Photo: The x-ray that reveals what I look like on the inside.
21st January 2014. A day that was to change my life and set me on a new path. A path on two wheels.
I was skiing in Flims, Switzerland with the Ski Club of Great Britain. I fell forwards and hit my head on a rock. My helmet split. It did it’s job, no concussion or adverse effects on the brain.
It was a misty day, so no helicopter rescues. Instead I was taken down the mountain on a sledge. The most painful journey of my life. I later discovered why.
At the hospital a young doctor showed me my x-ray. The shock wave down my spine had destroyed my T-9 vertebra and split the T-11. He had consent forms for an emergency operation. I signed. I woke up the next morning in intensive care after a 6 hour operation to replace my vertebra with a titanium cage and titanium poles down my spine to support me for the rest of my life.
Amazingly whilst still in IC two physiotherapists arrived to teach me a technique to rise from lying that I would have to use from now on. The Swiss hospital believes in getting you moving as soon as possible. I worked hard on it. Three days after the operation I was climbing stairs on my own. The whole team at Chur hospital were incredible.
The surgeon, Dr. Bruger, said something that changed my life. He described how unbelievably lucky I was that not a single shard of my vertebra cut my spinal column. He said the chances of not being a paraplegic were very low but somehow I got away with it. “You should consider the 21st January your new birthday”. I do and it was the start of a new life.
My wife and I decided that 2014 was the year for us both to retire, at the ripe old age of 54. We sold our house in Clerkenwell, bought a smaller apartment and went to live in Italy for a year and haven’t looked back.
As part of my recovery I decided to try cycling (I can’t run anymore, too painful). I bought a bike from the local Bianchi dealer, Stefano, and spent the winter of 2014/15 on an outdoor 2.3km cycling track in Fano.
Come the spring of 2015 I went out on the road for the first time with my cycling mentor Pino Piermaria. He said I was ready to start cycling with his club, La Centinarolese (I Pansèr). I was hooked and learnt the joy of cycling in the heat and lots of climbing.
On our return to London for the winter of 2015/16 I joined Islington Cycling Club (ICC). We used to spend the winters in London and the summers in Italy. Thanks to Brexit we have had to take up residency in Italy so that we can live here more than 90 days in a rolling 180 day period.
Since then I’ve had so many cycling adventures, all written up in this blog. I hope you enjoy it.
Colin (Pansèr 🇮🇹 and ICC 🇬🇧)