ALBANY The man paralyzed by a flying wheel at Fonda Speedway is slowly fighting his way back to his feet.
David Buanno, 69, is still in the intensive care unit at Albany Medical Center with a broken neck. Doctors initially said he would be totally paralyzed, but he shocked his family by shrugging his shoulders three days after the accident. Now he’s beginning to get feeling back in some parts of his body.
And Tuesday, he began to breathe on his own, something else doctors once said he’d never be able to do.
They have been slowly weaning him off a ventilator. He breathed without it for a short period of time Tuesday and is now using it at a much lower oxygen level, forcing him to supplement with his own breathing.
“That’s big,” his brother, Peter, said Wednesday. “A lot of places he can’t go if he’s totally on the vent. He can’t blow up any balloons, but it’s progress. That was a relief. That was really big.”
The man is doing so well his family is starting to think about rehabilitation centers.
“He’s got some arm movement, and he’s got some feeling in his left foot,” Peter Buanno said. “I’ll pick his arm up and he can push my arm right down on the bed, but he can’t lift his arm. But you never know — with therapy, you don’t know how far he can go.”
Doctors have told David Buanno they won’t know the extent of his permanent paralysis until his neck heals. The initial swelling from the injury could still be blocking feeling and movement.
The progress is well beyond what his doctors ever thought he could accomplish. At this point, Peter Buanno can attribute it to nothing but God.
“So many people are praying for him,” he said. “He goes to church faithfully, every weekend.”
David Buanno, a retired Amsterdam-area businessman and member of the Fonda Speedway Hall of Fame, was struck by a wheel that flew off a stock car at the race track earlier this month. Doctors initially thought he wouldn’t survive, but when he began to suddenly improve, the family authorized spinal surgery, and Buanno came out of it with a far better prognosis.
Still, there have been setbacks. One of Buanno’s lungs collapsed because he had to be positioned on one side for surgery. Then he contracted pneumonia.
“So he’s been running a fever, and he’s sleeping a lot,” his brother said. “There’s been a lot of things going on. I couldn’t believe that he was able to breathe on his own a little bit yesterday.”