Hit Man? laid low
By STEVE SPINKS
LITTLE did Lismore speedway racer Stuart Herne realise that a driving accident when he was in his 20s could have claimed his life more than a decade on.
Herne suffered cruciate knee ligament damage in a V8 Dirt Modified race 12 years ago when his left leg slammed into the dashboard.
After years of putting up with a deteriorating joint, the 39-year-old decided to have a knee reconstruction.
But the decision almost left him fighting for his life against a serious infection.
"It's one of those things I could have done without," Herne chuckled.
"I ended up having five leg operations in two weeks.
"On the fourth operation they pulled everything (the reconstruction material) out.
"So now I'm back to where I was before the reconstruction."
Herne, who is known as the 'Hit Man' in speedway circles, had his operation at a Gold Coast hospital, but after returning to Lismore he began to feel unwell.
"I was in real big trouble and I was feeling very, very ill," he said.
"I had a blood test in Lismore and I was operated on again that night."
If he had waited longer to seek medical assistance, Herne admits things could have turned out differently.
During his hospital stay, he lost 11kg and he has only recently returned to work at his Lismore business, Hernes Freight Service.
"We have 15 trucks and I'm office-bound," he said.
"I'm just lucky that I have a strong and capable staff around me."
The seven-times Australian V8 Dirt Modified champion is still on pain medication, but that hasn't stopped him from planning his comeback to racing in his Farmer Charlies-sponsored V8 and it's likely to be sooner rather than later.
"We have a brand new motor in the car and the start of the season is November 5," Herne said.
"Racing has been such a big part of my life for 20 years and I want to race and so do my kids."
But Herne is realistic.
"Lismore has about three meetings before hosting the Australian titles in January," he said.
"I'll race those but I won't be racing away from home until my leg heals a bit."
Until then, Herne will be undergoing constant physiotherapy and rehabilitation.
The veteran racer also plans to defend the NSW and Queensland titles he won last season.
"There's no way in the world I'm going to miss them," he said.
"I want to win them all, to be honest."
As for a possible return to hospital to have his knee reconstructed again?
"I can't say yet," he chuckled.
"I think I'm still a bit allergic to hospitals."