November 10, 2016 in Personal Stories
Just over six years ago, I was out training for the Tour of Taranaki road cycling race, and was hit from behind by a car in an 80km/h area. The driver didn’t stop, and the first thing I remember is being in hospital, having my head glued back together. I got sent home that night, and as I walked through the door, I fell over again unconscious. From what I’ve been told, Mum and Dad kept an eye on me that night, and I guess I must have made it. The whole next week is kind of blurry, but the scary thing is, I can’t remember an hour before it happened. I had no idea where I got hit.
At the time I was working as a roofer, and as we were busy, I couldn’t really take any time off. So I went back to work but something weird was going on, my balance was all off, and I was getting what I now know as vertigo. (which is not cool when up on a roof all day) also, my mood had changed, I would get really angry quickly, but only for a short time, and anxious. Really bad panic attacks and headaches. But the thing that messed me up most was that I ended up with an arrhythmic heart rate. So when I rode hard, my heartrate would jump to 250 beats per minute or higher. Anything above 200 and your heart stops beating and just flutters, therefore, it doesn’t pump blood, so you get no oxygen, and fall over.
Bike racing has always been more important to me than anything else, so trying to deal with this, work full time and race, is tough. And before I knew what was going on, it got really out of hand. There was a couple of years where I was so anxious, and hated being around people so much, that I would ride eight hours a day on an indoor trainer, and at least this would wear me out so much that I would get to sleep without the bad dreams. I would drive six hours or more to races and be too scared to get out of my car, and turn around and drive back home. When I did finally line up for a race, my heartrate would blow out after five minutes and I would run out of oxygen and pass out.
For my heart problem, I ended up taking beta blockers to slow it down, and it works, but it takes a lot of my power away. I ended up going to see a psychologist because I really thought I was going crazy! His words of wisdom were ‘everyone gets anxious, otherwise we would take unnecessary risks’ (I’m riding 200km a day inside, because I’m too scared to leave the house). I ended up seeing a different psychologist and she was really good, and much more help. Then one morning I was doing laps aimlessly around the house, and I walked past the lounge, and Mum was watching T.V. It was the Attitude program, with Elizabeth Charlston talking about her head injury. I was just standing there, crying a little bit, thinking, that’s what I’ve got, that’s me right there. And that was the first moment I felt like I wasn’t watching the world fly by at a hundred miles an hour. So I joined up with the THINK! Page that she had set up on facebook, and ended up keeping in touch with her, and she has helped me more than any medical professional ever could. I have ended up becoming the cycling ambassador for THINK!, and I will continue to do anything I can to help them out, for how much they helped me.
Through all this I have continued to ride every day, and the last couple of years, I have (most of the time) got things under control. I am not any better, but with the help of a couple of people, I have got to the stage where I could go and race in Scotland last year. I had a bad crash earlier this year and it was like all this happened over again, I am starting to come right now and am going to America later in the year to race, and hopefully qualify for the World Cyclocross champs. Some days are pretty good, and some days are only just bearable, but if I can do it, it may give some hope to others in the same situation.