CLEVELAND - An elite athlete who suffered a terrifying accident live on Fox 8 News in the Morning is speaking out about what went wrong and how she survived.
It was just before 8 a.m. on September 9th during the “Kicking it with Kenny” segment.
Several world-class” cyclists were performing stunts to preview the upcoming “NEOCycle” event at Edgewater Park in Cleveland.
Michelle Mead, an advanced-level racer was doing a trick that she’d done several times before on a large “teeter totter,” when it happened.
“We were having a good time,” said Michelle. “It was just a momentary lapse of concentration. I felt my wheel turn and my wheel got caught on the boards of the teeter totter, and I was very aware of being launched off of it.”
She flipped and landed squarely on the back of her neck.
Doctors would later say she came within a “whiskers width” of potentially suffering a life-ending injury.
As it was, she’d broken two vertebrae and injured her spinal cord.
“I didn’t feel any pain, I just remember not being able to move anything,” said Michelle. “I completely broke one of the vertebrae in the upper part of my neck. It’s split in half and then I had a secondary break in the lower part that was impinging on my spinal cord and that’s where the spinal cord damage came in.”
Michelle underwent 6 hours of surgery at MetroHealth Medical Center to repair the damage and protect her spinal cord with titanium screws and plates.
Michelle is 54-years-old, but far healthier than people half her age. The gifted athlete has thrived at marathons, conquered the Iron Man and competed with Team USA.
She’s been involved with professional level cycling for more than a decade.
Doctors believe her high level of fitness is what helped her survive, but she still faces a long road to recovery.
Every day she must undergo several hours of grueling physical therapy in an effort to regain full use of her arms and hands.
“The pain and amount of work you have to do just to do simple things... spinal cord injury is by far the hardest battle I’ve ever faced,” said Michelle.
But she is determined to fully recovery and get back on her bike and she is eternally grateful to everyone at Metro.
Fighting back the tears, she thanked them for saving her life, and thanked her boyfriend, family, friends and Fox 8 viewers for showering her with love and support.
Michelle hopes her story will inspire others.
“I just...I so appreciate the outpouring,” said Michelle, “It’s been truly, truly amazing.”
Doctors say it could take up to a year before Michelle is better.
Loved ones set up a “YOUCARING” Compassionate Crowdfunding account to help with the mounting expenses.