Aug 29, 2013
© 2014, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.
by David Swarts
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GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Motorcycle-Superstore.com SuperSport: Travis Ohge (4) on his Houston Superbikes/HSBK Racing Suzuki GSX-R600. Photo by Brian J. Nelson.
Roadracing World Young Gun Travis Ohge, age 19, suffered life-threatening head injuries in a crash during the AMA Pro Motorcycle-Superstore.com SuperSport race July 20, 2013, at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. But just five weeks later the Oregonian is recovering steadily and hopes to be racing again in 2014.
Ohge was running inside the top 10 on his Houston Superbikes/HSBK Racing Suzuki GSX-R600 when he crashed in Turn Six on lap eight of 16.
Some reports indicated that Ohge was hit by a trailing rider and then struck by his own bike.
“Either way, that’s part of the game. That’s part of what we do. But my helmet does show a bike did run over my head. I’ve got tire marks all over the back of my helmet,” Ohge told Roadracingworld.com on Thursday. "My opinion is if I wasn’t wearing an Arai [helmet] I wouldn’t be here right now."
When safety workers reached Ohge--who was lying near the edge of the track--he was in bad shape. His mouth was full of gravel, he was unconscious and he was not breathing.
Fortunately for Ohge, he crashed during the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix, which was fully staffed with FIM-trained medical personnel led by FIM Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ray Rossi, who responded to the scene. Medical personnel got Ohge breathing again and loaded him into a helicopter that flew him to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, California.
“They kind of induced my coma for four days to let the brain swelling go down,” said Ohge, who has little memory of the weekend at track or the two weeks he spent at the hospital. “I had six lesions on the left side of my brain and two on the right. They offered to put a valve in my [skull] to relieve the pressure, but my dad was worried about that. They didn’t do it, and it actually went down by itself.
“It totally messed with my balance. I had no balance at all. And the strength in my legs wasn’t very good. My whole right side wasn’t very good. So I couldn’t walk at all. I was in a wheelchair for a little bit, but it came back. I also have a cracked vertebra up by my neck, but luckily it wasn’t bad enough for them to put me in a neck brace. It could’ve been a lot worse for sure.”
Now, a little more than a month after the accident, Ohge can still feel the after-effects of his crash but he is steadily recovering at his parents’ home in Aurora, Oregon.
"At the hospital they said I had one of the fastest recoveries they had ever seen," said Ohge. “My brain is still real fuzzy. My head is still real fuzzy. I’m still real forgetful. I forget things a lot in my short-term memory. But my movement is real good. Just my strength on my right side is down quite a bit to what it used to be because I hit the left side of my head a lot. But it’s going pretty well.”
As for returning to racing, Ohge said he faced that question before he even left the hospital.
“All the nurses were asking me if I was going to race again,” said Ohge. “I said, ‘Of course, I’m going to race again. This is what I’ve been doing since I was three years old. I’ve been racing for 16 years. I can’t just quit, you know?’
“It’s hard for them to understand because they only see the bad side of things. I’ve been racing for 16 years and this is the first real injury I’ve had. I can’t let just one injury stop me from doing what I love to do. I’ll be back. I’ll be back next year, I’m hoping.”