The Advocate

Speedway star's medical miracle

AFTER 25 years of racing cars, Stuart Herne was not scared of speed - it was the stillness he experienced after his recent life-threatening accident that terrified him.

His off-road buggy hit an embankment, flipped violently into the air, and when it hit the ground it started barrel rolling.

"I don't know how many times, but it flipped a hell of a lot," Stuart, 42, said.

"When it landed back on its wheels I knew I was in a fair bit of trouble because I couldn't move my arms or legs.

"It was the scariest moment in my life looking at my arms and legs when I couldn't move them."

But the well-known speedway identity and South Lismore business operator is now recuperating in his Wyrallah home after undergoing revolutionary surgery on his badly broken back sustained in the accident while navigating in an off-road buggy race in Victoria in May.

The advanced posterior thoracic fusion procedure performed by surgeons at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne will be featured in Channel Seven's Medical Emergency reality television program in September.

Stuart's wife, Karen, said it was the work of the Alfred's Professor Mulhurn that saved her husband, and father-of-three, from a wheelchair.

"Stuart was pronounced a paraplegic at scene," she said.

"He had completely disintegrated his spine, had loose bones floating around in his back, and to make it more stable they had to do the fusion.

"His spine was fused at a number of areas: At the T4 and T5, the T6 and T7, and the T8 and T9, and he had rods implanted to hold it together.

"It was amazing surgery, very revolutionary."

It is unlikely Herne will ever race again, but for now he is just happy to be walking.

"I'm the luckiest person in Australia to be able to walk and most days that puts a smile on my face," he said.

"Even when I'm in serious pain I'm thankful of being able to walk.

"I was very, very worried until the operation.

"I was assured that after it, if I did the right things, especially in the first three months, I had a good chance of getting my strength back."

Ironically, Herne said a lifetime of racing cars had actually helped his body absorb the shock of the accident.

"The professor puts it down to luck that I didn't break my spinal cord," he said. "Speed is always good. It's just the sudden stops that hurts you"

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