Mike's Story: A Rider With Paraplegia

Oct 30, 2013 at 17:22
by Jack O'Hare  
A Friend’s Perspective: A Rider With Paraplegia

On the afternoon of May 22, 2013 an afternoon bike ride with a friend turned out to be the most distressing, horrifying, and life changing event that I have experienced to date.

I've known Mike for a few years now. He had heard that I rode downhill, he was starting to get into the sport, and so he approached myself and some friends at school, sat down, and introduced himself. Little did I know at the time he was to become one of my closest friends during the years to follow. Since that day, we've spent countless hours riding, shuttling, digging new trails, and hanging out.

www.michaelblyth.com.au

Mike is mature beyond his years, dedicated, and has an incredible attitude. One thing a lot of people notice about Mike is his awesome sense of humour, and his instant like-ability. You can see people getting drawn in as he speaks and laughs with them. He is always friendly and non-judgemental.

Two years ago, Mike crashed his bike. He landed headfirst off a road gap and broke his neck. Whether it was a combination of luck or chance, Mike suffered no permanent damage. Despite breaking two vertebrae he rode home unaware of the extent of his injury. Though he went through months of rehabilitation and therapy, Mike was fine. He was back on his bike, cautious, but still with many good times ahead.

Fast forward to May 22nd, 2013. Mike and I had planned on going for a ride in his hometown of Sunbury. He had been working on and maintaining a few local spots: downhill trails, jumps, practically anything he could go and ride. He wanted to take me out and show me a spot he had been working on - a few little jumps and drops in and around an old eroded gully.

We looked at a new line, nothing big, nothing scary or crazy. A small drop down into the gully. We only had one bike there that day and Mike decided to hit it first. As I sat on the edge of the gully, Mike rode past me, went off the drop, lost his balance and went over his handlebars into the bottom of the gully. He landed on his head, hard enough to fracture and dislocate the T7 vertebra in his spine. I expected Mike to jump back up on his feet, maybe call it a day and head home. Instead he called out to me, telling me he couldn't feel anything. At first, I didn't know what he meant. The impossible had become reality. On that day, everything in Mike’s life changed. He was left on the ground without any feeling from his stomach down.

www.michaelblyth.com.au

The next few hours were a blur, as were the days after. I called an ambulance and tried to keep Mike calm while we waited. I had to call his parents. We were just minutes from his house. Telling his parents what had happened is one of the hardest things I have had to do. His parents, brother, and sisters came and found us. We all helped the paramedics and the firefighters to carry him out. He was sent to the Royal Melbourne's emergency department. By the time I arrived there, the staff had done scans to confirm the injury and prepare Mike for surgery. Doctors told Mike that it would be unlikely he would ever walk again, let alone ride. I sat by his bed for hours.

Mike’s surgery was a success. The surgeons discovered that his spinal cord was crushed, not severed. It was in one piece but could no longer send the impulses and signals needed for him to have sensation and movement from the injury down.

A few months later, Mike was set to go home from rehab. He can do one-handed wheelies in his chair, get himself in and out of a car, be self sufficient. He can now do a lot of things that we do every day without even thinking about, he just doesn't use his legs anymore. There are hundreds of complications with his injury, but there isn't a need to talk about all of them. What is important is that Mike manages to overcome them. Each and every one of them. However, what Mike doesn't have is money. Because he wasn't on a road he has no insurance, his superannuation fund didn't have Total and Permanent Disability cover. So unfortunately, Mike and his family are faced with hundreds of thousands of dollars of costs. Bills, rehab, house modifications. The list goes on and on.

Mike’s life was turned upside down but his attitude and determination are absolutely inspiring. Mike still manages to be the life of the room, telling the jokes and wearing the biggest smile. Mike’s convinced that he will be back on a bike again one day. Two wheels. And I believe him, because he's already shown that if anybody can pull through it’s him.

www.michaelblyth.com.au

Going through this with Mike has changed my opinions, my maturity, and my outlook and attitude to life. It has made me more appreciative and more aware of what people go through and how good the majority of us have it. So perhaps the next time you go to get something new for your bike simply because you like the colour, or go to buy a round of beers for your friends after a ride, maybe buy Mike a round as well. Doesn't matter how much or how little. Anything counts and Mike will appreciate it all.

Thank you,
Jack O'Hare








88 Comments

  • 342 1
 Thanks a tonne to my best old mate Jacko for writing the article. This dude has done too much for me and my family! And of course you guys, everyone reading this article, Pinkbikers, and riders love you all! The support from you crew has been amazing!
  • 9 0
 As Mike said. A big thanks must be given to the riding community. Even all the people commenting with positive words. Mike and myself appreciate all the support.
  • 3 0
 Good on you for staying positive and working so hard through all of the challenges. A good racing friend of mine paralyzed himself in an XC race almost two years ago. I was right behind him and saw the crash. It took me a long time to feel comfortable riding again and I still think about his injury everytime I'm out riding. Keep after it and take advantage of everything you can!
  • 119 3
 My name is also Michael, and I was also left paralyzed from the chest down from an OTB downhill accident. The beginning is rough, but it gets better. The way I do certain things in my life isn't exactly the same as it was before, and there are some obstacles I've had to overcome, but the main things in my life are the same. I still love riding (offroad handcycling), I still do mixing and mastering in my home studio, I still enjoy racing, I still have an amazing family, and always will. I'm donating to the fund you have set up, because I know how tough it is with all of the expenses. Healing vibes, bro. Hang in there.
  • 24 0
 ^^ This guy is a chief. props
  • 2 0
 I'm proud to say SkyJacked was my riding buddy, I have to say before my biggest inspirations were people like aggy and stevie, now its him without a doubt, such a cool and positive guy, all of us in rapid are still thinking about you, you need to come visit sometime man!
  • 80 3
 this made me cry.. like a lot
  • 23 0
 Props to Mike for takeing it like a champ and to his family to helped him trough this hard time. I could never handle an injury like that..
  • 16 0
 Stay strong Mike. I was in a bad car accident almost 4 years ago with my wife and her back was broken in 3 places - shattered T3,4 and 5. Every day is tough, but her strength and the support of great friends and family keep us going. Laugh heaps and stay strong mate. You'll be back on the trails soon enough!!
  • 16 1
 Ah man, I hate hearing about this kind of stuff happening to other riders. I don't know you Mike but I wish you well. Things will get better with time.
  • 7 0
 Can't help but think the Leatt and similar braces put excessive anterior force on T5,6,7,8ish vertebrae during an OTB scenario. Of course, It is probable that the Leatt helped to prevent or minimize the trauma to the upper C-sp, justifying it's use. I guess at the end of the day, it is there to protect the most 'crucial' part of the spine. I just wish it was able to (magically?) function without excess stress to other equally-important structures (ie, Thoracic spine, A-C joints, occipital fractures...). I suppose this is impossible. Heeling vibes young man. I reckon your young age and determination with rehab will see you biking again.
  • 2 0
 After I got the ct I talked about this with my consultant. My break is too low to be affected by the brace, and the type of break I had couldn't be achieved by the loading from the brace. My trunk got folded over, and that's what broke me.
  • 2 0
 Of course. Hope things are going a little better each week for you. All the best mate!
  • 11 0
 Crying here like a girl! Stay strong!
  • 10 0
 real men arent afraid to admit to crying.
  • 3 0
 Second that
  • 5 0
 I don't know you but I have seen you around. Even though I don't know you I have looked up to you even before your crash by working at my favourite bike shop and being one of the people who service it and knowing one of my friend I go mtb riding with. I have heard about your riding and from that I have heard it is amazing so I hope you get better and get back on a bike some time.
  • 3 0
 Christ this is a scary story, I broke my back twice this season, both times wearing a Leatt and once with a back brace. It just goes to show, if you fall hard enough shit gets messed up.

Its great to hear you are doing better, though I couldnt read through the whole (well written) article as it hit a little too close to home. Iv donated and hope everything turns out alright.
  • 3 0
 Stay Strong Mike. Makes me feel guilty that some insurance companies (and with my line of work, I am covered insurance and health care wise for riding as it is an approved sport) cover us in times like this due to it being classed as a "training ride". I have recently returned to MTB racing after over a decade off the bike playing rugby. I lost interest in rugby after fracturing my C2 and C3 from being dumped on my head. I fought for ages for insurance coverage and while I am lucky and have near no long term effects (still get chronic neck pain occasionally) I got nothing at all. After returning to racing, the first thing I purchased (and yes, this was before my DH rig arrived!!) was a Leatt Brace and have worn it every single time I ride. I think it is great how the MTB community bands together to help a brother or sister out in times of need. I think maybe a fundraiser ride needs to be organised to assist Mike and his family.
  • 4 0
 just want to say, huge amount of respect for what you're going through mate. all the best with the recovery, and hope to see you back on the bike one day.
  • 2 0
 Mike I was just about to mention the cause on facebook some riders are looking at than I realised it was you who came up with the idea.
How is that going?

Good to see your staying positive. Its Inspiring to see feats of true strength when you have been hit this hard. Keep moving forward champ.
  • 2 0
 Sending you positive healing vibes and strength. I had a SCI from riding 8 years ago. My spinal cord slowly healed in the months that followed and I am walking now. I am one of the lucky ones. Keep your chin up and stay positive (sounds like you are!) There will be very difficult days but know that your inner strength will get you through. I truly believe your chair will be in a museum within 15 years and you'll be riding with your kids one day! There is a LOT of research being done in Canada on SC regeneration.
  • 2 0
 Some years ago there was a horrible, freak accident in our bike park at Esher and a rider's life was changed for ever after he lost the use of all his limbs.

I was in the bike park along with some of his friends when this accident occured and will never forgot that day. Thankfully the paramedics got to the bike park within 5 minutes of the call going out, and undoubtedly saved his life as he could not breathe due to the injuries he sustained.

Unfortunately he did not have any insurance and was forced to sue the bike park and landowner to try and pay for 24 hour medical care following his discharge from the NHS.

The lawsuit hung over the bike park ( a not-for-profit enterprise) for 3 years, until his legal team admitted defeat (it was found to be rider error) and sadly he got nothing to help with his care.


After his accident, I went out and got insurance specifically to cover me for any injuries caused by my riding, as I was doing a lot of extreme freeride and downhill racing.

I would strongly advise any riders who are actively mountain biking to make sure you have proper insurance cover, its often not expensive (I was paying about GBP£40 a month) just in case something happens you don't walk away from.


To Mike, I wish you the best of luck for the future and hope your plans come to fruition.
  • 2 0
 Whilst I agree with what you're saying 40 quid a month is a lot of dough and beyond a lot of younger folk on here. That said for piece of mind it's maybe worth it. Aren't you covered by the UCI gold licence for accident cover? I've always wondered. I often wonder why more companies don't promote extreme sports insurance cover, doesn't seem to be a lot of info readily available, at a level where ordinary folk can access it.

I remember when this happened to the chap you're talking about - someone was talking about it in Cycle Surgery, Camden - must have been the same guy right? 12 years later my brother broke his spine at Fort Bill... there's a lot of it about and it's the white elephant in the room to a lot of riders... I know I ignore it every time I still go out and ride downhill myself - how else would we carry on riding?
  • 1 0
 @rustybones

I did find the costs high as I was not earning much but then realised it was only £10 a week which in perspective is not a lot, especially compared to potential costs of ongoing medical bills or the amount we can spend on bike parts or beer!

The guy injured at Esher worked for cycle surgery. Everyone associated with the bike park felt really bad as it was a fellow rider down. We wanted to organise an industry fund raiser at the first Esher shore jam, but the jam got cancelled and bike park closed down for 8 months following start of his lawsuit, we were firmly told by our legal team to not try and do anything to help him as it could be seen as admission of liability!
  • 3 1
 donated. really inspirational to cover from a huge injury only for another. i dont doubt at all mike will push himself harder then most of us know a human body can be pushed. good vibes out to ya
  • 1 0
 What a beautiful account; thank you for sharing. You're right, some of us forget what we have and take it for granted. Blessings to you and Mike - you are lucky to have each other. The road to rehabilitation is a lonely one otherwise. Strength, love and determination, forget the cost. X
  • 1 0
 Best of wishes to you bud! Keep positive you re still alive, you ll b riding one day again and to the rest of us spoiled ones thats another story bout how much we take life for granted sometimes; its sure Priceless.Cheers to you Mike!!
  • 2 0
 A friend of mine went through something similar.....he spent 2 years in a chair, but his determination put him back on his bike......Sure you can do it mate...just try harder every day bro.
  • 1 0
 That's awful but he seems to be making the best of a rough situation. Its unfortunate but these types of injuries are a reality of our sport and it goes to show how passionate and driven we are for the love of riding. Best wished and recovery!
  • 1 0
 Great story,inspiring, thank you for sharing.

One part which really upsets me is hearing the insurance company doesn't cover the accident due it not being on a road. WTF? Does that matter? A person's life has changed… Insurance, legal crime.
  • 1 0
 I once heard it ain't how hard you can hit, but how many times you can get hit and keep getting back up. It sounds like you are a master at this and I have a feeling things will get better for you. I'm optimistic for your future and inspired by how you fight on, Mike. I hope my little contribution serves you well.
  • 1 0
 Way to push forward Mike!! I have two friends recovering from similar injuries, both brothers. Amazing people, doing amazing things! www.doorcountyadvocate.com/article/20131102/ADV01/311020118/Giving-back-Recovering-brothers-want-mentor-others
  • 1 0
 Broke my neck riding back in 2001, fracturing C5/6/7. Came about a half millimeter from the spinal cord, so I got super lucky. I have a race team mate who is a paraplegic from a surfing accident this past summer. Its so f**king unjust. I don't understand why we haven't found a repair or cure for this yet.
  • 1 0
 It is so difficult hearing about other riders getting injured. Its even harder when the country you live in and were birn in wont lift a finger to psy for treatment... thats shocking. In the uk we have the NHS and i am extremely greatful for it. I would never be able to imagine what it feels like for you. But im mortified at the fact you have to pay for treatment yourself... get up get on and ride.
  • 1 0
 Keep at it Mike. My brother crashed at Fort William a few years ago and crushed his T6/T7 which compressed his spinal column. He had 2 rods and 16 screws put in, in Glasgow hospital. Initially he couldn't walk and had no sensation from waist down. He improved frustratingly slowly and went through endless physio. 4 years later and I was out riding with him this weekend. All he wanted to do was get back on his bike... He has other issues with bladder and bowel etc but never complains and has humbled us all with his quiet determination to get back on his feet and back on his bike. Keep at it. Take strength from friends and family. Aim high and never quit. All the best to you.
  • 2 0
 So good to see you back at work today Mikey! Shit set of circumstances, but you still take them on like a true champ! So much respect mate 3
  • 2 0
 A similar Sory here in Germany. This man build a full suspended Downhill-Wheelchair: videos.mtb-news.de//videos/view/24310
Stay strong and don`t abadon hope!
  • 1 0
 "Always look on the bright side of life" ;-)

However, hearing things like that always gets me thinking: "is it really worth the risk?"
Imagining it happen to me REALLY frightens me!
How do you guys handle this?
  • 1 0
 i have scoliosis sometimes it hurts so much that i cant even ride my bike... but that is worst... he could buy a r-one fourcross... i know its not the same thing but its better than not riding at all...
  • 1 0
 I Hope You will recover one day and go back on trial but what I wish to happen now is that some of so many bike companies, sponsors should support your rehabilitations showing their dedication to riders society
  • 2 0
 Wow, what a read. Good luck man. Mountain biking is a big community and we are all behind ya!
  • 1 0
 I couldn't imagine a harder injury to deal with, I am inspired by your strength, and I hope you make it back onto the trails if it's what you enjoy
  • 3 0
 Rolling with the punches, keep ur chin up dude !
  • 2 0
 Good luck with the rehab dude. 30 of your finest Australian dollars winging there way to you as I type. Stay strong.
  • 1 0
 Damn Onions! Heal up fast man! I have to give credit Jack O'Hare on writing this article. Stay strong and continue to be an inspiration.
  • 1 0
 Can anyone explain the Australian healthcare program?
I thought it was a "universal"type system where this type of stuff was always covered.
  • 2 0
 I think its like Canada, health care will get you out of the hospital and keep you alive but the rest of the rehab etc. is all based on private insurance. The basics are universal. A lot of ins and outs and a lot of debate on the effectiveness of a universal health care system. I don't want to turn this into a debate on healthcare as it would be disrespectful to the effort Jack put into this very considerate and inspirational article. Best wishes for Mike and family.
  • 2 0
 No, I dont want to do that, either.I truly just thought that it was paid for through taxes and that was it.I had no idea about needing private ins ontop of it. Maybe that's Britain or Denmark or something
  • 2 0
 I knew your comment was just a FYI but I just didn't want people to get carried away. Its so easy to get out of control sometimes.
  • 2 0
 The AU health system is pretty good, it will completely cover hospital and rehabilitation costs, but it won't cover all the extra's in a case like this, wheelchair, car mods, ramps at home, new bathroom (if needed for chair access)... It also covers elective surgery for free if you are willing to go on a waiting list.
  • 1 0
 Thanks for the clarification
  • 1 0
 I like it. It's like a sit to stand that the user can move around with. I work at a Hospital and this would be great for some people but I'm sure the cost is up there and insurance won't cover it. I think it's a huge step for a new begging for someone tho
  • 2 0
 It is a huge step up for a lot of people, but you are right about cost. If insurers were smart they'd cover it since it improves recovery and mobility, reducing overall costs. I hope to seem them get more popular.
  • 2 0
 The sad thing is that insurance companies are not smart, they are all about $$$$ and they think the quick fix is always the best. I could go on all kinds of rants but I'm not. Great post btw I hope it can change lives for people
  • 1 0
 I´m at the other side of the world , but you´re going to be present in my prayings tonight.
We all do need the Lord's presence in our lives.
Be strong, brother!!
  • 1 0
 Be strong Mike! Now is overcome and show you that new challenges can be overcome because you can rely on family and friends ..
  • 4 1
 Respect.
  • 2 0
 Mike you have earned my respect
  • 1 0
 Thank you Jack for sharing. Mike, stay positive and stay strong. You will get back on a bike one day.
  • 1 0
 Stay strong bro. You will make it one day. Dont stop trying. Cheers from the Greek DH scene.
  • 3 0
 God bless you mate
  • 1 0
 Be strong, live strong and take each day as it comes life is a great teacher and everything happens for a reason xx
  • 1 0
 Keep strong and positive. You can get back on a bike if you make it happen. Keep trying bro.
  • 1 0
 The same thing happened to my mate almost a year ago now
  • 2 0
 stay strong bro!
  • 1 0
 Be strong Mike!!! You are a hero!
  • 2 0
 Stay strong.
  • 1 0
 Huge amount of respect for you Mike! One day youll be back on both feet!
  • 1 0
 Good luck to you Mike. Donated.
  • 1 0
 That's rough, Look up to you Mike!
  • 1 0
 I'm sensing a Wheelz Jr. in the near future... Wink
  • 1 0
 good luck
  • 1 0
 Hang on and stay strong!
  • 1 0
 Best of luck Mike.
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