York cyclist: ‘I broke my spine, but my helmet saved my life’

A YORK cyclist has told how her helmet saved her life when she crashed head first into a bridge while out on a Sunday morning bike ride.

Keren Wheeler, 54, of Osbaldwick, says the crash two years ago near Ripon left her with two fractures to the spine, including her neck, and she initially feared she would be paralysed for life.

Then she suffered agonising nerve pain in both arms for a year until she eventually underwent surgery to fuse two vertebrae.

She said she also suffered a broken rib, a cracked tooth and head injuries in the accident on the bridge over the River Laver, but her helmet – which was left dented – prevented catastrophic brain damage.

“I would not be here today if it wasn’t for my helmet,” said Keren, who has fought off PTSD, anxiety and depression since the accident but overcame physical and mental barriers to get back on her bike and go again for regular rides six months later.

Keren spoke to The Press as Air TV prepares to show footage of the harrowing aftermath of the accident on Helicopter ER about the work of the air ambulance next year.

She said she regularly used to go out for 30 -50 mile bike rides with the Yorkshire Lass CC, a cycling club for female cyclists, and all had been going well when she cycled down a hill at some speed on September 9, 2018.

As she approached the bridge, she tried to brake, but something caused her front wheel’s tyre to blow out and she lost control and crashed straight into the stone wall of the bridge, head first.

“I remember lying there, unable to move,” she said. “I thought: ‘This is it, I am paralysed, what now?’ and my vision was going up and down, like on a boat.

“Then I was in so much pain in my arms that I was screaming the place down when anyone tried to touch me or move me.

“They took me to Harrogate Hospital, where they put me in a back and head brace, and I was there for 12 days. It was suggested I go into rehab, but I just wanted to get home and being self employed made me push to get better quickly.

“I live on my own and could hardly do anything for myself, but members of the cycling group rallied round and organised a rota, to ensure that someone visited me daily and that I was OK.”

She said she had escaped the accident relatively unscathed, compared to what could have happened, and very fortunate to be alive.

“I could have been thrown over the wall into the river and it would have been a very different story,” she said.

“I’ve been told that the injuries I sustained could have left me permanently in a wheelchair.

“My recovery has been slow and difficult and I wouldn’t want anyone else to go through it.”

Keren, who contacted The Press after it recently reported on another cyclist’s survival in a North Yorkshire road accident thanks to wearing a helmet, added: “I’m so passionate about helmet safety and am looking to raise awareness about how important it is for everyone to wear one correctly as otherwise, for me, put simply, I wouldn’t be here.”

York Press | News