"Never let anyone tell you that you can't do something," wrote Egan Bernal in a caption alongside a video of himself riding a recumbent stationary bike just 24 days after a collision with a bus that left him fighting for his life.
Bernal left the Clínica Universidad de La Sabana in Bogotá on last Monday to begin his rehabilitation and recovery from 20 different fractures at home. At that time, he posted a photo of himself standing, for the first time, with medical staff. Four days later, he took his first steps on his own while wearing a brace to support his back.
A medical update from the Clínica Universidad de La Sabana last week stated that Bernal's post-operative days looked favourable and that being able to walk without help was one of the first goals of his rehabilitation, but noted that it could take up to eight weeks.
Bernal has, so far, exceeded the expectations of his rehabilitation team, showing much progress in standing and walking with support from a back brace, and gradually riding a recumbent stationary bike without the brace.
On January 24, Bernal crashed into the back of a stopped bus while training on his bike near his home in Colombia with several Ineos Grenadiers teammates.
Ineos Grenadiers team confirmed in a medical update at that time that Bernal suffered fractured vertebrae, a fractured right femur, a fractured right patella, chest trauma, a punctured lung and several fractured ribs in the crash.
He underwent treatment and recovery at the Clínica Universidad de La Sabana after a complex but successful spinal surgery, along with surgeries to correct the fractures to his knee, femur, metacarpal in his right hand and to manage dentoalveolar fractures in his mouth, according to a medical update from the hospital.
Bernal made his first public statement in a post on social media on February 4, when he also published a photo from his hospital bed.
He said that he had almost died and had a 95 per cent chance of becoming paraplegic. He spoke of feeling ‘reborn’ and has paid tribute to doctors for giving him a ‘second chance’.
“Life changed for me in one second. 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 said.
“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 as he left the Clinica Universidad de La Sabana.
“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.”
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Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in cycling from the community and grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all men's and women's races including Spring Classics, Grand Tours, World Championships and Olympic Games, and writes and edits news and features. As the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten also coordinates and oversees the global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.