Brook MacDonald recovery
Brook MacDonald’s Road Back
Thanks to his utter determination Kiwi MTB athlete, Brook MacDonald, has spent the last few months preparing for the start of an intense UCI cross-country season, just 18 months after surgeons told him he would never walk again.
The first race of the season scheduled for Germany will show who has done their homework during the off-season, and Brook has done more than his fair share.
Looking back to the World Mountain Bike Championship in Mont Saint Anne, Canada, in late 2019, Brook says he can remember vividly when it all went wrong.
“I was flying around the trail when my back wheel caught some exposed roots which sent me flying over the handlebars. I fell from a height of three metres straight onto my back. I remember the pain was excruciating.
“I realised I couldn’t roll because I couldn’t feel my legs. I knew then that it was pretty serious, and I was pretty scared at that moment.”
After spending five hours on the mountain waiting to be choppered to the nearest hospital, Brook was told by surgeons he had fractured his T12 and L1 vertebrae.
“It felt like forever for the helicopter to arrive, the whole situation was pretty horrible, and the pain was getting worse.
“At the time, lying on the mountain, I accepted what had happened and, if I was going to be paralysed, then I was going to be paralysed. If not, well that would be a good thing.”
Brook needed emergency surgery on his spine and spent the next two weeks in hospital in Quebec.
Lucy Mador, Brook’s fiancée, was told by Doctors there was a chance her partner would never walk again.
“Hearing that Brook was never going to be able to ride his bike again was devastating for both of us.”
Being a professional athlete performing at Brook’s level takes a lot of dedication and determination, but Brook says he has never trained as hard as he did during his rehab period.
“I made myself a goal and set my mind to it, I was going to race in the next season.
“I spent four weeks in the Burwood Spinal Unit in Christchurch, extensively training with my physio twice a day. The first week was really tough, I spent probably 35-40 mins a session, before I’d have to go home and sleep because it would knock me around so much.”
Quinn McNaughtan was Brook’s physio through that intense period and as a mountain biker herself she was really proud to see Brook get back on his bike.
“I was nervous to work with a professional athlete, as I wasn’t sure how it would work out, but we got on well and Brook was determined and pushed himself hard in all of our sessions. It’s quite amazing to see him back and riding with as much confidence as before. McNaughtan says.
The exclusive documentary, The Road Back, follows MacDonald’s journey from the accident to his comeback, with never seen before footage from his time in hospital shot on partner Lucy’s iPhone. The film is available on Red Bull TV from April 30th.
After what he has been through, Brook hopes to complete a full calendar of mountain-biking events this year.
“I’ll never forget what I’ve been through. I never take a single day riding my bike for granted, after what I have experienced. I want to make the most of every opportunity.”
“I got to meet a lot of different people during my rehab, hear about their accidents and their spinal cord injuries, and see how they have recovered. Listening to their stories was really inspiring and eye-opening.”
Worldwide, thousands will run together in the Wings For Life World Run to raise awareness and funds for spinal cord injury research. This year The Wings for Life World Run app means you can get involved no matter where you are in the world and lace up for those who can’t.
In Auckland the run will be on Sunday May 9 at 11pm. Register for the app run, and participate from wherever you are https://www.wingsforlifeworldrun.com/en/locations/auckland