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Champ Car Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Champ Car, Christiano da Matta

Champ Car Media Conference

Jeremy Dale
Chris Pinderski
August 11, 2006


THE MODERATOR: Good morning, everybody. We are here today to talk about the August 3rd incident at Road America between Cristiano da Matta and the deer on the racetrack.
I'm joined by Champ Car medical director Chris Pinderski, RuSPORT president Jeremy Dale. He'll take us through the events of the day and the ongoing process of Cristiano's recovery.
Jeremy, take us through the events. At the end here I would like to say we're on a very tight time schedule today with both Chris and Jeremy having to get out to the track. There will be no one-on-ones so please ask your question as a group.
JEREMY DALE: I'll let Chris handle all of the medical. I'm not going to get near any of that.
More than anything, what I wanted to say was, first of all, thanks to Champ Car and Chris and his team. They did a tremendous job with Cristiano at the racetrack and really made a difference, there's no doubt. He got to that hospital very quickly and has been very well-cared for.
Chris can speak to more the technicalities from a medical standpoint, but they really did a phenomenal job. Thank you to Champ Car for continuing to make investment in what I think is the best safety team in racing, period.
A quick update for all of you on Cristiano's family more than anything else. I went out to Wisconsin on Saturday morning. They had quite a time getting up from Brazil. I'm sure many of you know his mother and father, Antonio and Mary, his two younger brothers Gustavo and Philippe. They're a phenomenal family. Just great. I spent four days with them there in Wisconsin. They're doing very, very well.
The outpouring of support that has been given to this family and of course to Cristiano has been incredible. They wanted me to thank -- I left there Wednesday night. They obviously knew where I was going. They wanted me to thank everyone for that support and for all the love and everything that they've received. It's been truly incredible.
Cristiano is not awake yet, but we're getting there. So Chris is going to talk a little bit about that. But that family is not going anywhere. They are all there and they're by his side. The brothers are sleeping at the hospital every night. They're just not going anywhere.
THE MODERATOR: Chris, why don't you give us the latest medical update on what we have on Cristiano and what he's been through so far.
CHRIS PINDERSKI: I'm going to start kind of at the beginning. I'll kind of start from the time he hit the deer at Elkhart Lake. Everybody knows pretty much the details of the incident.
I think when the safety team got to the car, Cristiano was unconscious, so he was unconscious from the moment of impact. The Champ Car safety team extricated him very well from the car. I was actually on scene as well. He remained unconscious throughout the extrication. So we took him to an ambulance and stabilized him in the ambulance. I secured his airway.
Drivers that are unconscious for a prolonged period of time, prior to transport, need a secure airway as we call it in medicine. I did that. We established IV access. Then with the Theda Star helicopter flew him to they to Theda Clark Medical Center, where we knew they had very good neurosurgical support.
Cristiano needed a neurosurgical intervention on an emergent basis. He arrived at the hospital and he received a CAT scan from essentially his head to his pelvis to assure there were no other associated injuries. We didn't expect any, and none were found. But he entered the operating room 1 hour and 37 minutes after the incident, which is excellent in the overall management of head injuries.
I think you all know he suffered a right subdural hematoma, which is bleeding between the brain and a covering of the brain called the dura. When you have one of these injuries, there usually is an associated brain injury underneath that, the bleeding is fairly easy to take care of, however, the brain suffers an injury on a more microscopic and metabolic level that takes time to heal.
People that have these significant head injuries commonly get a significant amount of what's called cerebral edema, which is swelling of the brain. It's expected in these kind of injuries. He has been under very intense management of the brain swelling. It's actually receding.
Since his accident, the first several days he was very heavily sedated. They didn't want Cristiano to have any movements. It really limits his brain activity, to let his brain start to recover. After approximately three to four days, this sedation has been removed and currently he's under no sedation in the intensive care unit at the hospital.
Each day he has progressed a little bit more. This morning I've spoken to both Dr. Randall Johnson, the neurosurgeon, as well as the nursing staff. He's making slow but steady progress. He's doing things like purposeful movement. So, for example, if they physically pinch, for example, his left shoulder, he'll take his right hand and localize that and try to remove whatever stimuli is there.
It's a good early sign to the extent that his brain is able to recognize there's something going on over here and move his arm over to the appropriate place.
That being said, he's not doing anything to command. When they ask him, 'Cristiano, open your eyes,' he's still not doing things like that. He's making slow but steady progress. How the future goes is still unknown at this point.
He's been receiving excellent care in the intensive care unit there. We expect that trend to continue. He'll be there for at least two more weeks and then decisions will be made about where to transfer him for more care.

Q. What can we look for in the next like week to 10 days as signs of progress? What sort of progress would you be happy with, let's say, over the next week to 10 days?
CHRIS PINDERSKI: Any progress. As long as he's doing more day to day, we view that as progress. Head injuries are very, very difficult to predict what's going to happen. That's what has been the issue with Cristiano's injury and really any significant or major head injury: there's no way to tell what the outcome's going to be. It's literally a day-to-day process.
I think it's safe to say as long as there's positive progress being made each day, that's good. You know, when he's going to wake up, if he's going to wake up, is still unknown at this point. It's just watching him day to day and giving him supportive care.
That's about all that can be said right now. It's just too hard to predict because brain injuries are just too tough to predict what's going to happen in the future.

Q. Is it encouraging? If there was no activity at all, he didn't respond to that...
CHRIS PINDERSKI: That would be much worse. In fact, early on, we didn't know how he was going to do. The injury he sustained, although he looked fine on the outside, it's a pretty bad brain injury. When you take a deer hitting your head at 90 miles an hour or so, it's pretty significant.
I think it's safe to say that he's probably a little bit better than we expected at this point. He's made slow but steady progress. It's planed off a little bit in the last 24 hours. But nonetheless, he's doing a little bit more each day, and you have to look at that as a positive.

Q. Sounds like this whole operation couldn't have gone much better. You always learn something from every incident that happened. Have you learned anything?
CHRIS PINDERSKI: This actually couldn't have gone much better. Really the safety team does a great job, are very well-prepared to take care of these kind of things. We carry specifically airway management tools and things like that on the safety trucks and in the ambulances to be able to do these kind of things.
Getting someone into the operating room in less than two hours after a major head injury is excellent. Typically these kind of injuries are treated, you know, two to four hours. We actually had him under that two-hour window, which really helps in his ultimate outcome.
Surgical intervention was necessary. The faster you can do it, the better off patients will do.

Q. Jeremy, the reality is, of course, you have to replace him for the rest of the year. Do you have a candidate? Do you think it's something you'll announce after a week or so?
JEREMY DALE: I think in the next week is realistic. For the last, you know, really since Thursday afternoon, when the call came from the racetrack, I was actually here in Colorado, we have been 100% focused on Cristiano and his family and getting him and them everything that they need. That's really been our focus.
To say we haven't had discussions would be a lie. We've had discussions. But it's not been a focal point for us. It will become a focal point here pretty quickly. And I think it's safe to say, you know, within the next seven days we'll make a decision about what we're going to do with the 10 car.
THE MODERATOR: Gary Mason and RuSPORT will be putting out any statements if there's any updates throughout the weekend. This is our statement really today. This is the update for today. If anything should change, we will net you know accordingly. You can go to our website, their website, or we'll put out a release. I thank everybody for their time.

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