Three years later: FD man recovering after racing crash; Wife races in his honor
Not only did doctors think Brad Hanse would never walk again, they suspected he might not even survive.
That’s after Hanse, of Fort Dodge, was critically injured in a Figure 8 racing crash at the Webster County Fairgrounds in June 2017.
“I was told he wasn’t going to make it,” his wife, Andrea Hanse, recalled. “Then I was told he would never walk again.”
Fast forward three years and Hanse has defied the odds on both counts.
Hanse suffered a traumatic brain injury and bled internally from the collision. He suffered a broken arm, shattered left hip and a broken femur, among other injuries.
But little by little and with the support of family and friends, Hanse persevered.
And his wife of seven years has been with him every step of the way.
Brad Hanse no longer races. But Andrea Hanse has taken the driver’s seat in his honor.
She competes in Figure 8 races in Fort Dodge and Rockwell City.
The road to recovery has been a long journey, said Brad Hanse, who said he doesn’t remember anything about the race from the night of the crash.
“Last thing I remember is grilling in the pits before the races,” Brad Hanse said. “We unloaded the car. We were grilling up some food sitting there and that’s all I remember.”
Later that night, the driver’s side of his car was rammed by another car at about 50 mph.
Andrea Hanse watched in horror from the pits.
“I saw everything,” she said.
Brad Hanse had to be extricated from the vehicle by first responders. He was later airlifted to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City from UnityPoint Health — Trinity Regional Medical Center.
The wait was unbearable.
“It seemed like forever we were in the ER in Fort Dodge,” Andrea Hanse said. “He was in and out of consciousness and because of a storm that came through they were going to take him on a small plane instead of LifeFlight. But the storm passed so they LifeFlighted him. It took me a little over three hours to drive down there, which seemed like forever.”
The reality Andrea Hanse was confronted with was not something she was willing to accept.
“When I first got to Iowa City, they told me they didn’t think he was gonna make it and I should call family,” she said. “I couldn’t do it. They finally let me see him, they had him on an IV of morphine.”
Three surgeries later, including a 12-hour long operation to repair internal damages, Brad Hanse was eventually able to start communicating more.
The helmet he was wearing at the time of the crash saved his life, Andrea Hanse said.
During his time in the hospital, Brad Hanse was unconscious for eight days.
“We spent 33 days total between Iowa City and Des Moines before he could come home,” Andrea Hanse said. “He did rehabilitation. He had to learn how to live all over again.”
Having visitors lifted his spirits.
“I was in Des Moines when I had like 30 visitors in one day,” Brad Hanse said. “Twenty-five one day and 30 the next. I was like, ‘holy crap, I seen everybody.'”
Before he could return home, a bathroom had to be created on the first floor of the couple’s Fort Dodge home.
“When we first brought him home he was nonbearing weight,” Andrea Hanse said. “He had to be in a wheel chair. It was a big adjustment.”
His recovery has involved a lot of ups and downs, but his friends wouldn’t let him stay down.
“It seems like everything takes forever,” said Brad Hanse, explaining what it was like to regain movement throughout his body. “In your mind you can still do it, but your body is like no way.
“I had friends that would come and get me, though, and drag me around. My buddy would be here every morning to hang out with me. He’d get me in the car and we would run some errands. They didn’t let me sit around.”
Now 7-year-old daughter, Aubree, who was 3 at the time of the accident, has been a source of inspiration.
“She made sure he did his physical therapy and exercises and everything,” Andrea Hanse said. “Not every day is good. There has been a lot of bad days. But Aubree has been a big part of keeping him going.”
“I’ll say, ‘I don’t want to go outside,’ and she’ll say, ‘let’s go outside,'” Brad Hanse said.
By September of 2017, Brad Hanse was able to walk with some assistance.
“That’s when he took his first steps without a walker,” Andrea Hanse said. “It seems like every time they said he wouldn’t be able to do something he proved him wrong.”
Brad Hanse now walks with an ankle-foot orthosis (brace) or a cane, depending on the terrain and distance of the walking.
“It’s not bad when you walk on even ground,” Brad Hanse said. “But when you walk on an incline, it gets a little shaky.”
It was sometime in 2018 that Andrea Hanse decided if her husband couldn’t race, then she would.
“For one or two races we were in the pits with our friends,” Andrea Hanse said. “We missed it so much. We weren’t going to let someone else decide we couldn’t anymore.”
Brad Hanse said he was surprised when Andrea Hanse said she wanted to race.
She enjoys being part of the action.
“Even before I started racing I was always in the pits,” Andrea Hanse said. “It’s so different in the driver’s seat. It’s such an adrenaline rush. You don’t have time to think, you just have to react.”
Seeing younger girls enjoy the sport and realizing they can do it, too, gives her satisfaction.
“A couple of times a little girl was rooting for me,” Andrea Hanse said. “The little girls tell me I’m their favorite or they want to race when they get older.”
Racing has been part of Brad and Andrea Hanse’s lives for well over 20 years.
“I race with a lot of guys who Brad used to race against and we are all friends,” Andrea Hanse said. “They are willing to help on the track or at home. We had dirt track racers from all over the U.S. reach out to us. It’s overwhelming — the racing community. You race against these people, but then when something like this happens, you don’t even have to ask, they show up and help.”
Brad Hanse may still need two more surgeries, Andrea Hanse said. He’s been unable to work since the crash.
As for the car involved in the crash, it has been scrapped. A new one has the words “#BRADSTRONG” imprinted on the front.
Brad Hanse builds the motors for the new car. Aubree Hanse is the honorary crew chief.
Although he’s not behind the wheel, Andrea Hanse said her husband still has plenty of advice to offer.
“I keep telling her she needs to go faster,” Brad Hanse said.
Andrea Hanse’s next race is tonight in Rockwell City.