Monday, April 20, 2009

The Incredible Recovery Of NASCAR's Robbie Weiss

Earlier this month there was a gathering in Miami, FL. A group of professionals was being honored by The Sports Business Journal as being in the "40 under 40" group of top sports executives in the nation. Click here to see the full list.

Pictured above on the left is Paul Brooks, a Sr. VP of NASCAR and the President of the NASCAR Media Group. Brooks was in Miami to introduce a fellow NASCAR employee who was being inducted into the "40 under 40" club for 2009.

His name is Robbie Weiss and he is the smiling man on the right side of the picture. Weiss is in charge of NASCAR's TV contracts both in the US and around the world. Weiss is NASCAR's "TV guy."

Veteran fans may remember the pale faces and shaken expressions of the NASCAR executives as they took the stage on January 22nd during the Charlotte Media Tour. Jim Hunter, Mike Helton and Brian France all appeared to have their minds on other things. As it turns out, the issue on their minds was Robbie Weiss.

Earlier that morning, Weiss had suffered a brain aneurysm while at home packing for a NASCAR trip. From out of the blue, a vibrant and powerful media executive had been turned into a 38 year-old man slowly dying alone on his bedroom floor.

Luckily, Weiss was having some work done on his home and was eventually discovered unconscious by his contractor. The good news was that he was still alive. The grim news was that full recovery from a brain aneurysm is rare. Click here to visit the Brain Aneurysm Foundation homepage.

After emergency brain surgery, Weiss wound-up in the Neurological Intensive Care Unit at Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte. He remained unconscious and on a ventilator while his family assembled to deal with this new and unexpected challenge. If there was any question that Weiss was going to fight for his life, it was about to be answered.

Only four days after the aneurysm, Weiss opened his eyes and mumbled "hi." The ventilator was removed the same day. Weiss had movement on the right side, but the left side of his body was not responding.

Struggling to provide some good news, his family told him that he had been nominated for the "40 under 40" award. They had no idea if he understood.

Once the fast pace of modern life gives way to the slow and plodding recovery path from an aneurysm, small things take on new meaning. February 2nd brought the gift of eating solid food. Two days later the hospital's physical therapists got Weiss out of bed and stood him up. He also completed saying his ABC's correctly.

On February 13th, Weiss left the Presbyterian Hospital and was transferred to a local rehabilitation facility. He was not sent in an ambulance. He wanted to walk to the transport van and get in himself. Hospital staff may still be talking about his determination.

Only twelve days later, Weiss was cleared to go to Florida for therapy at a rehab center in Delray Beach. This would allow him to be near his family. Slowly but surely the mental, physical and emotional recovery continued. Although life will never be the same, Weiss continued to progress.

The next chapter of the saga was Weiss returning to Charlotte for a major check-up at Presbyterian Hospital. On March 30th, Weiss amazed doctors with his progress and was cleared to resume what most of us would call a normal life.

Five days later, Brooks introduced Weiss in Miami at the "40 under 40" dinner. Weiss made a simple and thoughtful speech about his life, his family and his friends. He thanked the contractor that found him unconscious, the doctors that operated on his brain to save his life and his colleagues at NASCAR for all their support.

It had been 71 days since the aneurysm. Weiss was the only honoree selected to give a speech. He received a standing ovation.

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