A fresh breath of life.
October 12th 2014. It all started that day. I was out for one of my usual rides and all I can remember is me falling off my bike and then waking up in a hospital bed with a high spinal cord injury diagnosis.
At first I could not realize what had happened to me, it all seemed confused and I wasn’t able to move. Then I heard the doctors pronounce the word quadriplegia…
I was told I would not be able to breathe on my own again because of the spinal injury I had suffered. But, you know, nothing is completely sure and predictable in medicine, as each one of us can respond in different ways. Our mind and our determination can work miracles. I never gave up believing that I could change things and, over the following one and a half years after the accident, I tried my best to be able to breathe using my accessory muscles, trying to make my diaphragm work again. Unfortunately, that did not happen. At that point I was left with no other option but to undergo diaphragm surgery.
Very few people had already gone through this specific kind of operation, as it’s extremely delicate and can be carried out only if particular neurological conditions are met. This time around luck was on my side, I was eligible for surgery.
After receiving confirmation that I would be operated on, in November last year I was admitted to Niguarda Ca’ Granda hospital in Milan. The surgery consisted in connecting an external electric stimulator to my diaphragm by means of four wires. It’s pretty complex to explain, trust me, and It has taken me a long time and a lot of efforts to get over it. But my desire to keep on chasing that “perfect speed” has pushed me to go on and hold on.
Respiratory physiotherapy really put a strain on me. The pain was almost unbearable; it seemed as if, for every breath I took, I got hit on my breastbone with some tremendous punches. Being confronted with the psychological aspects of my condition was not easy at all either. Fortunately, I could count on the support of my girlfriend Elisa – who is always there for me – as well as on my family, friends and the doctors who took care of me.
On my first attempt, I managed to breathe autonomously for 30 seconds; then, with time, I made it to one minute, then to two minutes, then to three minutes, up until, after a month of trying, I was able to breathe on my own for ten hours in a row.
Three months have passed from then and now I can do without the breathing machine for the whole day. At last, I feel totally free again. I feel like I can breathe better then when I’m machine-assisted and, most of all, I’m starting to think about doing activities that were totally out of reach for me before.
Now I would really like to feel the excitement of doing sports again, like skiing, paragliding and so on. I’ve got plenty of things to do on my bucket list, and one by one, I’m going to cross them off it. Every single day I wake up feeling more and more determined as I see I’m taking one more breath than the day before, a breath that’s full of life.