Exploring the south of Mexico – Riding with a broken back

Here is the reason why this blog was dormant for a while – a back breaking accident, literally. 

On the fine summer morning of 8th June 2018, on my regular commute to work on my trusty steed, I was hit by a car from behind. I flew in the air and landed on my back. The traffic stopped on all three lanes on Marylebone road and in no time, a policeman arrived on the spot. I was rolling on the road, screaming in pain, and was not able to sit-down or get on my feet. Within few minutes, I was losing sensation on my legs and I thought that was the end of my legs.

The morning after the night!

Long story short, I was taken to St Mary’s hospital and had a surgery the same night.  The surgery had to be the same night because my spinal cord was getting compressed by the fractured bones. Four screws and two plates were put on my thoracic and lumbar bones, each side, in order to stabilise my vertebrae and I was in hospital for a week and was off work for the next two months – little I knew the consequences of this accident at that time. 

I later learnt about Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES) that results from spinal cord compression, which I am recovering from still. The nerves that runs off the Lumbar and Sacral bones were damaged and I was walking on my heels due to lack of sensation on my feet, I was very unstable and walking long distances (more than a km) was impossible. In addition, bowel, bladder and sexual functions were also affected but I have largely recovered from these. 

The plates and screws that will remain with me, probably forever

Meanwhile,  I had made plans to move to Mexico before the accident and I was not going to let the accident stop me. Whilst I had been looking forward for lots of outdoor activities in Mexico all those plans had to be put on hold. After about 6 months, my walking had improved, although I was limping badly and back pain at the end of a typical work day left me with no energy. I have been on physio ever since and this had helped me recover, greatly. I continue to do these exercise to this day.

Repair and regrowth of nerves take long time, in fact several years. During this time, the symptoms can be quite demoralising – pain, lack of sensation, lack of muscular strength, depression etc. However, being in a new place helped me and my school was very supportive. After about 6 months, I bought a folding bike with suspensions on both, front and back. I tried to ride about 7-8 km per week to get back into cycling although with lots of precautions, because I had three discs in my spine that were bulging. I was advised not to do any impact sports because of this but cycling was fine – I was relieved to know this. 

After about a year I started riding my road bike – the same specialized road bike which fortunately survived the accident. Once again, I could only ride shorter distances, back pain would kick in otherwise. Gradually, I was able to cycle long distances. The sense of freedom I felt, on the day when I cycled about 80 km, cannot be described in words. 

Picnic spots and beach huts

I was desperate to resume my bicyle touring and luckily there were plenty of good places in Mexico do this. So, I attempted my first tour, since the accident, during the half-term in Oct/Nov 2019 and to my surprise, I did very well. I cycled about 625 km, from Veracruz to Ciudad del Carmen, over 5 days. I resumed this tour during 2019 Christmas holidays when I cycled from Ciudad del Carmen to Bacalar to Merida to Chompoton (a total of 1010 km over 11 days). Considering what had happened – having come close to losing my legs – I felt grateful for having been able to ride long distances once again. Although, in addition to the usual tiredness after cycling, these days I also get lots of back pain and feet-burning sensation (because of irritation of nerves). But this is a small price to pay. Whilst, I am able to ride flat roads, alpine style road cycling is not possible yet. The sensations on my legs below calf-muscles need to improve before I can attempt some gradients on the mountains. 

Bacalar – a good place to unwind
Sunset in the jungle
Sunset on the beach in Campeche
The end of the trip in Chompoton – some chill out time

Throughout this period, over the past 18 months, my students at Edron Academy were a great source of inspiration. They had motivated me directly and indirectly and it is a pleasure to teach them. I would like to thank the staff at my school and my students for their support without which I won’t be where I am today. Also, I would like to thank my friends who had supported me during this time – you know who you are!

Oct/Nov 2019: Veracruz – Santiago Tuxla (139km) – Minatitlan (130) – Sanchez Magallanes (109) – Ignacio Allende (119) – Ciudad del Carmen (127)

Dec 2019/Jan 2020: Ciudad del carmen – Sebancuy (82km) – Escarcega (82) – Conhuas (99) – Xpujil (55) – Bacalar (120) – Kichpam kaax ecotourist centre (110) – Peto (87) – Merida (140) – Calkini (90) – Campeche (89) – Chompoton (67).

6 comments

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  1. Great stuff, Bala! You conyinue to amaze! Just seen Ryan here for his Xmas visit : in good form.

  2. Great stuff Bala – you continue to
    amaze!

      • bala
      • bala on January 9, 2020 at 12:21 am
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      Thanks David.

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    • Debs (Plym) on January 7, 2020 at 10:13 am
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    So happy to see you are back in action Bala. You are an inspiring force of nature!
    I am sure your students are leaning invaluable lessons from your huge steadfastness and tenacity.

      • bala
      • bala on January 9, 2020 at 12:21 am
        Author
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      Thanks Debs, good to hear from you. Hope you and Woody are doing well.

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    • Samrat on January 8, 2020 at 4:51 am
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    Awesome spirit Bala! Truly inspiring… Wish you a full recovery!

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