It was March 6th, 2011, I was in Girona, Spain on a month long project for work. My day started like the five days leading up to it. I woke up, had my two cups of café creme and a couple Pain au Chocolat (a croissant type pastry chocolate in the middle). Setting out for my commute, I threw my leg over my bike and headed to the warehouse 4ish miles away to prepare 20 or so Trek Madones for a Ride Camp trip in Mallorca, Spain. I got to the warehouse, put on my favorite working music, and started to wrench.
I finished prepping the bikes that day, had a snack, cleaned up my work area, jumped on my bike and headed out on my usual route back to the hotel. I had no idea I was moments away from my life being changed for ever. I was on a short dirt path along the Riu Ter. When I hit an unknown object that stopped my front wheel abruptly and sent me somersaulting into the air. I landed directly on my neck about 10 to 15 feet away from my bike. When I made contact with the ground I heard what sounded like a thick tree branch snapping in half, an unforgettable noise coming from inside my neck. I did not feel my legs hit the ground. When the dust settled, my hands folded in front of my face, but I could not move them to get the dirt out of my mouth and eyes. I laid there in a fetal position for a moment hoping that feeling and movement would be restored. Hoping that it was just shock causing a moment of paralysis. My breathing was very short and my neck really hurt. With each short breath I took in dust, but couldn't cough. All I could see was the glistening of the water, and the leaves tumbling by. I tried calling for help, but all that came out was a faint whisper.
What was probably only a few moments felt as though it was an eternity.
I saw a shadow slowly creep over my right shoulder, a little elderly lady’s face came into view and said "Hola. Estás bien? ¿Que pasó?" Anna's sweet little voice was so comforting in that moment. I will never forget it. After a confusing exchange trying to explain to her that I did not speak Spanish and learning that she spoke very little English, I was able to explain to her to not move me, and that I had hurt my neck and we needed to get an ambulance there fast. After calling for help she put her leopard print jacket over me and helped me make a phone call to my friend, and coworker Ingrid to get the message to my family, and boss that I had been hurt.
While waiting for the ambulance Anna and I were exchanging small talk. She told me that it was a random circumstance that she was walking by. That she lived in Barcelona and hadn't planned on going to Girona, but her friend was on vacation and they decided to go sightseeing. She was trying her hardest to keep me alert and my mind off of what was happening. But all I could think of was whether or not I'd be able to walk, ride a bike, run around with my nieces and nephews, work, a family or wondering if I was going to have a normal life ever again. What did I do to myself and what does my future hold….
It was probably about 10 to 15 minutes before the ambulance arrived, again it felt like an eternity. The EMTs cut off my helmet my t-shirt and my backpack. They were speaking in Spanish quickly and loudly. Anna was helping me with translate back and forth with them. Good thing they were well trained and knew not to move my neck. I was afraid of all the horror stories that I'd heard about first responders in other countries. They got a neckbrace on me and put me on a backboard with the utmost care and urgency. The drive through the old Girona to Consultes Externes (the nearest ER) was bumpy and full of twists and turns.
I must of passed out at some point because I woke up in an emergency room where a young Dr. Jordy, with a thick beard and glasses, quietly and calmly ask me if I could feel the pin? I asked “What are you talking about?” He told me he was conducting a feeling and function test. He was sticking a pin into various parts of my body. And for the life of me no matter how hard I concentrated I couldn't give him an answer. He told me that I had a spinal cord injury at my Cervical 4 level and I had lost all faculties below my shoulders. I broke down and started to cry. He told me that I shouldn't give up hope and to stay positive. He then informed me that they were sending me to the best hospital in Spain, Vall d’Hebron, in Barcelona. They gave me a bunch of pain medication preparing me for the ride to Barcelona that took about an hour. Again, the EMTs did not speak English. It was an insane ride as they were driving fast and furious to get me to the ER ASAP. When I arrived they gave me some more medication and I went to sleep.
That day, 5 years ago today, I began my journey as a new person with different abilities from you and the person next to you. But it hasn't stopped me from living a fulfilling life and being happy. This is only where my story begins.…
Tune in monthly for more blog entries that will consist of stories, spinal cord injury news, and updates of my recovery.