: I've been around the racing community with Jason since he started driving. So I've been to a lot of racetracks all over North America when he's been driving. So I kind of know the racing community reasonably well. What has really impressed me is how respectful all of you guys (media) have been. The racing community really pulls together. I've seen that before, and it's happening again now. Ron Green (director of media relations) is here from IRL. The guys from Kelley Racing, they have been fabulous, just fabulous, very supportive.
Q: Has he given any indication about what happened? Is he asking questions of himself? Does he know what happened?
Lorne Priestley: It comes and goes. He's still recovering. That's part of the recovery process. Really there's no answer.
Q: He hasn't talked about the wreck?
Lorne Priestley: We haven't talked about it. Is he aware he was in a car crash? Yes.
Q: The kind of reputation that Methodist has among the drivers and the teams, why do they choose Methodist as the place that they want to come for treatment?
Dr. Scott Bjerke: I think the NASCAR drivers, the IRL drivers and even some of the CART drivers recognize that people like Hank Bock (director of medical services for the Indy Racing League), and George Rodman (chief of trauma surgery at Methodist Hospital), and Terry Trammell (orthopedic surgeon for Orthopedics Indianapolis) have some of the most extensive experience in racetrack crashes and injuries, and in high-speed motor-vehicle events that between the three of them, I think they probably have over 100 years worth of experience. If you're going to go someplace to get the best care you want, the best experience and those gentlemen provide that, as well as the others at Methodist Hospital.