IU Health Neuroscience Center

IndyCar’s Bourdais Talks Brutal Crash, Amazing Care At Methodist

Patient Stories

March 28, 2018

Sebastien Bourdais remembers waking up inside a hospital room bright and early on Sunday, May 21, with a rehab therapist at his bedside.

It was time to start moving.

“Is this a dream?” he wondered. “She can’t really be here for me.”

“I was a little surprised,” said Bourdais, 39, a four-time IndyCar champion. “I’m pretty sure I told her she was in the wrong room.”

The day before, Bourdais had been in a brutal crash during qualifications for the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. His car slammed violently into a wall in Turn 2 during the third lap.

The fans who saw the accident were sure Bourdais wouldn’t walk away from that crash and, if he did, they were sure he would never race again.

But Bourdais, who suffered multiple pelvic fractures and a broken right hip, was taken to IU Health Methodist Hospital. Within hours of the accident, he was undergoing a three-hour surgery with Kevin Scheid, M.D., who is a medical consultant to IndyCar.

And now, the very next morning, a rehab therapist wanted him to get out of bed.

“They did get me up and wasted no time,” Bourdais said. “It was excellent. Everybody took really good care of me.”

Bourdais-leaving-Methodist.jpg?mtime=20180328150249#asset:53536

The medical care was so good that Bourdais walked out of the hospital on crutches just four days after his accident -- on May 24.

“It’s kind of distant,” Bourdais says, “just a distant memory now.”

Distant because Bourdais is, literally, good as new.

***

It was called Bourdais’ comeback race.

Earlier this month, he won the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. He didn’t have the fastest car in the race, but he had grit and a drive to prove he would be great again.

Bourdais, a driver for Dale-Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan, said he’d heard the questions from people. Would he be the same driver? Could he overcome the fear of another crash?

He tries not to dwell on the accident. Yes, he says, he remembers the crash -- hitting the wall and losing track of time for a couple of seconds.

Bourdais-St.-Pete.png?mtime=20180328150516#asset:53537

“After that, I knew something was broken,” he said. “But you’re not sure to what extent.”

The injury was bad, a string of detrimental fractures. Yet, Bourdais’ quick recovery surprised even Dr. Scheid.

“Sebastien is progressing amazingly fast for having pelvis and hip fractures, and considering the severity of the crash,” Dr. Scheid said days after the accident. “He is walking with crutches, in good spirits and feeling good.”

And, unbelievably, this month’s St. Petersburg race wasn’t the first time Bourdais has raced since the accident.

After leaving Methodist, he worked hard, extremely hard to get back to driving condition. “The first couple of months were a little rough,” he said. “It was a lot of rehab.”

And then less than three months after his May injury, Bourdais stepped into a car to race again.

He finished 10th in the IndyCar race at Madison, Ill.’s Gateway Motorsports Park in August. He says he was easily back to 90 percent at the time of the race.

And now, he’s ready to go full speed this IndyCar season.

“We had the fastest car in May and it was looking all very good,” Bourdais said. “If history could repeat itself until that Saturday afternoon of the crash, I would be OK with that. And this time, just keep going. I’m ready.”

-- By Dana Benbow, Senior Journalist at IU Health.

Reach Benbow via email dbenbow@iuhealth.org or on Twitter @danabenbow.

Rev, an event which raises funds for the IU Health Foundation to help statewide trauma and critical care programs, takes place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 5. Find out more here.

Share This Story

Related Services

Emergency Medicine

Emergency medicine includes treatment for trauma, orthopedic, brain/head, heart and other surgical emergencies.

Critical Care

Critical care is for patients who need life support, around-the-clock care and other specialized medicine during serious illness or traumatic injury.

Trauma Rehabilitation

Physical, occupational and speech therapists, and social workers provide trauma rehabilitation after injury.

Level I Trauma Center

Level I Trauma Centers provide advanced trauma care as verified by the American College of Surgeons.

Fracture Care

Surgical and nonsurgical care for broken bones, including splinting, casting and surgery.