Dr. Eric Reed started the morning of Tuesday, April 28th his favorite way – on a thirty-mile, mixed-terrain bike ride at 5 a.m. with two close friends through the hills of La Mesa, California, where he lives with his wife and three children.
After the ride, a quick espresso, and some trail mix, he felt invigorated and ready for his day at Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Center, where he’s been a pediatrician for seven years.
On a typical day, he can expect to see different types of ailments in babies and children: fevers, jaundice, coughs, stomach aches, and eczema. Around 1 p.m., after seeing twelve patients and having lunch in his office, Dr. Reed began assisting patients in the outdoor triage tents he initiated due to COVID-19. He could never have expected what he heard next: the air was filled with high pitched screams of terror.
Dr. Reed darted out from behind the screened-in tents and glanced around. His colleagues were standing, screaming – stunned and terrified. Wes, the uniformed security guard, was on the ground. A man he’d been escorting off the grounds was on top of him, repeatedly punching him in the face; Wes was no longer moving. He lay limp. But the man kept punching.
“Call 911!” Dr. Reed yelled as he ran to help.
He approached the attacker from behind, crouched, and used all his strength to lift him off Wes. Then they stood face-to-face. The man was thicker, stockier, and outweighed Dr. Reed by at least 15 pounds.
“Hey! Stop!” Dr. Reed yelled with his hands up, hoping to deescalate the situation. “Please stop!”
Dr. Reed vividly remembers what happened next. “The man was raging, scared – awake yet unconscious. Furious like a caged animal, manic. I thought I could speak to him, talk him down, and get him to stop,” he said. The man replied with his fists. He swung twice, missed, then grabbed Dr. Reed behind the neck – and pulled.
Dr. Reed heard his spine snap, and crunch, as he was forced forward and down. He saw his stomach, then fell to the hard ground as he landed on his left side.
Wes, who had been lying unconscious, suddenly woke up and was able to pin the attacker down.
Dr. Reed rolled from his side to his back. “C-Spine!” he managed to shout. Meaning, cervical spine: the bones that make up your neck. It was a signal to his colleagues to stabilize his spine immediately. Dr. Reed knew his neck was broken.
He couldn’t move or feel his left arm. He could wiggle his toes. “Oh good,” he thought, “I’m not paralyzed. I’ll be able to ride my bike again.”
Dr. Reed has over ten years of training in both Eastern and Western medicine. He studied and taught Meditation and practiced Acupuncture for several years before pursuing his medical degree in Pediatrics. He’s also been an avid cyclist – riding daily – for four years.
In the attack three months ago, he sustained fractures of the left and right C6 cervical facets and a fracture of the C7 vertebrae. In other words, his neck was broken in three places and the ligaments were shredded.
He spent five days in the hospital, including a grueling surgery that cut open the back of his neck to fuse the vertebrae in his cervical spine with bone stem cells and titanium rods. He will never regain full mobility in his neck and has lost approximately 25 percent of his range of motion.
What he did gain is a new appreciation for the community he is a part of; the doctors and nurses who cared for him, the colleagues who rallied around him, and his wife and children, who are constant sources of love, empathy, and support.
Ten days after being released from the hospital, neck brace on, he started cycling again indoors.
Prior to the assault, Dr. Reed enjoyed the regular use of his ELEMNT BOLT and KICKR indoor trainer. After his neck surgery, with the help of a friend, he tried to get back on. But gravity, the set-up, and low handlebar height put too much pressure on his neck.
When we got wind of Dr. Reed’s story we had to step up and help as much as we could,”
said Wahoo CEO Mike Saturnia.
Wahoo donated a KICKR BIKE indoor ecosystem that he now uses daily as an integral part of his mental and physical recovery.
“The benefits of the KICKR BIKE, as opposed to using your bike on a trainer, is that you can make incremental micro-adjustments as you heal,” Dr. Reed stated referencing the adjustable fit system on BIKE.
Since then, with support from Wahoo, under the virtual supervision of a coach and his physical therapy team, Dr. Reed has ridden 20 miles indoors daily on his KICKR BIKE.
He can no longer start his days his favorite way – riding outside with friends, but Dr. Reed uses his KICKR BIKE, virtual rides, mindfulness, and meditation to ground him and help him cope with difficult emotions and intense pain.
“Humans have the capacity to endure so much more than they think.”
Chris Hadgis is a freelance writer and cyclist currently based in White River Junction, Vermont. She’s written for several publications including the Los Angeles Times, Bicycling, and Dirt Rag Magazine. When not writing or riding bikes, Chris can be found playing with dogs that aren’t hers and trying to bake the world’s best brownies.