Rich’s Accident

In the early hours of the morning on Thursday 11th October, 2012, Rich set out on his bike to make the short journey along Al Qudra Street from Motor City to the start of the new cycling track in Dubai for a training ride. What was supposed to be a regular training ride, turned out to be anything but that. Despite excellent safety precautions, Rich was hit from behind by a car, sustaining multiple life-threatening injuries.

These included: broken ribs, punctured lungs, a fractured sternum, fractured right fibula, and severe injuries to his brain. His brain injuries are substantial, the worst of which is a contusion on his brain stem which caused an immediate coma. Rich has what is known as a severe Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and the specific condition he has been left with is known as Locked-in Syndrome.

Due to the type of brain injury that Richard sustained in this awful accident, his brain has a loss of motor messages sent to his body and this means he is unable to move his body voluntarily at all. Only time and intense neuro rehab will tell if this motor control will be regained {August 2015 Update – He has regained some control of his right thumb and hand. Rich is also able to now eat and swallow his own food, which allows him great pleasure}. This is obviously very frustrating and frightening for him and means he requires constant turning and repositioning to prevent pressure sores. He also requires intensive physiotherapy, OT and Speech to keep his limbs mobile and prevent stiffness and contractures.

Safety Precautions: Rich is pedantic about safety at the best of times and his bicycle is fitted with lights (front and rear) and reflective bands. He is well-known amongst his peers for adhering to safety rules, and reprimanding other cyclists for not being cautious at all times. On the day of the accident, Rich was wearing his top of the range cycling helmet, had reflective bands on his clothing and ankles, and his bicycle lights were on.

Rich with his mum Judy in the very first few weeks after the accident.

Below is the series of events that took place following the accident:

Trauma Unit, Rhasid Hospital

  • Rich was rushed by ambulance to the Trauma Unit at Rhasid Hospital (in Dubai) where he underwent life saving neuro surgery to relieve the swelling on his brain.
  • Rich was intubated and on life support for the first 5 days (respirators breathing for him), and was medically induced into a deeper coma to allow the heavy swelling to subside.  Rich received excellent acute care in the neurosurgical ICU, where the doctors and nurses looked after him around the clock.
  • Rich had drains put into both of his lungs. They were punctured multiple times. These drains were removed within the first month (a testament to his high level of fitness and incredible lung strength)
  • After 7 days, Rich’s sedation was removed effectively taking him out of an induced coma, but due to his extensive injuries, he remained very limited. His eyes would open, but he wasn’t “awake”. He was groggy and unable to make any meaningful interaction.
  • Rich was not able to move his body at all. We didn’t realise at the time that this was due to his massive brain stem injury.
  • In the first few weeks Rich contracted pneumonia a common aliment associated with the respiratory support that was provided to help him breath during the first 3 weeks of his care. He was very fragile and sick.
  • The respirator was eventually removed after about 3 weeks and Rich had a tracheostomy put in place.

Move to The City Hospital, Dubai

  • After 3 weeks, Rich was transferred to The City Hospital, a private clinic in Dubai where he remained in ICU.
  • Rich still has his tracheostomy helping with his breathing but no assistance otherwise.
  • Rich was still tube fed (intially through a tube down his throat) eventually Rich had a further surgery to add a  PEG tube directly into his stomach. Rich is still fed via the PEG tube now.
  • At this stage Rich had lost more than 18 kilos, very thin and his muscle mass has gone so quickly. Our Iron Man was in exceptional shape training for the Phuket, Thailand races and this strength has depleted rapidly.
  • Rich got the most amazing physio treatment from Amy, our South African angel physio in ICU.  Twice a day she did his neuro physio and once a day his respiratory.  Rich’s friend Robyn (also a physio) visited Rich 3 nights a week after work to do more private physio with him.  His friends were and still are incredibly supportive and kind.
  • In the last week at City Hospital Rich had the larger Trachea removed for a tiny one.

Repatriation back to Cape Town, South Africa – 23/01/13

  • 4 months later and Rich’s condition was largely unchanged. He still required intensive medical supervision as remains unable to move or communicate at all.
  • Rich and his mum have developed a blinking technique to communciate. Mostly ‘yes’ and ‘no’ questions; but also using the alphabet to spell very simple phrases.
  • Rich was initially treated at the Vincent Palotti hospital and then moved to the Western Cape Rehab centre to continue with a comprehensive neuro rehabilitation programme.
  • Rich’s parents (Judy and Colin Rotschild) repatraited back to Cape Town from Melbourne to look after Rich. They had immigrated to Australia, but unfortunately due to immigration laws, they were not able to acquire a visa to bring Richard to Australia. The family therefore moved back to South Africa.
  • Richard’s sister Pippa also left Melbourne and joined the family in August 2013 to support her brother and family.
  • Rich currently lives at his parents home in his own room. The family has done some alterations to this area to allow wheelchair access and proper care.
  • (August 2015 update) Rich still has full time carers who are with him 24 hours a day.

Please continue to pray for Rich to regain movement as for anyone, let alone a sports mad athlete, the loss of mobility is a terrible reality.

We are in awe of you Rick, you are the strongest most humble and courageous person. Your whole medical support team loves you and goes the extra mile for you and that is testament to your bravery and courage and the wonderful person that you are. We are all with you every step of this journey and still believe that with time and intensive rehab, no matter how long it takes, we will get you back on your bike where you belong, and living the full life you had planned and deserve with your beautiful Krysia at your side.

“This journey is one of terrible anguish, heartbreak, fear, uncertainty and every possible emotion you can imagine, but our hope, prayers and faith are unwavering.  We believe in our boy and encourage you all to continue to pray and believe that miracles do happen and that God is the ultimate healer”, Richard’s Parents