Horrific injuries revealed for Christchurch pro cyclist

Keagan Girdlestone after regaining consciousness in an Italian hospital. Photo / Facebook, Keagan Girdlestone
Keagan Girdlestone after regaining consciousness in an Italian hospital. Photo / Facebook, Keagan Girdlestone

Keagan Girdlestone, the Christchurch-based professional cyclist who crashed during a high-speed mountain descent during an Italian bicycle race earlier this month, has regained consciousness but faces an uncertain and complicated recovery due to his horrific injuries, according to his Facebook page.

The 19-year-old came close to death and was in a coma for more than a week after slamming into the back of a suddenly-braking race vehicle in the Coppa Della Pace race near Rimini on June 5.

His parents left New Zealand immediately for Europe without knowing the condition they would find their son in when they arrived.

The latest update on his Facebook page says that contrary to earlier reports he did not suffer any facial injuries, but remains in intensive care due to the injuries to his neck and throat - the accident severed his carotid artery, jugular vein, nerves and muscles.

"Due to major loss of blood at the scene as well as the time it took to get him to surgery, the right hand side of his brain was starved of blood and oxygen," the Facebook post reports.

"He also sustained bruising of his brain due to the impact as well as vocal cord damage. At this stage the full extent of his injuries is unknown as well as the period of rehabilitation.

"He is breathing on his own but with difficulty as one of the nerves controlling his diaphragm has been damaged. He has limited movement of his left side due to the lack of oxygen to the brain however this is showing signs of improvement. The right side, which is being affected by nerve damage, is also limited. He is able to move his leg and squeeze his hand, but there is no movement of his arm."

It will be some time before the long-term effects are known, but the update says with continued rehabilitation it is hoped all functionality will return over time.

The international cycling community has rallied around Girdlestone.

Both Tour de France winner Chris Froome and top sprinter Mark Cavendish have left videos of support on his Facebook page. Girdlestone rides for the junior feeder team of Cavendish's professional squad Dimension Data.

The young cyclist is considered a rising star who may have slipped through the grasp of New Zealand cycling.

The Girdlestone family moved to Christchurch from Pretoria four years ago.

Keagan Girdlestone, whose 26-year-old brother Dylan is also a professional cyclist, burst into prominence in 2014 as the youngest winner of the 100km Christchurch to Akaroa race when he was just 16.

He finished fourth at the junior men's time trial in Virginia last year, riding under the South African flag.

Success in Australia helped fast track him into the professional scene but tragedy has struck almost straight away.

- NZ Herald

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