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Long road back . . . Roger Cotterell is back riding, but has not yet returned to motorcycle racing. Photo: supplied.

By SHELLEY TOPP

A motorcycle racing accident has left Roger Cotterell grateful for the help he received in his recovery from serious injuries.

Moments before the accident, Roger was having the time of his life racing around Timaru International Motor Raceway on his Yamaha SRX600cc motorbike.

Then he woke up badly injured on the track.

The West Eyreton motorcycle mechanic had been taking part in the three-day Southern Classic Motorcycle races last year when he hit the track hard during his fourth race of the day on Saturday, December 1.

“It was all going well until the second it wasn’t,” he said.

“I woke up lying on the track unable to breathe and feeling very sick, with the St John paramedics talking to me and taking very good care of me.”

The next thing Roger knew he was on his way to Timaru Hospital in an ambulance, with his wife, Sharon, accompanying him and a drip line in his hand for pain relief.

An x-ray revealed the shocking extent of his injuries, which included a right haemopneuthorax (air in the chest cavity) and multiple right rib fractures, one of which had punctured his right lung. There was other trauma to his chest wall, as well as damage to his right collar bone and shoulder blade.

“That is the short version of the injuries,” he said.

After the x-ray, a chest drain was inserted to re-inflate Roger’s right lung and remove blood from his chest.

That made breathing much easier. But then he was told to prepare for another ordeal.

He was to be transported to Christchurch Hospital by the Westpac Rescue Helicopter. The weather was deteriorating so the trip had to be made as soon as possible.

Within minutes he was taken to the helicopter loading bay and transferred to a much smaller stretcher to fit into the rear of the helicopter.

“This is when you get the full four-D experience of crunching bones,” he said.

“The crew explained what they were doing and wasted no time getting me securely in the helicopter and monitored me very closely, with plenty of analgesia for the whole trip, which got quite rough for the last 10 minutes or so as the weather had got very bad by the time we touched down in Hagley Park close to the hospital.

“The pilot told me that another 10 minutes and they may not have been able to land.”

An ambulance transferred Roger to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Christchurch
Hospital, where he had scans and visits to the orthopaedic and thoracic surgery teams “while being looked after very well by the team in ICU.”

The next day he was in surgery “for over four hours with both teams working to repair me, with six ribs plated with about 38 screws and one clavicle plate with eight screws”, he said.

“The next week was the start of recovery, in hospital and then at home.”

Now, five and a half months later, after extensive, ongoing physiotherapy he is getting
back to normal, but with still a long way to go.

However, Roger is grateful to the many people, including the Westpac Rescue Helicopter
crew and other medical professionals, who helped him.

“In the past I had made donations to the Westpac Rescue Helicopter appeal and I would have liked to have made a large donation again, but that has not been possible with not working for so long, so instead I have set up an affordable $5 a week automatic payment to hopefully go a little way towards their continued work, as you never know them.”

Roger is back riding motorbikes, but only shortdistances at the moment, for his work.

“Racing will have to wait until I am happy that I am fit enough and can afford to replace all my leathers and body protectors that had to be cut off.”