The Story Behind Jeremy Menduni's Face Injury
Can you tell us exactly what happened?
Due to the concussion I don't remember much from the day of the crash. I recall arriving at Epic Bike Park, then nothing until seeing my father walk in to my room at the hospital and immediately faint when our eyes met. Everyone I saw between the crash and laying in the hospital bed had a different reaction. It made it impossible to gauge how bad I was off that, but anyone that knows my dad can tell you he's stoic and hardly ever shows his emotions. Seeing his reaction made the severity of my injury suddenly very apparent.
Everything I know about the crash was recounted to me by my friends who were at the park that night. They told me I was riding the jump line and on the second jump my fork snapped at the crown upon impact. My friend Jay was the first to get to me. He said I was laying on the ground with my hands still clutching the bars, which were no longer attached to the bike. There was a puddle of blood pooling around me. It's clear my face took the full impact of falling 10-12 feet from the air because my helmet hardly had a scratch on it.
I fractured my cheek bone in 8 places. The two worst fractures were from my right eye socket to my mouth and from the left side of my nose to my mouth. My upper jaw was only connected by my nose which was also broken.
What was your reaction when you first saw a picture of your face after the accident?
The first photos I saw of myself were ones taken the night of the crash right after having scans done and another after I was cleaned up and being released from the ER. I saw the photos on my first day back home. Honestly I was shocked, I didn't recognize myself. My first thoughts were if the doctors would be able to fix everything and if I would I look the same or be left with visible damage. I quickly realized that was no way to think. I had to be thankful for the state I was in, considering how much worse off I could have been. There was a risk of vision loss, severe concussion, and spinal damage. All in all, I was very lucky and that's what I tried to focus on every time I saw myself.
What exactly did your surgery consist of? How did you feel going into it?
I had a 6-hour surgery where they wired my mouth shut, inserted 4 plates and 18 screws in order to rebuild my cheek bones, and then put my nose back into place.
I was extremely nervous for surgery, not only because it would be fairly invasive, but it was the first surgery I have undergone in my life. Thankfully I had to wait 1 week for the swelling to go down before the surgery could be preformed, which allowed me the time to mentally prepare for it. When the day of my surgery arrived I was nervous but mostly ready to do what had to be done in order to start my recovery process.
I remember waking up to my nurse explaining that the operation went very smoothly, which of course I was happy to hear. I was even happier to be given Jello to eat! I suppose I felt a sense of comfort knowing that being able to eat something more substantial than the liquid diet I had previously been on meant I was already making headway.
Unfortunately, 2 weeks post-surgery I got an infection. It was extremely uncomfortable and caused puss to leak from my stitches. After an all-nighter back at the hospital I was reopened at the access point in my upper mouth, where they cleaned everything and stitched me back up.Scan of Jeremy's Skull 3 days after the crash The day after Surgery
How did you manage to stay positive during your recovery process, and what was the toughest part?
I had a great deal of support from family, friends and the bike community. My girlfriend and parents took time off work to assist with medication, food and helped keep me entertained. Friends stopped by with Tim Horton’s ice caps and my social media was filled with kind words. That all played a huge part in keeping my spirits up. It was also very comforting to know the team of surgeons and doctors on my case were confident in my odds for a full and timely recovery, as well as being able to offer me guidance and information throughout the 2 months. Mainly I think it was a choice though. I decided that if I made an effort to be positive, the recovery process would be a lot easier for not only myself but the people around me. I love the sport - it's my life and yes, it’s unfortunate that the accident happened while doing something I enjoy, but I never became resentful.
The first 3 weeks I mainly stayed in bed, just resting and trying to allow myself to heal. I was extremely tired, but considering the active lifestyle I live it was tough not having a lot to occupy my days. I tried to keep busy doing some photography but I was antsy to get on a bike. Since I couldn't ride street I thought taking up mountain biking, an old hobby from my childhood, would fill the void and keep me in shape untill I could ride again. I went to Joe Mamma's, my local bike shop in Ottawa, and picked out an All Mountain bike. It took 1 week to arrive and I remember looking at it everyday with such excitement. That bike was a huge motivation for me to recover, and after 4 weeks I took it out on some light trails and started feeling better already! Aside from the bed rest, another unfortunate aspect in my healing, and maybe the worst part, would have to be when I got the infection. As I previously explained, it was extremely unpleasant and set me back in my recovery. I had to continue my liquid and soft food diet for much longer than expected. I was losing almost a pound a day. When the doctor finally told me I could start slowly eating solid food again it was hands down the best day in the entire recovery process.
After suffering a serious injury like that, do you look at life in a different way?
I do. I’ve gained a better appreciation for the quality of life I live in terms of physically being able to do what I want, when I want. I also now place a lot more value in spending time and money checking over my bike for damage and switching out parts. Everyone should take the necessary safety measures to ensure any avoidable accidents don’t happen. That being said, there are times you can take every precaution possible and still go down. I had a lot of people asking if it's still worth riding anymore, if it's worth the risk of injuring my face or body again. It seems like a crazy thing to ask because for me it wasn’t even a question. I knew that I would never be able to stop riding. Having the All Mountain bike opened my eyes to a whole new side of cycling and I'm very happy to have discovered that. I plan on riding both my street/park bike and my All Mountain bike for as long as possible!
Are you completely healed by now?
As I write this I am nearing the 3 month post-crash date. I received the okay to start riding my street/park bike just a few days ago and I am starting to eat more and more food from my regular diet. At my last appointment I was told that the swelling left in my cheeks and my upper lip, along with my eye having been stretched by the stitches will take upwards of 1 year to completely heal. So currently I’m left with that - the odd sharp pain and some dental work that still needs to be done. Still though, everyday I notice improvements and it feels amazing to be on the other end, more or less fully recovered and back on my bike.
Anyone you would like to thank?
I don't even know where to begin thanking everyone. I came home from the hospital to messages from all my family, friends and followers wishing me well. Everyone who visited me in person made the days go by faster. It was unbelievable to see just how many people were behind me. I especially want to thank my wonderful girlfriend Ariana and my parents who had a lot to deal with between long hours at the hospital and taking care of me at home. I couldn't have done it without them. My surgeon, Dr. Peters at the Civic Hospital in Ottawa, and the rest of his team. Jose and the guys at Joe Mamma's for hooking me up with the mountain bike, and of course my cat Ignacio for chilling with me in bed everyday! All these people plus many more have made the last 3 months of my life much easier and I am so grateful to have them in my life!