A Tauranga cyclist who was seriously injured after being hit by an SUV in the United States has returned home.
Jason Creswell, 35, was cycling in America at the beginning of June when a vehicle struck him from behind. He suffered nine fractured vertebrae, four fractured ribs, a punctured lung and a small brain haemorrhage and faces a $150,000 medical bill.
Creswell would have been due to finish the TransAmerican Trail ride in San Francisco today, but he never made it. Instead, he is back home at his parents' house in Tauranga recovering from his injuries.
"I have been sleeping a whole lot," Creswell said. "For me the major concern at the moment is if there is going to be any long-term brain damage."
He said headaches came out of nowhere and if he was lying down or sitting up he got vertigo for about 10 to 15 seconds.
"But I think it is slowly getting better. The doctors have told me it is quite normal," Creswell said. "It is almost like you are doing a restart on the computer in your brain."
His memory was not too bad, although he could not recall the day of the crash.
Creswell has to wear a back brace whenever he stands or is above 45 degrees to stop him from twisting. He can remove it when he is sleeping.
"Sleeping is difficult. You get sick of wearing this [brace] because it restricts your breathing. But I am getting more comfortable each day," he said.
"The ribs are the most painful thing especially if you sneeze or cough you can feel them popping out and coming back in."
Creswell left Tauranga in 2004 to live overseas. He had planned a "summer adventure" cycling in Britain and the US as a "last hurrah" before moving back to Tauranga.
It was day 25 of the TransAmerican Trail when the accident happened. Creswell had stopped for lunch to eat his peanut butter and jam sandwiches.
He got back on the road and was approaching the highest point of the route at Hoosier Pass in Colorado when an SUV crossed into the shoulder of the road and hit him from behind at 88km/h, he said.
Creswell received the preliminary police report on Wednesday, which said the driver was due to appear in court on August 16, charged with careless driving causing injury.
Despite the driver being charged, Creswell said he was still liable for the medical bills because cycle touring was excluded from travel insurance policies.
"I'm still liable for the $150k-plus medical bills until such a time as any settlement has been agreed between the driver's insurer and the lawyer acting on my behalf," he said.
"But it is done now, there is no sort of animosity. It has been phenomenal the amount of support. It is really humbling."
Fellow cyclist Matt Boelter, who met Creswell during a stopover on the 6804km trail, had set up a Givealittle page set up to raise funds for his medical costs.
Creswell said his outlook on life had changed since the accident in Colorado. "I was really driven on cycling. Now all that has had the volume turned down for the time being."
But he planned to get back on his bike and finish the race.
"I can't really leave it up in the air. Much to my friends' and family's dismay I would probably have to head over there next summer and finish things up."
A good friend, who wanted to be identified only as Nadia, met Creswell in England a few years ago and the pair had become close.
She and Creswell had planned to meet in San Francisco on June 30, but instead she met him back in New Zealand.
"We were talking every day and on Sunday in London time around 7pm I would usually hear from him because he had a lunch break. But that day I did not," she said. "I got really worried. By 11pm I texted him and he did not reply."
At 2.30am she got a text from Creswell asking her to call him. "I said, 'Are you okay?' and he said, 'No'."
She said the family were lucky to have him home but it was a shame he could not finish the race. She thanked everybody who had supported her friend financially.
To donate, visit https://www.facebook.com/jason.creswell.5