TMS Media Relations | Jul 16, 2014
FORT WORTH, Texas (July 16, 2014) – When Gina Patterson was rescued from a flash fire in her family’s Arkansas home in 1993 that claimed the lives of her father, sister and two friends, the 19-year-old had burns over 88 percent of her body and was given exactly one percent chance of surviving by doctors.
Forty surgeries, countless hours of rehabilitation and 21 years later, the University of Texas at Dallas physical fitness and conditioning instructor has been unwavering in her quest to lead a normal and highly productive life while creating a "Personal Bucket List” to set and establish life goals.
On Wednesday, Patterson was able to check a significant item off that “Personal Bucket List” compliments of Texas Motor Speedway and the Team Texas High Performance Driving School.
For the past 15 years, driving a NASCAR-style stock car on a race track sat idly on Patterson’s list until Texas Motor Speedway invited her out to achieve that life goal with a small group of close friends in tow to watch the magical moment. With a Team Texas instructor in the passenger seat, Patterson got behind the wheel of the yellow No. 29 Pennzoil Sprint Cup-style stock car and soon was running laps near 150 miles per hour on the high banks of Texas Motor Speedway’s 1.5-mile oval.
“I originally started it (personal bucket list) not long after my burn injury and it kind of just gave me something to focus on,” Patterson said. “It kind of gives you hope to work harder in physical therapy so I can do these things because some of them, like this, right after the accident I would have never been able to climb in that car, ever, even if y’all stuffed me in there. So work hard and follow your dreams.”
The drive had additional significance for Patterson, who was coming off the 21st anniversary of the loss of her father, Billy, and the others just a few weeks ago. While growing up, NASCAR provided a special bond between her and her dad as they enjoyed watching racing together, a sport she still follows today.
“It touches my heart that they (Texas Motor Speedway) would do this and it shortens the list definitely,” Patterson said. “There are good people out there who do nice things and it was unexpected. So I had to read the e-mail (from TMS) twice. I was like, “Is this a joke?” So yeah, I appreciate it. … This is number one on the list and nothing is ever going to beat this.”
Patterson has been an inspirational story of courage, perseverance and ambition ever since that tragic fire in Eureka Springs impacted her life. She has not allowed the tragedy or the scars from the incident slow her in any fashion as she has achieved numerous career goals. She also helps those that are coping with a similar situation she had endured and provides an example that anything is still possible.
Among her accomplishments:
Texas Motor Speedway heard of her courageous story through one of its sister Speedway Motorsports Inc., race tracks – Atlanta Motor Speedway – and had the means and opportunity to assist her in achieving one of the goals on her “Personal Bucket List.”
“Gina is a tremendous example of courage and perseverance that has made her an inspiration to many,” Texas Motor Speedway Vice President of Media Relations Mike Zizzo said. “She has experienced quite a journey over the past 21 years, but the tragedy has only motivated her more to make a difference in her life and in others. I know she was extremely happy to have this opportunity, but it also warmed our hearts at Texas Motor Speedway as well to see her achieve another bucket list item.”
So what is next on Patterson’s bucket list? A trip to Las Vegas.
“It was my 40th birthday this year, so January 1st she (her friend Teresa) decided we’re going there,” Patterson said. “It was on my list a little lower, but I was like okay because it’s booked and anyway that’s the next thing on the list. I’m sure Vegas is going to be awesome, but nothing is going to beat this. Best roller-coaster ride ever.”
NOTE: Video from Patterson's experience is available at http://goo.gl/G3nhd5 and additional photos can be viewed here.
Team-Texas-High-Performance-Driving-School, Personal-Bucket-List, The-University-of-Texas-at-Dallas, Gina-Patterson