Paralympian Kate O’Brien tells her tale of survival, recovery and unique transition – The Globe and Mail

Paralympic bike owner Kate O’Brien, 33, competed as a bike owner On the 2016 Olympic Video games in Rio de Janeiro earlier than she had a life-altering accident. Ivan Rupeš/Handout Kate O’Brien Awakened in intensive care in Calgary In…….

Paralympic bike owner Kate O’Brien, 33, competed as a bike owner On the 2016 Olympic Video games in Rio de Janeiro earlier than she had a life-altering accident.

Ivan Rupeš/Handout

Kate O’Brien Awakened in intensive care in Calgary Inside the summertime of 2017. She had been in a coma For two weeks as her life hung in the stcapability.

“As quickly as I acquired here to, I had a divot in my skull,” she says on a name from Japan, wright here she is about to compete in her first Paralympics. “It was Sort of humorous. I had no idea wright here it acquired here from and why I used to be in the hospital.”

She is mild-hearted as she tells the story of her survival, restoration and distinctive transition from being an Olympian who had no incapacity to a Paralympian.

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O’Brien, 33, competed as a bike owner On the 2016 Video games in Rio de Janeiro. The subsequent yr she had a life-altering accident. Wright hereas giving a biking demonstration to startners, the bike she was driving blew a rear tire, she misplaced administration and struck the again wheel of the pacing motorcycle forward of her. Hurtled by way of the air, as she landed on the monitor she cracked ribs, broke a clavicle, punctured a lung and suffered a critical head damage.

Her mcompletely different, Beth Smith O’Brien, an emergency-room nurse at Peter Lougheed Centre, had by no means seen her daughter in a biking rivals, so she accompanied her that day To watch. Horrified, she ran to the scene and cradled her daughter’s head.

At the Foothills Medical Centre, wright here she had been admitted, an operation was carried out To alleby way ofte presconstructive in Kate O’Brien’s mind. At That time, she was unable to breathe on her personal. Relations acquired here to say goodbye. Plans have been made to donate her organs.

She shut toly died.

“For The primary 5 days, docs have beenn’t constructive what was going to happen,” she says. “When it Appeared like I might make it out alive, they didn’t assume I might Be In a place To converse or stroll Once again.

“I used to be tprevious I might by no means Be In a place to get on A motorcycle and that turned The huge factor to me. It by no means entered my thoughts that I might race Once again. I simply needed to journey to the grocery retailer to get a bag of Bitter Patch Youngsters.”

O’Brien spent two weeks in intensive care and three weeks in a neurological ward. It took shut toly a yr of rehabilitation after that, However The outcomes have been miraculous. For The primary time, she thought-about a return to aggressive biking. Then she started to have seizures. The prime damage triggered epilepsy.

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“It was A very troublesome time for me,” O’Brien says. “I had already been by way of Tons. I refused To merely settle for it.”

Somebody suggested that she ought to try para sports activities, however she balked.

“I knew about them and thought they have been good, however as an able-bodied athlete I said, ‘No, I’m not doing that,’” she says.

‘It’s a disgrace to be right here And by no means see past our bus’

Kate O’Brien and her groupmates on Canada’s Paralympic biking squad arrived in Japan on Wednesday. They’re primarytaining in a satellite tv for pc village shut to the Izu Velodrome in Shizuoka, about 175 kilometres southwest of Tokyo.

Every morning she and The completely different bike owners are Awakened at round 7:30 and immediately Want to take a COVID-19 look at.

“We will’t drink water or brush our tooth till we spit in a tube,” she says.

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They’ve To primarytain within a Canadian bubble and put on masks besides while consuming or out on the monitor. A temperature scan is taken earlier than they enter the eating hall.

O’Brien Through the Track World Championships in Milton in 2020, wright here she set a world doc.

Ivan Rupeš/Handout

“This will be very restricted as to wright here we can go,” O’Brien says. “It’s a disgrace to be right here And by no means see past our bus.”

The Paralympic portion of the Tokyo Video games start on Tuesday and run by way of Sept. 5.

She narrowly missed qualifying for the 2014 Winter Video games in Sochi

O’Brien performed basketball and ran monitor as she grew up however sustained a knee damage in Highschool and give up sports activities for Pretty A pair of yrs. A good friend useful that she try the skeleton, a sliding sport By which a single particular person is strapped to a small sled, however she stored slamming into the partitions.

“You’re speedy, however You will Have The power to’t drive,” someone said.

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She subsequent tried out as a bobsled brakeman and took a spin Throughout The earlier Olympic website in Calgary. It was love at first fright.

“We went dpersonal the monitor and we have been actually quick and we crashed On The underside,” O’Brien says. “I said, ‘That is my sport!’”

After being launched to the bobsleigh in 2010, she narrowly missed qualifying for the 2014 Winter Video games in Sochi. A torn hamstring in 2013 triggered her To overlook shut toly half of the run-As a lot As a Outcome of the Olympics.

“The complete time I used to be bobsledding it didn’t happen to me that I might Discover your self to be an Olympian,” O’Brien says. “I did it Simply because I liked The sport. It didn’t hit me till simply earlier than qualifying. Then I pulled the previous Kate damage factor.

“I am an damage-susceptible creature. I don’t know, maybe I Similar to hospitals.”

Mulling her future afterward, O’Brien decided to try piloting a bobsled Instead, and in March, 2014 attended driving school in Calgary. Cycling Canada was administering bodily look ats to athletes tright here On The identical time And she or he agreed to have them carried out. Her end outcomes have been promising And she or he was invited to a teaching camp in L. a..

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“I didn’t even know what monitor biking was,” she says.

Inside months O’Brien was competing worldwidely and spent that yr and the subsequent competing on each the World Cup monitor biking and bobsleigh circuits. She gained gprevious and a silver medal in biking On the 2015 Pan Am Video games in Toronto and retired from quick and scary runs dpersonal icy halls.

O’Brien made her Olympic dehowever in 2016 and competed in all three monitor biking dash events. Then acquired here her crash and a craniectomy, seizures and a evaluation of epilepsy.

After An prolonged interval By which she wrestled with settle forance, she reached out to officers with Canada’s Paralympic group and indicated a willingness to take part.

“It simply turned Definitely one of the biggest sporting expertise I’ve ever had,” O’Brien says. “I used to be welcomed with open arms.”

She attended a camp with completely different para-bike owners and gained two world titles On the 2020 para-biking monitor world championships On the Mattamy Nationwide Cycling Centre in Milton, Ont. In her first worldwide para event, she was clocked at 51 kilometres an hour and set a world doc of 35.223 seconds in the C4 class of The 5 hundred-metre dash and ancompletely different doc of 11.519 seconds in the 200-metre time trials.

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(Cyclists are given a classification Counting on The type and extent of their limitation. They’re categorized Based mostly on their useful capability across 4 broad packages – blind or partially sighted tandem, hand cycle, tricycle and regular bicycle. The class quantity signifies the severity of restrictions, with “1” being most limiting.)

“My first thought was thOn they Must have acquiredten the events incorrect,” O’Brien says.

Now, she is days away from her first Paralympics and is grateful to be tright here.

“Initially, I didn’t Have to even Talk about being a Paralympian And that i’m Unconstructive why,” she says. “I’m nonetheless Unconstructive what makes it so troublesome. In The Prolonged time period, it has taught me a lot. It Does not matter what occurs, I am going to On A daily basis think about myself a para athlete.”

Editor’s notice: An earlier mannequin of This textual content material incorrectly said that Beth Smith O’Brien works at Foothills Medical Centre. Truly, she is a nurse at Peter Lougheed Centre. This mannequin has been corrected.


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