April 16, 2018

STILL RECOVERING: Paul Fitzgerald in his bike shop On Your Bike. He is still getting over the crash that nearly killed him. Photo: LUKE HEMER

PAUL Fitzgerald is lucky to be alive. Let alone walking.

With the horrific injuries he suffered in a bicycle accident last month, the 65-year-old should at least be in a wheelchair.

‘‘I still have moments when I think ‘I could be dead’,’’ he said.

‘‘The head trauma doctor and nurse couldn’t believe the extent of my injuries and how I came out of it.’’

The owner of Echuca’s On Your Bike remembers the accident clearly.

It happened about 7.30pm on Thursday, March 15, while he was riding home from work — something he does every day.

After riding over the bridge into Moama, Paul noticed a truck parked unusually near the pedestrian crossing in Meninya St.

‘‘The truck was parked in the gutter but two wheels were on the bike lane,’’ he said.

‘‘So I went to swerve out. and there was a car there and the car wouldn’t let me come out. I’ve gone to go back and bang, I’ve gone straight into the back of the truck.

‘‘I remember hitting the truck, laying on the ground and a lady running over from the hairdressers across the road and telling me not to move.

‘‘I knew something was wrong and that I’d hurt something pretty seriously. The pain in my chest, shoulder and ribs was terrible and I couldn’t breathe properly.’’

That was because he had suffered not only a collapsed lung, but shattered every rib on his left side and two ribs on the right side.

‘‘I’ve seen the x-rays and they’re scary. Every rib is smashed, but they’re smashed three or four times,’’ he said.

Paul also broke his neck and his left shoulder blade.

Once the ambulance arrived, Paul was put on a spine board and taken to Echuca hospital before being own to The Alfred hospital about 2am the next morning.

‘‘Doctors told my wife to be prepared that I could come out of this in a very bad way,’’ he said.

‘‘But three days later I was walking around in the ward in The Alfred.’’

He spent eight days in hospital, a couple of which were in intensive care.

‘‘I was in a lot of pain and on some pretty heavy medication,’’ he said.

Despite having to wear a neck brace for six weeks, Paul returned to work last week, but is on light duties only.

‘‘I couldn’t do nothing. There’s stuff I have to do,’’ he said.

Paul contributes his recovery to his good health and tness — the grandfather-to-be is involved in the Echuca-Moama Cycling Club, Echuca-Moama Tri Club and is a foundation member of Echuca-Moama Mountain Bike Club.

But what really made the biggest difference was his $400 helmet, Paul said.

‘‘My helmet saved my life,’’ he said.

The lightweight helmet is covered in cracks so he can’t use it any more, but it serves as a constant reminder about how lucky he was.

His $8000 Giant Propel bike also bears the scars of his lucky escape.

‘‘It’s written off. The handlebars and shifters are bent and there’s a crack in the frame,’’ he said.

Not that he will be cycling any time soon, with doctors advising him not to ride a bike or drive a car for at least three months.

‘‘I’m not sure how I’ll go when I eventually get back on a bike,’’ he said.

‘‘I’m not a negative person. I’m usually positive. I just work, live for work, love doing what I’m doing, enjoy my social life, enjoy my sport life and then this happens.

‘I was thinking about doing a bit of racing this year but I’m not going to do that now.’’

In the meantime, Paul will have to go back to Melbourne for regular x-rays, scans and checks over the next few months.

‘‘What was really worrying me was the after effects, but hopefully I’m going to be all right,’’ he said.

The accident will still haunt him for some time, but if he wants anything to come out of it, it’s awareness.

‘‘I just want motorists to be aware of cyclists,’’ he said.

‘‘Just be aware that we’re out there and we have equal rights to the roads.

‘‘It was just the wrong spot and the wrong time,’’ he said.

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