Fonsi Nieto: “The doctor told me I was dead for a minute”

 In Moto2, News

Fonsi Nieto crashed during qualifying for the Indianapolis Grand Prix on Saturday and broke both the talus and calcaneus bones. He underwent surgery on Sunday at the Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis where screws were inserted into the talus and mini plates used to correct the calcaneus, and he then required a second operation on Monday. But the biggest scare was when the 31 year-old suffered a reaction to an anaesthetic which caused a momentary respiratory arrest, a situation that was dealt with speedily by the medical staff present.

Nieto was interviewed after his surgery by Spanish magazine Here’s what Fonsi had to say.

After the uproar of Sunday, the calm, at least almost, has returned to room 4064 at the Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. There, Fonsi Nieto has been closer to death than to this world for 40 seconds after an adverse reaction to an increased dose of Valium. After that, his inuries are almost an anecdote.

I am happier than ever to see you, because we almost lost you Sunday night. What happened?
To be honest I didn’t realize much of it. The ones who had it worse were the people here with me, my uncle Angel, my friend Pato and mainly my cousin Pablo who stayed by my side. I remember that I was in tremendous pain, they gave me an injection of I don’t know what and I fell asleep halfway through seeing the syringe. It was like in a movie and the first thing I remember after that is people shouting in English, very loud, while I had my eyes closed. Then there was a loud noise and the sound of the respirator. And then, white clouds before I openend my eyes and saw people around me shouting. I took off the mask with my hands and now I saw thirty doctors with such happiness on their faces like they just won the lottery. I was shivering and sweating like they had thrown me into a swimming pool, surrounded by syringe wrappers and they told me I’ve just gone through something big, very big…

Did your cousin Pablo tell you what happened?
Yes, but before that I saw the doctor who was treating me and how he went away crying. I have had many operations and anesthesias, but it never he has been like this or how I fell asleep Sunday. It was very different and when I was waking up I began to shout: “Where is my cousin? Where is my cousin?”. Pablo came in crying and he told me that it was a miracle that I was alive. The doctor said the same to me, that I was dead for a minute.

Hearing about this, your injured foot is almost an anecdote, but tell us how it is.
Well, it’s not good. It is a big, big shame, because I was eager to get great results in the next races and no rider deserves to get injured. But okay, I’ve been in this for many years now and it took me a lot to return to the world championship where people know me.This happens when you give it everything. I never had the same conditions to fight in many ways. First with Aprilia where we got the runaround. Then I went to Superbikes with the helmet under the arm and paying just to be able to race… I’ve gotten a lot of criticism for being the son of Angel Nieto, the nephew, I don’t know what… But here I’m the same as everyone else, in the hospital. I showed that this is my passion and it’s what I love. I went to Superbikes paying to race, I made myself a name and I was able to return to the world championship where I want to be and where I wanted to return to. I like to be in front, to win and to measure myself against the best ones, because I am able to do that. This is a setback and frankly it’s the worst injury I’ve ever had, but I’m already thinking about recovering and getting back on the track soon, because this is where I have to be, it has cost me a lot to arrive this high up and I’m not going to throw in the towel.

What injuries exactly do you have?
The talus bone is broken into six parts and the calcaneus into another six, in the left foot. They told me these are some of the most painful fractures to have. But well, with this you can see that Fonsi gets much criticism, but he also got injured which gave him with even more motivation. I am here because of what I achieved and the motivation I gave to it.

Why was there a second operation on Monday evening?
It was an emergency. The foot was so inflamed and I screamed in so much pain that they saw there was something else not right. It burned so much and the pain went up my whole leg that I told Pablo they’ll end up cutting off my foot. They saw that it has become so bad that they got me back into the operation room immediately, fearing that I could lose the foot.

How did it go?
It did go well, they needed about an hour. They’ve put in drainages in and I now have a tube that is removing the blood.

Was this a consequence of a problem during the first surgery?
It wasn’t perfect and the doctor already told me that fixing this injury will be a very difficult job, because he’d never seen a foot as damaged as mine. The second surgery was to remove the blood clots and to put in a drainage. I’ve now got a kind of vacuum cleaner which sucks out the blood and they change the bags every once in a while.

And you will have to have a third surgery before going back to Spain.
Yes. It will be to get out the drainages and close everything up, hoping to return to Spain [today], in a medical airplace that the FIM got me and it will bring another doctor for me who my doctor Ángel Villamor sent.

(Pablo Nieto, always by his side, snorts that he hopes there won’t be another scare in the OR: “They told me that the second surgery would take two hours, but after an hour the telephone rang. They asked me if I was Pablo Nieto. I said Yes and the doctor told me that I shouldn’t leave the room, that he had to talk to me. Now, immediately. So, after the scare we had on Sunday, I was fearing the worst. He took three minutes to come to the room which to me felt like forever, but he finally told me that everything went well and I could breathe again, relieved. I don’t understand why he couldn’t tell me everything went well immediately.”)

How did the crash happen?
I said it many times that the last engine wasn’t going very well. We had three races were the bike didn’t work at all, there are the laptimes and I’m 40th in the speed list, I’m second last. And because of the motivation you start to force things with the bike your are second last with but with which you come within 0.3 seconds of pole… I highsided. At 31 years old I think I have to be smarter and not always put my heart into it that much, think a little more. But when that day comes I will leave everything and go home. As long as I still have the motivation and passion, I will continue doing it…

Did you immediately know that you’ve injured yourself badly?
When I fell I thought that I had destroyed my leg, because never in my life have I felt so much pain. The plates and screws that I already had from another crash in 2001 I don’t know if they helped or harmed me, but what is clear is that I destroyed the food and massively so. But if I have to work day and night I will do it, because my place is on the track.

How long will the recovery take?
They told me four months minimum and three to be able to put weight on the foot. I will have to work day and night on this, but I’ve already come back from things like this.

Have you set yourself the goal to get back on the bike before the season ends?
I set myself the goal to return to the podium, that’s where I have to be and I think I showed that I can be.

What messages are you getting from Spain?
My parents are very worried. To be honest they are treating me very well in this hospital and I don’t give them enough credit for it. And I’m amazed by how well people are treating me generally and by the amount of well wishes I’ve gotten. In these difficult times I have to be thankful and people remembered me who I’ve not spoken with in years. One of those who did so is my friend Guti from Turkey.

Did Valentino talk to you?
Yes, he called me and we talked. I’m thankful for the people who are here. When someone got injured or something happened to him, I like to call or send a message because they mean something to me. Now that it happens to me I like it too.

I see you are in high spirits. So, nobody would have to think this is the end for Fonsi Nieto?
Yes. I like to ride bikes and to do it well and when I don’t do this I don’t feel well. It’s the only thing that really satisfies me. I believe the most difficult year of my life was last year when, because of certain circumstance, I couldn’t race. They did a great thing when they gave me this opportunity, Dorna as well as my team Holiday Gym, Luis, my cousins… I’m so thankful for everything and I don’t want to disappoint them. I want to be there again. High spirits give you motivation and love for what you want to do. I’ve been away so many times and I’ve returned so many times that I can’t say anything.

But we will see you back on a bike.
Absolutely. It has taken me a lot to get to the world championship… Because of that I will get back on a bike again and again. In my life I can have all or nothing, because they have given me an opportunity and I don’t want to miss out on taking advantage of it. But before this I want to see my parents, my brother and my girl who are holding up very well. I would like to be back for Aragon, but I can’t say for sure.

Nieto, accompanied throughout by his cousin and Team Manager Pablo, will now make his return to Spain on a specially scheduled flight which will be assisted by medical staff due to his physical condition after the second operation left open wounds which will require a drain to relieve pain.

Upon his return Nieto will be admitted to the Clínica USP San José de Madrid where he will continue his recovery. Doctor Ángel Villamor, who has been in constant contact with the surgeons in the U.S., the rider and the team, explained to that Nieto’s condition is now stable.

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