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Sunday, 23 November 2014

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I broke my neck and spine but I’ll be back, pledges Cumbrian triathlete

A professional triathlete who fractured his skull and broke his neck and spine has revealed how he hopes to compete again.

Alistair Robinson photo
Alistair Robinson

Alistair Robinson, 30, from the Penrith area, was on an Easter Monday cycle ride along the A66 at Threlkeld when he crashed into a bus.

“I don’t remember anything about the accident so I don’t actually know what happened,” said Alistair.

“There was a bus with a double puncture stopped in a carriageway and I think I hit what had caused the puncture and crashed into the bus.

“Luckily there were an off-duty doctor and fireman in the queue of traffic after the accident and [they] were on scene in minutes. They looked after me, along with members of the public, before emergency services arrived.”

Seriously injured, paramedics knew they needed to act swiftly and called for support from the Great North Air Ambulance’s Pride of Cumbria helicopter.

“I remember waking up to the sound of the air ambulance rotors,” he recalled.

The cyclist was flown to the trauma unit at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary where he underwent a mammoth seven-hour operation.

Alistair added: “I had fractures to my skull, a broken thoracic spine and a broken neck.

“Of the nine vertebrae I broke, several were unstable and so I had to have these fused. Four screws and two rods were used to bridge the vertebrae and create a scaffold which parallels my spine.

“I was fitted with a halo brace which is fixed to my skull with four screws and supports around my body with a brace – this effectively stops my neck from moving.”

Despite the horrific injuries, the speed with which Alistair was flown to Newcastle and the expert care given to him by the air ambulance doctor means he is optimistic he will be back on his bike.

“I am now on what is likely to be a long road to recovery but hopefully a full one;2014 is written off but my sponsors have been very supportive.”

He added: “It would all have been a different story had I not been wearing my helmet, and I was lucky to escape any nerve damage.

“Although it has taken some time for me to be fit for anything, I am taking the opportunity to get out and watch others take part in events.

“It has been great to see how many people are now enjoying the wide variety of organised sporting events on offer, from those competing at the sharp end to people just out to see if they can get round.”

Reflecting on the work of the Pride of Cumbria, Alistair said: “I believe the time scale from having the accident to being at hospital was only an hour, which is amazing.

“It makes you realise how many people are indebted to the air ambulance and the brilliant service they provide.

“I’d also like to thank everyone on ward 16 neurology at the Newcastle RVI who looked after me – the staff there are amazing.”

Andy Dalton, GNAAS paramedic, was on duty on the day. He said: “Considering how seriously injured he was, it is incredible to hear about Alistair’s recovery. We’re just so pleased that he is recovering after such an ordeal. We’d love to have him down the base sometime.”

Alistair has competed in competitions all over Europe. The crash, on April 21, was two weeks before the European triathlon season and he was completing a training ride.

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