A Scottish cyclist twice pronounced dead at the scene of a crash during a time trial that left him with a broken neck and back as well as a fractured skull staged an incredible recovery to walk his daughter down the aisle less than 12 months later.
Ali McGill, aged 52, crashed while taking part in a time trial at Kinross, near his home town of Dunfermline, in June 2009, paramedics managing to keep him alive until an air ambulance arrived to take him to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, relates his daughter Laura Donaldson in an article in the Daily Express.
On arrival at the hospital, he was placed into an induced coma, with doctors telling his family that they didn’t believe he would survive, and if he did, he would suffer from paralysis and brain damage.
Laura, at the hospital with her mother, sister and brother, decided to postpone her forthcoming wedding as the family waited for news. Then, four days after his admission, as medical staff brought him out of the induced coma, they found that Ali was able to poke his tongue out and, two days later, wiggle his toes.
Transferred to the spinal injuries unit at the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow, his condition continued to improve slowly, starting with his being able to communicate by blinking then through speech, although he had no recollection of the accident and his thoughts were often confused.
By his 51st birthday just seven weeks after the accident, he was well enough for a surprise birthday party to be held in the hospital, with his favourite cyclist, Graeme Obree, the guest of honour, and soon Ali was able to walk with the help of a frame. By September, he was walking unaided.
In December, he was allowed to return home, and one of the police officers who had been at the accident scene was astonished to see Ali sitting up in an armchair when he visited to return his bike.
“We didn’t expect you to survive the night,” said the officer. “I had the death certificate at the hospital with me, ready to be signed.
While Ali still needed help with issues such as eating food, with a nurse helping his wife to care for him, he had the goal of his daughter’s rescheduled wedding to work towards and on 23 May last year walked her down the aisle, saying “I’m just going to concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other,” one guest shouting “Here comes the miracle man” as he did just that, and his speech afterwards received a standing ovation.
Laura concludes by saying, “Today his movements are still quite slow and deliberate and he won’t cycle again,” but adds, “I waited 10 months longer than planned for my big day but having dad walk me down the aisle was the best wedding present ever.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.