Go-kart racer beats all odds to gets back on track

On Saturdays in the fall and spring, Calf Pasture Beach is home to the Norwalk Karting Association -- the stillness of the shore, drowned out by speed, as the parking lot becomes a racetrack.
"This is our 51st year. We go from 5 years old to whatever age," said Norwalk Karting President Tom Donahue. "We've got nine people that have started here and are up in the NASCAR race circuit now." 
They include Randy LaJoie, Corey LaJoie, Parker Kligerman and Ronnie Silk. 
"For some people, this is as good as it gets," said member Hugh Gorman, pointing to himself.
Hugh is one of the older drivers at age 63.
"I absolutely love go-kart racing--yes!" he told News 12 with a smile.
Hugh started about eight years ago after life got off course. His brother died from cancer in 2012.
"Liam was a ... he was a good older brother. He was a year older than I was, so we were close," Hugh said tearing up. "If someone needed to cover my back, he was always there."
Liam Gorman was also a champion racer with Norwalk Karting.
"Very good driver, and he just ... he called these people his people. He was always happy here," Hugh explained.
So in 2014, Hugh decided to pay tribute to Liam by finding his brother's old kart and buying it back.
"I was just going to campaign it around in his honor, and it quickly became ... now I see why he raced go-karts for so long," Hugh said.
Liam's number was 41. Hugh became 341.
"The first couple races I was afraid I wasn't doing him justice. I was pretty slow," Hugh recalled.  
There was a learning curve, but in time, Hugh was racing all over the East Coast, even winning his division. His brother's kart is now retired, but Liam is still part of the new one.
"I have the number 41 with a shamrock inside it. I can see it. Nobody else can," Hugh said.
It's a comfort, especially on that day, Hugh's first time back in a year and a half.
On Aug. 14, 2021, he was admitted to Waterbury Hospital with COVID-19 and things quickly got worse.
"So they intubated me, and I went in a...you know...in a coma...sleep," Hugh said trailing off as his eyes filled with tears.
During that time, Hugh had a massive stroke that paralyzed his left side.
"They were saying things to my wife, which I didn't know at the time, that I wasn't going to be able to talk, or walk, feed myself," said Hugh, getting choked up.
"The whole thing was numbing," added Sally Gorman, his wife of 34 years.
Hugh still hadn't woken up on Sept. 24. His doctors told Sally there was nothing more they could do and suggested taking him off life support. Sally talked about it with family and made the difficult decision to do so.
"He was going to be at peace," she recalled emotionally. "It wasn't going to be one more thing. It wasn't going to be COVID, pneumonia, a blood infection, a stroke."
Sally prepared to say goodbye. Then two days later Hugh woke up.
"I looked at Hugh and I walked over to him, and I said, 'Do you know who I am?' And he nodded yes," Sally remembered.
Hugh was awake but couldn't do much of anything.
"Sally had to give me my options, which were not good," Hugh told News 12.
He could go to a state institution, into hospice care or take a shot at intensive rehabilitation.
Hugh responded, "I don't quit," the first words he said to his wife since waking up.
So Hugh went to Gaylord Hospital on Oct. 8.
"I think it was Oct. 27 I took six steps. Big day," Hugh told News 12 as he held back tears. "It was on a walker, you know, and the parallel bars, but there were six steps. And I think the next day was 18, then 30, and we were off and running. They taught me everything I can do now."
"They worked Gaylord magic, and we just felt beyond blessed," Sally said.
But even with all Hugh accomplished, there was still a question of if he'd ever race again.
"This is what he loves. And so even the doctors would talk about, 'Would he ever be able to do this?'" Sally explained. "And so for them to say, "No, he'll never get back in a kart again,' it's just even more rewarding to see him out there having fun."
Hugh was excited for his return but admitted, "My anticipation level of success was much greater than it was after about five laps of practice."
And while Hugh would like to be a little faster, finishing last is still finishing. He's just grateful to be back on track.
"I knew in my heart of hearts that this day was going to come, just didn't know when," Hugh said.