INDIANAPOLIS — Lucas Grounds, 15, left Riley Hospital for Children Friday morning, anxious to go home.
The Grand National Cross Country champion dirt bike rider spent almost two months in the hospital, recovering from a spinal cord injury. An accident on his motorcycle December 10 left him paralyzed from the waist down.
A group of about 10 family members and friends waited in the hospital lobby to greet Lucas. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, they were not able to visit him during his hospital stay. Lucas was living away from home for dirt bike training at the time of his accident, so most of his family had not seen him since October.
"I'm giving him a big hug,” said Nathalie, Lucas’ 13-year-old sister. “Even if he doesn't want a hug, I'm giving him a big hug."
"I'm going to be happy, excited,” said Hailey, Lucas’ nine-year-old sister.
Both girls wore orange t-shirts that read, “The Man, the Myth, the Mullet – Grounds Strong”.
When Lucas Grounds wheeled himself into the lobby of Riley Hospital, wearing a cap over his mullet hairstyle, he got plenty of hugs.
"It was definitely awesome to see my family again,” said Lucas, his voice cracking with emotion.
Lucas is a seven-time national champion in dirt bike racing. On December 10, at the end of a long training day, he wrecked on a slick covered bridge near Delphi, hitting a pole.
"I thought I knocked the wind out of myself,” Lucas recalled. “But I tried to sit up and I couldn't do it."
His spinal cord is partially severed, leaving Lucas paralyzed from the waist down. He left Riley Friday after almost 60 days. Rehabilitation included three hours a day difficult training learning to adapt and be self-sufficient in a wheelchair.
"The goal is to obviously walk again,” Lucas said. “It's going to take a lot to get there, but I think we'll be able to do it."
Doctors initially believed his spinal cord was completely severed and gave Lucas just a three percent chance of walking again, but Lucas has some feeling below his injury location. That, combined with more recent tests, indicate his spinal cord is partially severed.
The Grounds family lives in rural Martinsville but they are entrenched in the Mooresville community. All four children attend Mooresville schools. Mom works at one of the elementary schools.
The community welcomed Lucas home with a police escort past cheering classmates outside Mooresville High School Friday afternoon.
More support came from neighbors waiting in the driveway with signs when the family minivan arrived home with Lucas in the passenger seat.
"It's just been overwhelming to say the least,” said Justin Grounds, Lucas’ father. “But it's also been very inspiring."
The family has already purchased micro sprint cars and will add hand controls that could put Lucas into four-wheel racing.
"The amount of time and effort I had in racing was more than the time they go to college for,” Lucas said. “So you have to transfer that over to whatever you’re going to do next. "We just got to have faith in God. There's a reason why we're here. We don't know it, but I think it's going to be a pretty special journey."