The Road Ahead : June July 2014
QUEENSLAND'S LARGEST CLUB 15 JUN/JUL 2014 THE ROAD AHEAD QLD INTERVIEW | LIFESTYLE IMAGE COURTESY OF DORNA SPORTS, S.L. MOVE OVER LAZARUS. It's been called one of the greatest -- certainly among the gutsiest -- comebacks in sport. This is the story of Mick Doohan, the laid-back but doggedly determined Queensland motorcycle racer who went from being just hours away from having a leg amputated to winning five consecutive premier-class world titles. Flashback to 1992 ... Mick is leading the World 500cc World Championship series handsomely. Then, in qualifying for the Dutch TT at Assen, he hits some fluid on the track and the bike crashes on top of him. The resultant broken tibia and fibula on his right leg are bad enough, but then an operation to repair the damage goes awry and he contracts compartment syndrome, which cuts off the leg's blood supply. Things go from bad to catastrophic -- in an attempt to restore circulation, the Dutch medical team opens the leg from the back of the knee to the ankle and from the top of the foot to the toes. The wound at the back of his leg swells to about 10cm wide and, within a day, smells off, causing the doctors to discuss amputation. Worse still, his blood has been thinned so greatly that his vital organs are in danger of shutting down. Enter acclaimed motorsport medico Dr Claudio Costa. "He got me out of there (in an air ambulance)," Mick said in our interview. "It was all down to him." At his clinic in Bologna, Italy, Dr Costa set about a radical procedure that Mick said hadn't been performed for 20 years. Layer after layer of black skin was removed, until all that was left were tendons and bones, metal plates and screws. "Strips from my thighs were placed on the damaged leg and the legs sewn together. And I had to stay like that for 14 nights," he said of the nightmare. "But within eight weeks, I was back on track, testing at Phillip Island." If straddling a powerful, bucking 500cc grand prix bike in such short time was miraculous enough, what of his determination to get up off his sick bed and challenge title aspirant Wayne Rainey at the penultimate round in Brazil? Mick turned up ready to race, with no feeling from the knee down and the leg still bleeding and infected. His American arch- rival won the day, by the slenderest of margins, but the Aussie gave it his all. He 'trained the house down' over the off-season, but infection continued to prevent the fractures from knitting. Another crash in testing didn't help matters. And with still no feeling in his lower limb, he couldn't even feel the pain of grinding away his boot and half his little toe under cornering. Worse still, to the race-focused Doohan, was his inability to use the right foot-operated rear brake lever, a major setback in a sport where performance is absolute. So, his Honda team designed and fitted a thumb- operated brake instead. "It was easier to get hold of the brake than I thought," Mick recalled. "Initially, I had to make a conscious move and it (his agility on the bike) didn't feel so nimble, but you adjust." The turning point came when, after yet another high-speed spill, surgeons fitted an external fixator to straighten his leg that had become banana- shaped. This empowered him with the strength that had been missing. QUEENSLANDER MICK DOOHAN WENT ON TO BECOME A MOTORCYCLE RACING LEGEND. IT COULD ALL HAVE BEEN SO DIFFERENT...