Two months after suffering an accident that almost cost him his life, Keagan Girdlestone has spoken for the first time about the 'most testing' weeks of his life. Girdlestone crashed into the back of a team car while chasing back to the peloton following a previous incident during the Coppa della Pace race at the start of June.
"Hello World, it's been a while!" Girdlestone wrote in a lengthy Facebook post. "As most of you probably already know, I was in a pretty bad accident 8 weeks ago that nearly ended my life. This has been the most testing 8 weeks of my life and the first few weeks were very dark, probably because I was sleeping most of it or have little memory of what happened in those weeks."
Girdlestone went through the back windscreen of the car at the Coppa della Pace, where he was racing for the Dimension Data continental squad. The accident resulted in life-threatening cuts to his jugular and carotid arteries that prevented blood and oxygen from reaching his brain. He lost a lot of blood and also suffered serious nerve and muscle damage.
Thanks to swift work by race doctors and those at the hospital in Rimini, the young South African survived the horrific accident. He spent 22 days in intensive care before being transported to the Department of Neurosurgical Science at San Giorgio hospital in Ferrara. It's too early to tell what lasting damage there may be as a result of the crash, but Girdlestone has made some big strides towards recovery. It has been far from an easy path, as the 19-year-old explained in his post, but he has been able to find some humour in the situation.
"During that time I was hallucinating and the things I thought I saw make me worry about myself. And the things I apparently said, 'mum these nurses are trying to f'ing kill me' - luckily they are Italian and speak little to no English haha," wrote Girdlestone.
"Anyway back to being serious. I should be dead. It's a miracle I'm able to walk, talk (very softly as my vocal cord is damaged) and have brain functionality. Over the last few weeks, since I can remember, I don't think I've ever cried or lost my temper so quickly in my life. I guess that's what it feels like to have PMS (ladies, am I right?).
"During this experience of me not having functionality in my right arm and uncontrollable shaking of the left hand when I try to use it, I have begun to appreciate the small things in life. Doing everyday things such as drinking a cup of coffee without shaking and spilling half of it all over myself before reaching my mouth, or being itchy on the left side and not being able to use my right arm to scratch it (thank you for being there to scratch for me Mum) Desere."
South African by birth but brought up in New Zealand, Girdlestone took a huge step towards his ambition of becoming a professional cyclist when he was signed up as part of the fledgeling Dimension Data continental squad. The move came after a strong result at last year's World Championships that saw him take fourth in the junior time trial and an overall victory at the Ronde des Vallées.
Girdlestone concluded his post by thanking those that had supported him during his challenging time. "To everyone that sent me messages, I can't thank you enough. There was a night in ICU when I gave up on life and accepted death (I was hallucinating pretty badly), but I woke up the next morning with my mum over me, and I looked into her eyes as she told me "everything is going to be okay." A blurry vision I will never forget. That is when I knew I had to win this fight, and could."