Nate was featured on texasbikeracing.com today!
I copy & pasted the article below, but it you'd like to view it full, click THIS link.
Nathan Aikele is scheduled to graduate from Podiatry Medical School on May 28th with his fellow colleagues despite a horrific bike crash that left him paralyzed from the nipples down. When the accident occurred, he had seven weeks of school left, and the incident left us all in shock.
The cyclist was working one of his clinical rotations in San Antonio and decided to drive down to participate in the Driveway Series criterium here in Austin on April 10th. Aikele recalls, “As soon as we hit the last lap, I took off pretty hard. I remember looking back a few times. Then I remember waking up in the ambulance and being in a lot of pain, but I passed out again.” He was in the lead and was projected to win his category race when he looked behind him, turned back to face forward, and catapulted into a tree.
I was present the day of the crash and remember an ambulance hauling someone off, but none of us knew the severity of the situation until the next day. This 30-year-old student from Midwestern University in Phoenix was taken to Brackenridge Hospital in Austin where doctors performed surgery and used bones from his pelvis to reconstruct his spine. “I remember bits and pieces of the hospital, but everything was foggy for several days,” says Aikele.
He needed to get to Harborview Medical Center, a primary and secondary investigator on spinal cord research in Seattle, for acute inpatient rehab. After being released from Brackenridge, he was flown to Seattle through the help and organization of his church members. This was crucial. He has found the power to stay strong and positive through acts of kindness just like this.
“I can’t give up. If I give up, I’m going to be in such a miserable place. I don’t want this to change my life’s outcome,” confessed Aikele.
His family is steady by his side, and together they pray. They’ve been there for him through the breakdowns. He is thankful for the help from the church and finds hope in relying on God’s plan and believing everything is going to work out. “I can’t give up. If I give up, I’m going to be in such a miserable place. I don’t want this to change my life’s outcome,” confessed Aikele.
He has also been humbled by the support of so many cyclists he has come across throughout his racing years. Those from Texas, Colorado, Arizona, and California have reached out and donated with funds, kind words, and prayers. “Little to big donations have been such a huge help.” Aikele attributes his strength to all the people who take the time to care.
Former cycling coach Stefan Rothe of Rothe Training knows him to be an efficient and effective cyclist due to the limited time he had to train while in med school. “Nathan is very goal-oriented, and it reflects on his current state and outlook on life. He’s one of the most positive and optimistic people I’ve ever met.”
After being flown to Seattle, he tried to start rehab therapy, but it was slowed down by his arm fracture. With his arm in a cast, he couldn’t do many of the necessary transfers. The doctors told him to go back home to his parents in Kennewick, WA, for a month so his arm fracture could heal. They had to make sure his mom was trained to take care of him, and she is his primary caretaker for the time being. “She’s little, but she picks me up, moves me, and gets me out of bed in the morning and gets me in the shower,” says Aikele.
He will return to Seattle on June 1st to get his arm out of the cast and move forward with a month of rehab. The goal is to become essentially 100% independent with his new accommodations after that month.
This unemployed medical student has been busy getting all of his ducks in a row to pass the time at home. He and his family have applied for Medicaid and have been getting all of the insurance paperwork squared away. After receiving the Texas hospital bill, he realized he would bankrupt himself if he paid it now.
Lance Armstrong took the time to visit Nathan when he was in the hospital here in Austin. His family has been in contact with Lance Armstrong since his visit. Nathan’s father set up an account where people can donate to the cause and be able to write it off as a charitable donation on their taxes. They took a picture of Nathan and Lance in the hospital and sent Armstrong 50 copies, which he signed and sent back. They’ll be given to donators. “He’s been more than helpful. It was incredible having him stop by and going out of his way to help out afterwards,” says Aikele.
Nathan is going to be a busy man after graduation on May 28th. He’ll have to complete the rotation that he’s missing right now after rehab in June. In July and August, he’ll be at it full swing with a month of emergency medicine in an emergency department, then a month in a podiatry office to be completed by the end of August. Financially, it makes sense to stay in Kennewick for these make-up rotations since his follow-up appointments are in Washington too.
He was accepted to a residency program that started June 20th at Northern Colorado University. Gracious directors have allowed him to defer his acceptance for a year. His residency will start in June, 2015, followed by three years of surgical training. “They’ve been more than accommodating. It’s such a huge blessing.” reported Aikele.
The short-term prognosis is a complete spinal cord injury. He has no motor function, which means he can’t move or feel below his chest. As of now, the doctors are concerned with getting him accommodated in a wheelchair, and nobody has talked to him about gaining any function back. There are other options to try to regain movement and he’s not going to give up on that yet. Programs in Utah and Colorado are being considered for Nathan because they focus on the legs and seeing if any movement can be restored.
Since everything is so new, he’s not really sure of the options he has to continue being active. He’d love to get back on the bike. In Boulder, Colorado, there is a group of sporty paraplegics, and he’d love to attend their activities. He is excited to figure out what they are able to do and discover what he’ll be able to do. There’s no stopping this guy and why should there be? In his own words, “If you get yourself in a mental state that’s positive, it will percolate down to the rest of your life’s decisions. If I think positive now and I know I have these goals, this injury will not prevent me from accomplishing them.”
Donations can be made at : http://www.fundly.com/nate-for-the-win
A couple of Texas fundraisers are in the works to help him with past and future medical bills.
Adam Raul, the local Panache Cyclewear rep, is having a silent auction this Sunday, May 25 at the Mean Eyed Cat in Austin from 1-4 pm. For additional details contact Adam at adraul415 at gmail dot com.
Stay tuned for details on an upcoming TexasBikeRacing.com and the Driveway Series event. Nathan is planning on attending to personally thank everyone.