Name: Karey McGee
Home: Wesley Chapel, FL
Occupation: Equestrian trainer
"It was a Sunday, the day after the Fourth of July 2009. I wasn't doing anything unusual, just reheating a hamburger, when I had a stroke. I ended up spending five days in the hospital. The stroke was super-scary, of course, but what I feared most was that I wasn't going to be able to race again.
"This was a really important year for my drag-racing career. Anthony Navarro and Tim Ulman of Playthings Racing, John Fernandez of ACME Racing, John "Shybear" Davis ... those guys really went out of their way to help me that season, and I was really excited to prove myself as a rider. I was so scared my stroke was going to ruin that opportunity.
"I couldn't let them down, so I decided to get back on the bike as soon as possible. A week and a day after I was released from the hospital, I was at Maryland International Raceway for the Fast By Gast/WPGC Bikefest. I had to look over at my left hand on my first pass to tell it what to do, and it took me half the track to shift into second gear. I cried myself to sleep that night. Racing is what I live for. To line up and not be able to just do it naturally, and to have to think that hard even just to shift, was frightening.
"The next day I was still struggling, but at least I could shift! When your brain goes through that kind of trauma, it takes time to reconnect the wires. Eventually it came back together, and I soon ran an 8.331-matching my best pre-stroke ET. I made it to the final round, but when I lined up I felt the bike creeping. My mind told my hand to pull the clutch back in, but my body did the opposite and let it go, and I jumped the light.
"I didn't sweat that too much. I still didn't have 100 percent feeling in my left hand, but my mind was able to go back and synchronize the two hands. To get that far in just two weeks, I was ecstatic."