Sunday, April 22, 2007

Surgery, a blessing in both best and worst scenarios!

David Hedrick is an Earnhardt fanatic, if not an Earnhardt expert. Ever since he was 5 years old, the Tyler resident has followed the racing family's every move around the track.Even that tragic one.Hedrick, 22, will be living the dream Sunday at the Samsung 500 at the Texas Motor Speedway. He has been invited to attend the race as a guest of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. His day will include lunch with Junior and watching from pit row, and his night will include partying with the drivers.

"He is so excited," Hedrick's grandmother, Susie King of Tyler, said. "He cannot comprehend all that is fixing to take place for him."What makes Hedrick getting to attend the race in VIP capacity so exciting is the life he has lived, one that is a continuous battle. Having been diagnosed with mild to medium special needs at age 12, he is the victim of daily seizures.Sadly, that's not all.In May, he is scheduled to have two major brain surgeries. If he opted to not have them, doctors have said he would likely end up in a vegetable state or "be blessed with death," Mrs. King said.

Four years ago, his mother was killed in a motorcycle accident. Within six weeks after her death, two of his dogs passed away.But Hedrick, who went to live with his grandparents after his mom's passing, is a survivor. He has been collecting everything that is Earnhardt for years. Replica cars. Shirts. Hats.His first fascination was with Earnhardt Sr., who tragically lost his life at the 2001 Daytona 500. His second fascination was with Junior, who took over the family reins en route to winning two Busch Series championships.Look in Hedrick's room, all you will see is No. 8.

Look into his mind, you will find an uncanny knowledge of Junior and Senior."I'm so excited," Hedrick said. "I have never met Earnhardt. I'm going to be happy."Said Mrs. King: "His favorite sport is NASCAR. He eats it, lives it and breaths it. Anything anybody needs to know about Earnhardt Jr., David can tell them. If it comes to Earnhardt and something he's accomplished, that young man has got it down to a fine art."Hedrick's trip to the race was made possible by a family friend, Carl Crawford of Tyler.

Crawford contacted the Junior camp and told them of Hedrick's situation.And ... voila."David's a good boy and he deserves that," Mr. Crawford said. "The day the tickets came, it was kind of a tearful deal. To make somebody's wish come true, it's just amazing. A lot of people don't realize what these kids go through, and there are so many things they don't get to do because nobody steps out and helps.

My enjoyment in life is getting to see other people enjoy."Said Mrs. King: "I just thank God for Carl Crawford because that's the only way David could do it. David has had a lot of grief in his life."Once the race is complete, and Junior and Hedrick paint the town of Fort Worth on Sunday night, much of Hedrick's family will turn their attention toward May 15 and 18 - the surgery dates.

According to Mrs. King, doctors have given Hedrick's surgeries a success rate of about 95 percent. By that, they mean his best-case scenario would be no more seizures and his worst-case would be controlled seizures.If successful, the surgery will allow Hedrick to possibly read and get a driver's license. Utterly, Hedrick getting to drive makes complete and poetic sense. His greatest passion involves cars.

To one day build his own race car is his biggest dream. It would be a car he could spin around dirt tracks like two of his uncles do every Saturday night, with Hedrick serving on their pit crew."That's everyone's dream," Mrs. King said.


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