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Team Dimension Data Principal Douglas Ryder has spoken of his and the team’s appreciation for the messages Keagan Girdelstone has received after a brutal crash in Italy earlier this month.
The 19 year old hit a race vehicle on a descent in the Coppa della Pace race on Sunday, June 5, and almost died. He was in a coma for over a week but has now regained consciousness. However, as an update on Sunday made clear, he still has a long way to go.
“The support that he has got around the world just shows what a close community the cycling community is, which has just been amazing,” Ryder told CyclingTips.
“His parents are there with him now and they read the messages every single day. Chris Froome sent a video message to him. People in the third division of cycling win races and they say that they are wishing Keagan all the best. We have just been blown away by the support because, I guess, of all the accidents that have happened in cycling in the last year to two years.
“He is doing a huge amount better, much better than what was initially thought of, based in the severity of the injury. We are just so happy and we just pray and we hope that he continues improving as he is and gets back to the best possible outcome that we can hope for.”
Girdlestone is part of the Team Dimension Data continental squad, a feeder team for the WorldTour setup. He was signed as he is one of the most promising young South African riders. His past results include fourth in last year’s junior world time trial championships, as well as a stage win plus the overall victory in both the 2015 Tour du Valromey and the 2015 Ronde des Valles.
Ryder was speaking prior to the public update about the severity of Girdelstone’s injuries. On Sunday, two weeks after his crash, clearer detail was issued about where his recovery is right now.
“Contrary to initial reports, Keagz did not sustain any facial injuries. The critical injuries were sustained to his neck and throat. He severed not only the cartoid artery, but the jugular vein, nerve and muscles,” stated the update, posted to the rider’s Facebook page.
“Due to major loss of blood at the scene as well as the time it took to get him to surgery, the right hand side of his brain was starved of blood and oxygen. He also sustained bruising of his brain due to the impact as well as vocal cord damage. At this stage the full extent of his injuries is unknown as well as the period of rehabilitation.
“He is breathing on his own but with difficulty as one of the nerves controlling his diaphragm has been damaged. He has limited movement of his left side due to the lack of oxygen to the brain. However this is showing signs of improvement. The right side, which is being affected by nerve damage, is also limited. He is able to move his leg and squeeze his hand, but there is no movement of his arm.”
It is going to take some time before a clearer picture of his future emerges. “With continued rehabilitation it is hoped that all functionality will improve as time passes. However, any possible long-term effects are still unknown,” stated that update.
Ryder said that morale has been boosted by those who have reached out to the rider, his family and the team.
“All the well wishers, all the people who have supported him have made a massive impact,” he said. “The race organisers gave him the winning medal for the race because they stopped the race. People that have supported him have really helped him in his belief that he needs to be strong and come back to a full recovery. But it is a long process.”
A Givealittle funding campaign has been established to help Keagan Girdelstone and his family cope with medical costs and his recovery. To see more details and donate, click here.