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Bernal: I've been given a second chance, I feel reborn

Egan Bernal leaves hospital
Egan Bernal leaves hospital (Image credit: Clínica Unisabana)

Egan Bernal has spoken of feeling ‘reborn’ and has paid tribute to doctors for giving him a ‘second chance’ after he nearly lost his life in a collision with a bus two weeks ago. 

The Colombian, who broke 20 bones and had to undergo two separate spinal surgeries, was released from the intensive care unit of the Clinica Universidad de La Sabana in Bogota on Sunday. 

As he left, he stood briefly for photos with the medical staff and with his friends and family. He then sat back down in his wheelchair to deliver a video message before returning home to continue his recovery.

“Life changed for me in one second,” Bernal said. “One moment I’m preparing for the Tour de France, giving it all on my time trial bike, and the next I’m fighting for my life.”

Bernal hit the back of the stationary bus while riding his bike at speed, fracturing his right femur and kneecap but also damaging the upper section of his spine. He underwent surgery to stabilise fractures to the T5 and T6 vertebrae, and thankfully emerged without damage to his spinal cord. 

He also had operations on his femur and kneecap, as well as treatment for a collapsed lung, before heading back into neurosurgery to address an issue with the cervical section of his spine, at the neck. 

Bernal had indicated he had a 95 per cent of paralysis, or of losing his life completely, and so, as he left hospital after a 14-day stay, he counted himself lucky. 

“Fortunately, I fell into good hands, and I believe that if it wasn’t for you [the medics], it would be a different story, so I have to thank you for allowing me to have a second chance,” Bernal said. 

“In truth, for me it’s like being born again, the fact that I’m alive. In the days where I was in pain, I said to myself ‘at least I feel pain - at least I feel something’, and that’s thanks to you. 

“I’m obviously now starting a very long process, but you have already done the hard work. My respects for everything you do - you deserve a lot more recognition than we give you, and thank you genuinely for giving me a second chance. I hope to one day be able to repay in some way all that you’ve done for me.”

Bernal will now return home to began his rehabilitation process, with no idea at this point when or even if he will ever be able to resume his career as a professional cyclist. 

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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.