Father of two Damian Riley, 49, of Bounds Green, London has completed a ‘sprint triathlon’ challenge to mark the first anniversary of a cycling accident that left him tetraplegic.
On June 22, 2019, keen amateur triathlete Damian was on a training ride, coming down Highgate West Hill when a pedestrian stepped out onto a crossing in front of him. This caused the cars ahead of him to come to an abrupt stop. Despite braking hard, he hit the back of the last car, fracturing his neck and compressing his spinal cord. He was left paralysed from the chest down with little movement in his arms and virtually no hand or finger control.
On Saturday June 20, 2020, Damian completed a virtual triathlon, including eight minutes of continuous upper body work with dumbbells (to replicate the 400-metre swim), followed by a 10km time trial on his indoor spin bike and finally a 2.5km walk with the aid of his crutch. “I used to be able to run 2.5km in around 12 minutes but reckon it took me 45 minutes to walk with my injury,” says Damian. “This was over twice the distance I’ve walked since my accident and, being the last activity, I was already a little tired before I started.” It took Damian one hour and 59 minutes from start to finish. And has so far raised over £5,500 for the charity that helped him get back on his feet.
After Damian’s accident last year, he was rushed to St Mary’s Hospital, where he received life-saving neurosurgery. After leaving intensive care, he was initially sent to the Whittington Hospital, before being referred to the London Spinal Cord Injury Centre at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital. By the time he was discharged in November 2019, he had made huge progress, walking with crutches and performing basic upper body movements.
The day after he came home, Damian called Neurokinex – a specialist spinal cord injury rehabilitation facility in Hemel Hempstead. As a newly-injured client, discharged from an NHS hospital, he was able to access its Newly Injured Scheme comprising six free sessions.
“I started with Neurokinex within three weeks of leaving hospital, as I wanted to maintain momentum on my rehab,” says Damian. “The sessions gave me a structured approach and helped me set goals for my progress. “The Neurokinex programme is a really important bridge to help you get back into a community setting and helps you adjust from the highly structured hospital routine to life back at home,” says Damian. “It’s essential for the continuity of rehabilitation, whilst the relationships you build with the trainers give you focus and confidence.
“Neurokinex has an incredible range of equipment and a cutting-edge approach, which brings together the very latest thinking in spinal rehabilitation. Not only is their approach refreshing and challenging, but the momentum you gain from having six sessions is vital to ensure ongoing rehabilitation gains.”
Sadly, the Newly Injured Scheme, which costs £420 per person, is under threat as loss of income during the Covid-19 pandemic means the Neurokinex Charitable Trust can’t afford to fund the programme after lockdown.
“I had planned to do something to mark the progress I have made on the anniversary of my accident, so decided to really challenge myself and seek sponsorship to support Neurokinex,” explains Damian. “I have come such a long way with their help: they have been a hugely important part of that journey.”
To support his fundraising visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/damian-riley