Champion drag racer Darrell Gwynn said Tuesday he has laughed a little and cried a lot while trying to adjust to crash injuries that left him paralyzed.
"It's a true test," said Gwynn, flanked by his mother and fiancee. "And I think we're going to make it."
Gwynn suffered injuries to his neck, spine and left arm when his dragster hit a guardrail at more than 200 m.p.h. during an exhibition in Bedfordshire, England, April 15. Part of the arm was amputated. Five weeks later, when the injuries were no longer life-threatening, Gwynn was flown to Jackson Memorial Hospital and became a patient in the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis.
"My inner strength has come from my friends," he said. "Since this accident I've heard from everybody I ever knew, and that's been a big part of this recovery."
Gwynn, 28, receives four hours of therapy daily.
"It's pretty sad what you can't do," he said. "Some of the things they have me do would take you all a minute but take me almost a full one-hour class.
"They make us work for every single thing we do. If they give us a cookie, they hold it up in the air and make us reach for it."
This month, Gwynn began going home on weekends. He is scheduled to be released from the hospital Nov. 9; until the crash, he and fiancee Lisa Hurst planned to wed Nov. 10.
"We just put that on the back burner," said Hurst, 24. "I want him to be able to feel good about it and enjoy it."
The more time that passes, she said, the better Gwynn deals with his paralysis.
"He'll joke about things," she said. "I'll say, 'Let's walk over to the deli,' and he goes, 'You can walk. I'll ride.' With things like that, I feel like sticking my foot in my mouth, but at the same time it's nice to see that he's making light of it sometimes.
"Don't get me wrong. He was crushed when it first happened. He just couldn't imagine never driving a car again."
She said Gwynn was eager to see a videotape of the crash. When it arrived, family and friends gathered around his hospital bed. The tape showed a dragster breaking in half, spinning, flipping and exploding into flames.
"He must have watched it 50 times," Hurst said. "When we saw that footage, we realized he's lucky that he's even with us still."
Gwynn wants to remain connected with drag racing and has had offers to work as a television commentator. But his only plans are to work on the business side of his family's racing team.
Most of all, Gwynn wants to walk again.
"I think someday I'll eventually get all the feeling back and I'll be walking," he said. "I don't know if that'll be two years or five years or 20 years. But someday I'll be walking."