It's been a while since I've written on here, so I'm just dropping in to say hi and give an update. You haven't heard from me much lately and probably won't hear from me much for a while, because my main priority right now is brain injury recovery.
I crashed a mountain bike September 30, 2022, and have been working through a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) since then.
To start, the fact that I’ve recovered as much as I have makes me feel very thankful. A doctor a few days ago called my recovery "miraculous." I feel simultaneously both very unlucky to be in this situation in the first place and very lucky that my recovery has gone about as well as it could have, mainly because I've had excellent care, I'm 27 years old so my brain is still malleable, and my family has been able to help take care of and advocate for me. I spent the first several days after my crash in a coma, then the next time period in something pretty similar to a coma from which I could be woken forcibly but not easily. It was exciting for those around me when I began sleeping only 22 hours each day, rather than my previous 24. A priest was brought in the first night to perform the last rites because I wasn’t expected to live, but then I did. (I'm not remotely religious so it's hard to know what my last rites would have included, but the hospital was working on solving some bigger problems at that time.)
What actually happened, I don't exactly know. I know that I was riding the biggest jumps of my life – Bellingham’s Blue Steel line – and I heard I'd successfully sessioned the set-up jumps but crashed on one of the first big ones (which is a little disappointing to hear, to be honest, since I wish I could ride those without wrecking myself). A nurse who happened to be on-scene helped evacuate me, and I was fortunate to have an ambulance at the ready as part of the jumps event I was doing. Then, I was moved to my local hospital, where I spent about three weeks in the ICU. After that, I was moved to a hospital in the Denver area that specializes in treating brain injuries. My memory restarts roughly mid-November during my stay there. Finally, I was moved to an outpatient therapy clinic in Portland, Oregon, where I continued the intensive all-day every-day therapy before finally being released to go home.
I've been really appreciative of the people in my life during this time period. You all are the highlights of an otherwise pretty grim phase. I shared an update on Instagram
that received a surprising amount of kindness and well-wishes. My friend Chelsea Kimball (check out her riding
if you haven't - she's an incredible ripper) started a GoFundMe campaign
where she shared updates on my progress and collected funds to put toward my recovery. I'm very glad that everyone around me has stepped up in the ways that they have.
I'm also absurdly thankful for my job and coworkers, who have shown more than ever before that they have my back. Everyone I work with, both near and far, has checked in consistently, been willing to work with me on my now-necessary time off, is helping to preserve my job for when I can come back to it, and so much more. None of that was necessary, all of it has been because they're kind, caring people, and when I think about all the jobs I've had in years past, there's no job situation that could possibly have been as helpful as this one throughout this injury. Pinkbike and Outside, you all are amazing and I am so, so thankful to have you in my life.
While of course this injury has made me reassess my risk-taking, I glad that my injury is a sort of predictable outcome of hitting big jumps. While in the hospital, I met many fellow patients who had been victimized by entirely unpredictable circumstances – things like being hit by a car while walking on a sidewalk. I think I’d be having a much harder time right now making sense of my current condition if my injury were something random and unexpected, but the fact that I intentionally made choices that I’ve always known could lead here makes it somewhat bearable.
Now, I’m mostly back. I’m missing hearing in one ear, which isn't expected to come back, missing some peripheral vision, which may or may not come back, and my balance, memory, and processing speed are worse than they used to be. I'm not working right now, largely to prioritize my (now very frequent) doctor's appointments and because stress is definitively bad for my brain, but I’m hoping to come back before too long. I miss my job, my coworkers, the feeling of familiarity... all of it, more than I ever would have expected.
It's funny how our perspectives can change so quickly. Before my crash, I remember feeling exhausted because I habitually sign myself up for too much. I'd just spent a month in Utah paragliding and competing in a weeklong paragliding race, then began the most recent Field Test in Whistler. Despite paragliding and Field Tests being two of my favorite ways to spend time, I just wanted to rest. Now that I've spent almost four months forced to rest, being tired from doing my sports sounds pretty nice. I'm now back living in Bellingham, which feels like a great move toward recovery.
My next steps are a little hazy. Depending on the frequency of my doctor's appointments and how antsy I feel (very, as of right now), I'm hoping to start moving back into my job before too long. I'm not riding bikes right now, but I do expect to get back on a bike in the next few months. (I'm not right now mainly because my balance is worse than it used to be and I really, really need to avoid hitting my head again, since I'm now at risk of a more serious re-injury.)
All of this is a long-winded way of saying I'm kind of not okay and kind of okay at the same time, and that I'll be back. One of my first projects once I start working again will be to write a review of the helmet I was wearing when I crashed, which, honestly, I'm excited to write. That helmet did its part to save my life.
Until then, please take care, everyone. Stay safe and have as much fun as possible.
Thanks for the heads up and looking out for us brother and hope you find a solid bucket for that noggin!
I'm so incredibly stoked to see that you are doing so much better, Alicia! And maybe even more excited to hear that you'll be writing again for PB as your condition improves and time permits. The wellest of wishes for you my friend!
I reckon this is the update that 99% of visitors to this site were waiting for. It’s so so good to hear of the progress being made and better still that you’re changing at the bit to get back to work. I think the majority of us would say that it can’t happen too soon - you’ve most definitely been missed!
Rest up, and I look forward to hearing you on the podcasts again in the future!
In 2018 I landed on my face, got life flighted. I fractured my face, broke my elbow, and don’t remember a few days or anything from that ride. Couldn’t drive or work for 6 weeks, then spent the next 6 months taking daily naps and avoiding groups. Fortunately my wife, kids, extended family, and my work supported me during my recovery. Today I’m fully recovered. Am able to ride hard without hesitation. But I do wear a full face helmet for the most basic rides.
like all the others here i'm stoked to read from you. I had a traumatic brain injury myself while beeing one of those "other guys" who simply slipped on the stairs from their bedroom. I was 16 and like all kids at the time dreaming of becoming the next Matt Hunter. It was incredibly frustrating to be set back by such a stupid incident with only myself to blame. I went through the usual and recovered fully after a couple of months, except for the loss of my sense of smell. That was was a small price to pay and the according insurance rate bought me a three weeks trip to Whistler the year after. In the long run, the whole thing changed my life for the better. I became a way more relaxed and attentive person, acknowledging that I had been really lucky after all. I hope everyone reading your article will take proper protection, insurance, safety and life itself more seriously.
Your contributions to this website have been an absolute enrichment. It seems like you're in great hands all around I wish you all the best to a great recovery. Take it easy and all the time you need.
I've been more and more cautious and considering a full-face helmet, even for trail/enduro riding.
take care, sending you all the positive energies for a full recovery
Whatever you do in biking Alicia is not as important as YOU, being back. The world's a better place with AL in it.
The entire community is sending good vibes your way!
I also want to add that I thought this update was beautifully written and conveyed a complex situation with perfect clarity (and a little humor thrown in, too) - just really awesome to see as a fellow writer and happy for Alicia that she seems as sharp as ever with her words.
Mountain biking is risky Business we are all playing with every time we ride. We know this, we still do it, and bad things happen sometimes. This type of news is the worst. When we beat that risk (and we know it could have gotten us) there is the reward a lot of us are after.
Not a single gnarly descent that I don't think about this sometimes wondering why I do it. I've been fortunate enough to come back from multiple injuries and still ride. I also think about that a lot. Not really sure the point of this we (all) understand it fully just letting my feelings speak
Everyone has a courage limit and skill limit, but sometimes shit happens to the best of us.
Wishing you a fast and peaceful recovery.
“It’s a marathon not a sprint.”
Take the time to rest and fully recover. Godspeed
Patience,perseverance, and rest seems to be the key.
Hope you never have to spend a night in Denver at Craig hospital. …but if you do you have the best looking after you
Want to share the make and model and maybe save someone else before they need to wait for your review?
I remember my first ride after a wicked crash jumping that put me in the ICU for 8 days and months of recovery... it's such an amazing feeling to feel free again on your bike!
Cheers to when you get to pedal again : )
All the best in your recovery and we're all awaiting more good news and articles from you, whenever that happens!
Dr Dave from Santa Barbara
It's strange how you sometimes feel like you relate to people online you've never met, but I was definitely upset to hear Alecia had been badly injured. After spending lots of my time listening to the podcast, reading the articles, and watching videos; I feel strangely protective of the PB staff.
Super happy to hear you're healing up. Without wanting to sound like your mum, don't start working again until you're ready. Everybody else at PB, please be as a careful as you can whilst still having fun riding bikes!
You got this, you will come out of it stronger, wiser and more appreciative of your surroundings. You will enjoy life in a diferent way and value every bit of it.
You are loved, strong and worthy. Keep fighting, you will be riding your favourite trial soon, just be patient.
But, on the plus side, she was recovering remarkably from what I could tell (I didn't know her before the accident). So hopefully Alicia can do the same.
Hope the recovery continues to net steady improvements.
Alicia, hope you get feeling 100%-ish here soon. We miss you giving Levy side-eye in Field Test videos.
Awesome to hear from you, thanks to Chelsea for keeping us updated and best wishes for the slow recovery ahead
Here's to a complete recovery,Alicia,healing vibes across the Atlantic (and all over the world)!
Best wishes on your recovery.
(It’s a joke)
Couldn’t care less if you think I “missed”. Do you know anyone who has had a life threatening incident? The few I know do joke about it, so go back to your soft walled incubation room.
Like when Gee had the big crash last year. We knew he crashed, we knew he was in bad shape, but all we knew was that he somehow fell down a cliff while filming some kind of crazy line, somewhere that we had never seen. In this case I get why people might want to see the video because without it we don’t really have any idea what really happened.
In this case Alicia described what happened. We know what happened and exactly where. She crashed on a big jump and slammed her head. I think we all have a pretty good idea what it probably looked like and don’t really need a video.
If anyone thought I was literally requesting a crash video, can’t help glue huffers.
Anyways I’m out, don’t care if it bothered you people.
I guess if I knew from the source that my post, jokingly asking for crash footage and even outright saying it was a joke to be sure, had upset Alicia…I’d feel bad. Somehow I doubt that was the effect, and certainly don’t care what anyone else here has to say about it.
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