Harpenden man’s miracle recovery from mountain bike accident

A HARPENDEN man who defied the odds to walk again after breaking his back in two places following a mountain bike accident, has cycled from Land’s End to John O’Groats for charity.

A year ago Ian Pattie, 46, of Eastcote Drive, was cycling through rugged terrain on the South Downs with long-time friend, Harpenden postman Andy Smith, when the pair came to some obstacles constructed by amateur trail builders.

Ian explained: “We got to an area where there was a track going down the side of the hill. There were little jumps and ramps. I got to the top of one ramp and realised there was a big drop down the other side that I wasn’t expecting.

“The ground just fell away. My head hit the ground first. I could move my hands and feet, but I couldn’t get up.”

Ambulance officers told him later he had fallen an estimated 15ft.

Luckily for the duo there were others in the park who immediately summoned help and Ian was carefully carried 3km uphill over difficult terrain on a board and vacuum mattress to a waiting air ambulance.

Although initially told he had just fractured his ribs, Ian discovered at the Royal Sussex Hospital in Brighton he had suffered two major breaks to his spine.

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A metal “halo” was drilled into Ian’s skull to prevent movement of his head and he was transferred to the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore where his upper body was put in plaster.

Ian said: “The [medical] team was amazed I wasn’t paralysed.”

Unfortunately fluid from his lungs had to be drained when he formed blood clots after lying on his back for three weeks.

During the weeks he spent undergoing physiotherapy and recuperating at Stanmore, he and Andy started discussing plans to undertake a charity bike trek to give Ian something positive to focus on.

The idea was sparked after Ian was inspired by a former young patient who, despite becoming paralysed in a rugby game, went on to study law.

He returned to his Harpenden home to continue his recovery after five weeks at Stanmore, with nurses there describing his gradual improvement as “a miracle”.

Ian wore the halo on his head for about 15 weeks and admits to attracting a few unusual glances when, as part of his recovery, he had to go on walks in the neighbourhood.

In March he returned to work for UBS, as an accountant in IT in London.

He and Andy have recently returned from the bike trip and have raised more than �3,600 for Back Up, a charity for people affected by spinal cord injury.

Ian found the first week exhausting, and said a low point was cycling through Warrington on a dual carriageway in pouring rain in rush hour.

His wife, Diane, has praised his epic 1,000 mile trek. She said: “I applaud his courage to do the charity bike ride.”

When asked if he would return to extreme sports Ian said: “My consultants have warned me to avoid bungee jumping and roller coasters.”

To donate go to: www.justgiving.com/Ian-Pattie-Andy-Smith