Race Season-Ending Accident – UPDATE 8
My absence from this blog since Sunday, June 27, has been due to serious injuries to my neck and back caused by a collision with a electric scooter as I was starting my training ride on the local bike trail. The operator lost control of the scooter which struck my front wheel resulting in my catapulting over the handlebars of my bike. I impacted the ground with the crown of my helmet which cracked in two places – and saved my life. I knew immediately that I was seriously injured. The scooter operator panicked and fled the scene without any attempt to summon emergency personnel. Fortunately, a recreational cyclist soon arrived on the scene and summoned police and rescue personnel.
The full extent of my injuries include a broken neck with severe swelling of the throat requiring a trachea, 15 vertebrae fused, and four chest ribs fractured. I have spent the last five weeks in various rehabilitation units at two hospitals. This past Monday I was allowed to return home and will be receiving home care by a host of nurses and rehab specialists through August and September. Right now, I am wearing a neck/shoulder brace. A rib brace was removed before I left the hospital. I am receiving medication and nutrition through a tube in my stomach.
The outlook is a full recovery with a possible first spin on my indoor trainer in early October. I have lost 25 pounds, mostly muscle which will take months to restore. I want to say thank you for all of the cards, letters, and text messages of support I’ve received since my whereabouts were shared with my cycling colleagues and family members. There is no way to describe the loneliness of laying in a hospital bed attached to a variety of tubes and sensors for weeks and weeks without any way to contact them.
I plan to resume posting weekly reports in early October. See you then and please always wear a helmet when you are on your bike.
UPDATE 1 (August 15): I’ve retained legal counsel to pursue the individual responsible for my injuries, and his three companions, all of whom left the scene of the accident without offering aid or summoning emergency assistance.
UPDATE 2 (August 22): My occupational therapist informed me during our last session last week (August 19) that he wants to see me get on my trainer in two weeks (August 30). That’s not suggesting that I’ll ready to resume training. But, only that my muscle strength and balance are returning to normal.
UPDATE 3 (August 29): Nine weeks since the accident. Both physical and occupational therapy techs are discontinuing home visits because I’ve demonstrated competence walking and performing daily tasks. Today, I walked for half a mile in the local park. This was my third day of walking outdoors and I will be increasing my distance daily for the next four weeks. I’ve also started eating regular foods, like pasta, ice cream, and potato chips. I had a regular meal for dinner last night with no ill effects. I’ve also discontinued the narcotic pain killer in favor of 1000 mg of Tylenol Extra Strength three times daily. Lastly, my final occupational therapy task tomorrow will be mounting my stationary bike. I easily completed that task yesterday on my own just to see if there would be any neck or back pain. There was no pain.
UPDATE 4 (September 05): Ten weeks since the accident. Continued daily walks around the neighborhood with my longest walk reaching one and a half miles. Total mileage for the week was 6.24 miles. Also got “official” permission to start eating solid foods “as tolerated.” So, I’ve resumed my regular diet and have no further need for the feeding tube in my stomach. I can even swallow my pain pills by mouth. Consequently, I’ve halted my weight loss at 30 pounds, which includes 3.5 pounds of titanium pins and rods in my spine.
UPDATE 5 (September 12): Eleven weeks since the accident. Trachea is scheduled to be removed on Wednesday, September 22. Neck brace is scheduled to be removed on Tuesday, September 28. Feeding tube in my stomach needs to remain for several additional weeks, though I don’t use it. Attempts to identify the individual(s) responsible for my injuries has been met by stonewalling by the scooter companies. My medical bills to date have reached $660,000, though I am only responsible for less than $500 of that amount.
UPDATE 6 (September 19): Twelve weeks since the accident. Have been trying to be more active, but being held back by the rigid neck brace and trachea. Daily blood pressure readings have steadily improved and my body weight has risen to 142 pounds from 138 pounds at release from the hospital. No progress yet identifying the individuals responsible for my injuries.
UPDATE 7 (September 26): Thirteen weeks since the accident. Race season ended today. Confusion among my healthcare providers over who’s responsible for removing my trachea. Hopefully can get this situation sorted out and the trachea, stomach feeding tube, and the rigid neck brace removed this coming week. Body weight is approaching 144 pounds. Need to start physical therapy to improve my neck, shoulder, and back muscles before I can hope to resume training for next season. No progress in identifying the individual(s) responsible for my injuries.
UPDATE 8 (October 3). Fourteen weeks since the accident. Neck brace has been removed. Trachea is being removed at 10 AM on Tuesday, October 5. Removal of the stomach feeding tube will have to wait until the trachea wound in my neck has healed. Two months of physical therapy has been scheduled to begin on Wednesday, October 13. I’ve reactivated my TrainingPeaks coaching account and have requested permission from my doctor to begin easy spinning on my indoor bike.
Hey Jim its Marvin Shifflett in Virginia, I am so sorry to hear about your serious accident ! I was wonndering why you were not posting anything about races or training. While I have not commicated by email, I do routely visit your blog to see what you have been doing training and racing wise, I was hit my a car in the fall of 2018. I ended up the emergercy room for hours but eventurlly realesed after endless x-rays and tests. Long story short i sued the elderly lady to turned in front of me during a charity ride. it was really shooke me up for awhile and made much more aware of my surranding when riding. I now choose my training routes with saftey in mind.
I can only image the hell you have been through the last couple of months. Sounds like you are on the road to a full recovery with time. I know with your determination you will in time return to your outstanding racing form and abilites!
Please keep all of us updated on your progress and know we are all thinkig about you everyday!
My thoughts and prayers are with you,
Thank you, Marvin, for your kind words of support. I’m hoping that my neck and back will heal without compromising my aero position for racing next season. I’ll keep everyone posted.
It’s Mick Cooper – from the UK. With my very best wishes.
I have only just heard about your accident. Ben Rocco emailed me to let me know.
I am so sorry to hear about it. Your injuries sound horrific, made worse by the hit and run aspect and you being left in the road. It does seem as if the roads are becoming more dangerous for cyclists. That is also the case in the UK.
I hope you are on the road to recovery and that the pain is lessening. I know what it’ s like to spend time in hospital, having broken both hips, at different times through cycling accidents. I know it is frustrating and depressing, especially for someone so focused and competitive.
Please be aware that I am thinking about you, and wishing you a speedy and full recovery. I am sure you will be following all the medical advice, and with your spirit and determination I have no doubt you will get there in the end.
With all my best wishes
Mick Cooper (ex coach!)
Thanks, Coach, for the kind words of support. I’m better than halfway through my rehab, but it seems neverending. You helped me establish the fitness foundation that has helped me survive this accident. Thank you with all my heart.