Riders Down: Joseph Long
It's not often a rider gets to come back from a bad injury, it takes time, rehabilitation and a whole lot of patience. It's really difficult to be positive about an injury, a hugely frustrating time for any rider, but it doesn't always mean you are down and out for good.
Following on from our 'Riders Down, when things go wrong' feature in issue 135, May 2013. Here is the inspiring story of Joseph Long, from Colchester, Essex. On the 5th of January 2013, Joe's life took an unexpected turn.
2012 was a great year for Joe, he'd come fifth overall in his local race series, topped off with a two week riding holiday in the Alps, he said: "After such a good season I decided to give riding my all and really go for it. I had planned to race a full season of downhill and enduro which I felt would suit me down to the ground and spent the whole winter in the gym."
But during his first ride of the year, feeling fitter and stronger than ever, disaster struck. While out riding on his local trails he hit a tree head first at full speed. He doesn't remember much from the accident: "This is where my memory goes, so I rely on what I have been told. I had 2 paramedics airlifted to locate me; it took over an hour for the paramedics to find me as I was in the middle of a forest. It’s lucky there was another rider there to keeping my airways clear...he saved my life, quite literally."
After the accident, Joe was airlifted to St George's Hospital in London. He was placed in the trauma unit and given treatment. Doctors thought it was best to put him into an induced coma to prevent any further damage. His parents were told to prepare for the worst, and his girlfriend was rushed in by police to identify him, things weren't looking good for him: "At this time my parents had the difficult question of if they should donate my organs if they were going to switch me off. I had numerous scans done which showed it was the left side of my brain that was damaged."
After an agonizing wait for his parents and girlfriend he finally came out of the coma in February, but in another unfortunate turn, Joe contracted Pneumonia in hospital, and couldn't swallow: "At this point I had post traumatic amnesia and was pretty confused. Waking up somewhere where you have no recollection of getting there, or even simple things like remembering how to walk again. It was the scariest thing that has ever happened to me, more scary than a full on black run. I couldn't even remember what year it was."
A whole month after the crash, Joe started recovering: "My first memory was my sister travelling up to see me although my parents, girlfriend and brother had not left my side through out, even sleeping in chairs in the visitors room. After coming out of post traumatic amnesia things started to get better fast, I was no longer on any drugs, just letting my head do the work, and by April I was discharged from hospital."
After nearly losing his life, and suffering extensive head trauma and pneumonia, Joe was back on his bike by May this year. He's looking to do his first race next month: "This season may as well be wrote off, but the whole experience has shown how important riding is, sure it can go horribly wrong, but I can tell you first hand you don’t quite feel the same without being on a bike and being free to ride."
Thankfully Joe had a lot of support from his family and partner when he was in hospital and they never left his side during the three months he was there: "A big heart felt thank you to Laura Pompili for all the support and help, and to all the pompili family. Without your help I couldn't have done it, Thank you Laura from the bottom of my heart for everything. Also thanks to all my family for the support in my time of need and for standing by me and never giving up on me."
After everything he's been through it hasn't stopped him wanting to ride, it's not always easy to get back up after such an injury, and even worse not being able to at all, but it's a risk we all know is there in a sport such as ours. Joe wanted to share his story: "There is always a silver lining and all though bikes almost killed me it has also saved me, with longing to be back on it and free! I hope encourage people to get over their problems and rise on up. Things will always get better even when you are the lowest possible and almost dying."