|Simon Richardson - Beijing 2008|
17th August 2011. A day that will be long etched on my memory, it was the day that Palaympic double gold medallist was mown down by a hit and run driver, left for dead, airlifted to hospital to begin a seventeen day stay in intensive care, hanging on for his life.
It was an intensive time on many levels, national media were running the story, the #SIMONSTRONG campaign was launched, cycle safety was back on the agenda and has been since and in between it all, Simon fought back from death's door.
So how is Simon doing now? Taking the opportunity on a visit to South Wales yesterday, I visited Simon at his home in Porthcawl for a coffee, home made Welsh cakes (thanks Amanda) and a catch up.
It's been a long and arduous recovery, mentally and physically. Aswell as the pain, discomfort and lack of pain relief, Simon has also been battling post-traumatic stress disorder, with flashbacks and nightmares. A proud man, Simon isn't particularly comfortable talking about those elements of the recovery, he's 100% focused on getting back on the bike, but it's obvious that the last couple of months have been particularly tough.
Back to Normality?
At the beginning of March he was told by the hospital to "get back to normality." Problem is, they didn't define normality to Simon. He interepreted that as back on the bike, training and competing, their interpretation was nowhere near that. Having thought he'd got the green light to push on, it was a big blow to discover that they meant nothing like that. Normality being - trips to the supermarket, physio and other day to day things.
Without the support of his wife - Amanda - he'd be in a really hard place as he needs close care. His current wheelchair is in poor condition (the emergency wait for a replacement is eight weeks), he has constant pain and is allergic to most painkillers.
Each day feels like groundhog day, long periods either on the bed resting or in a reclining seat in the front room, with every manner of mobile phone, cycling catalogue and remote control in easy reach. He reads all the tweets sent to him, so keep the encouragement going his way.
Things are moving regards the court case of the driver that hit him. 17th May is the day scheduled for him to appear in court, co-incidentally also the day Simon attends hospital to establish whether he will need an operation - ironic really.
Rio or bust
Despite this long recovery, Simon being Simon, is still full of ambition. Asking him what the best/worst outcomes might be. Best case was riding in the Rio Paralympics 2016, worst never riding a bike again and being paralysed, mid - riding sportives. Quite a spectrum, but Rio was the target, no doubt about that.
One Turn at a Time
Every time I meet Simon, I'm always humbled by his selflessness. He constantly worries about letting people down, not wanting people to know the full detail of his suffering, how hard the recovery is and that he does have the occasional down day - who wouldn't. He's a credit to himself and still doesn't really recognise how inspired others are by him.
He's currently focusing his time on fundraising for the air ambulance service, whom he tributes with saving his life after the road collision. Details can be seen here. A track day is also going to be organised in Manchester, which I hope that people regionally will get behind and support.
Summary is that Simon is by no way out of the woods. The hospital visit in a couple of weeks time will be an important timeline in establishing how long it will before he can get training again. Hopefully on the same day, he'll be able to give some closure to the legal side of the incident, with the drunk/driver being called to account.
Simon will definitely be in the saddle at his Newport Velodrome fundraiser, for how long, he doesn't know. The couple are looking to move home as their current home isn't adapted for wheelchair use, a bungalow is on the cards, hopefully not too far away from where they currently live in Porthcawl and with some great roads to ride, when he's back, fit and recovering. Let's hope that is soon.