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On The Road: Hit By a Bus

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Arguably every cyclist’s worst nightmare is getting hit by a motorist. On Christmas Eve 2013, Geon Hanson was out on a training ride and got hit by a bus.

This is his story.

Meet Geon Christopher Hanson, 24 year old Belizean cyclist
Riding experience: I got into cycling at a pretty young age following my love for sports. I’ve been a competitive cyclist since the age of 15 where I started racing for the Belmopan Cycling Club along with other current cyclist such as: Tariq Cano, David Henderson, and Allen Castillo. I continued racing from this point on through the junior, under-23, and elite ranks up to December 2013 when my accident took place. I’ve ridden for Belmopan Cycling Club, Team Indeco, Belmopan City Cycling Club or known as Team C4, and Western Spirit Cycling Club.

Frequent training routes: Being a cyclist and a resident of Belmopan City is a blessing due to the many terrains and options in route where a cyclist can train. I enjoy flat roads heading in an eastward direction along the George Price Highway from Belmopan City to Belize City, medium hills/rollers heading in a westward direction along the George Price Highway from Belmopan City to Benque Viejo Town, and the major hills heading in a southern direction along the Hummingbird Highway from Belmopan City to Dangriga Town. The route I would commonly use for training aligns with the terrain of the race I’m preparing for as well as the type of training I might be doing. All in all my most frequent training route is along the George Price Highway.

Out on the road
At the time of the accident I was preparing for the New Year’s Krem Classic which was only 6 days away. With only 6 days left leading up to the race I was focusing on rides with few miles and an increase in training intensity to get my body into race mode.

I left home at around 4:45 am on December 24th, 2013 with the plan to cover 30 miles in training. On that morning when I was between miles 39 and 38 on the George Price Highway I heard the heavy engine sound of a bus or truck coming as well as saw the lights. In the early mornings while training you can easily hear and see the lights of motor vehicles (especially those of large motor vehicles such as buses, dump trucks, and large 18-wheeler) long before they pass you which act as an early indicator that a vehicle is approaching from the rear. At this time I was about 11-12 miles out of Belmopan and around 5-7 motor vehicles had passed me heading in the same direction to Belize City before the accident took place. This is nothing new to me as I have been training on these highways from a very young age and can’t even count the number of buses and motor vehicles of early commuters which have passed me while training in the early mornings over the years. However, that’s where things took an unexpected turn and I was suddenly struck from behind by the approaching motor vehicle (I later learned it was bus) and thrown about 15 feet off the right hand side of the highway into a ditch of mud and water. It happened so fast as if the vehicle that hit me was travelling at lightning speed. The pain I felt at the time was so extreme that I could not move but I was still conscious and was able to call for help. My first thought was to check for movement of legs which I noted I still had mobility. After calling for help for a few minutes which felt like an eternity (thoughts of I’m going to die down here with no one knowing what had just happen) two young boys from a nearby house approached me where they then called a female adult who was the first to assist me on the scene. The woman then began to call for help and stop vehicles along the highway. Eventually other individuals who were supposedly on the bus came to render aid to me. I was then later taken by an ambulance to the Western Regional Hospital for treatment and later transferred to Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH) for further treatment.

An unforgettable experience
The doctors stated that with all the injuries I had sustained I shouldn’t have lived making me a living miracle. I sustained at least 8 broken ribs with some ribs completely detached from my chest wall, a punctured left lung, fractures to two of my vertebrae, my spleen was removed, ruptured intestine, badly bruised liver, damaged ligaments in my left ankle, extreme internal bleeding, and numerous abrasions and cuts over my entire body.

I had emergency surgery at Western Regional Hospital where my spleen had to be removed because it was damaged beyond repair and they tried to stabilize my injuries so I could be transferred to KHMH for further treatment. It was a surreal experience just as depicted in the movies. Waking up after a week being in an induced coma to the sound of machines beeping, tubes coming out the sides of my body, doctors and nurses surround me with no knowledge of who they are and where I was. I can recall one of my surgeons lifting my hospital gown and telling the nurse these staples are ready to come out from my stomach and it’s an easy process. To myself, I said “staples” what the hell has happened. That’s when I saw the surgical cuts and scars. At the time I was still trying to piece together what had happen as I had no memory after getting to Western Regional Hospital as I was in and out of consciousness. It was my family who helped me in explaining all that was happening to me and around me.

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Geon Hanson in an induced coma at KHMH (photo: Hanson Family)

The lost has been extreme. Racking up thousands of dollars in medical bills from the various surgeries and treatments, loss of my bike and equipment used at the time of the accident, and the payment for therapy/medication for recovery. Moreover the things money can’t replace such as the loss of an important organ which supports my immune system, the pain and grief my family had been put through, the pain and suffering I endured and the pain and suffering I will continue to endure in the future from the complications of my injuries. My life had been turned upside down from a young athletic guy full of energy and very active to someone who needed help to do the most basic actions in life. I’ve been back on the bike but find it hard to sustain the needed intensity and pain sufficient to be at the competitive level in Belize. It’s hard to be side-lined and watching races on the side of the road or tuning in on the radio. There is always the thought that I could be out there in the peloton doing what I love. This might be affected as I pursue a Master’s of Science degree in Environmental Science at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji. After I complete my studies and return home one of my main goals is to one day find the courage and strength to become again a competitive cyclist in Belize.

Post traumatic life and cycling
It has had a major impact on my approach to riding. I’m very attentive on the road and the safety of my colleagues who continue to train along the highways on a daily basis. It highlights the lack of respect for cyclist who need to use the same roads as the motorist. It highlights the lack of laws and regulations which would improve the safety and protection of cyclists in Belize. In addition, losing an important organ which contributed to my immune systems changed the way I take care of my body knowing that now I’m more at risk for infections and diseases. Furthermore, with all the damage to my body I’ve changed what I consume on a daily basis in the hopes of attaining a healthy lifestyle and healthy meal choices. I now need to conduct regular medical check-ups every year to ensure my injuries are continuing to heal properly and to avoid any future complications which may arise from the said injuries I received.

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Geon Hanson (third from right) in the Belize City September Criterium, nine months after the accident (photo: Isaac Rhys)

Being on the side line I’ve come to realize that cycling in Belize needs a major uplift. There seems to be no sustainability in Belizean cycling with new teams coming in and folding just as fast. There are no developmental programs in place for youths. There is no training facility for national teams or a proper cycling headquarter. Our governing bodies and cyclist like myself sit on the side and place a blind eye to these issues. Cycling in the media and social sites have to give rise to the stories that tell the tales of what actually is happening within the sport of cycling in Belize. This tale has never been told properly to the Belizean public whose eyes are only placed on what happens on Holy Saturday every year.

About Isaac Rhys

Isaac Rhys is the Managing Editor at cyclebiz.com. Based in the Belize, he started Cyclebiz in 2015 intent on attracting more attention to local bike races and its participants.

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2 Comments

  1. G. Christopher Cutkelvin

    February 1, 2016 at 10:27 am

    Geon,

    It is still hard for me to read this story and look at that picture. Your story is not yet finished and your best is yet to come. I always look forward for those few days out of every other year or so that I get to spend some time with you. I’m always going to be here for you, lol just one flight away (unless your in Fiji that’s like 5 flights). I look forward to building more memories with you and watching you become the champion you are in whatever area you want, on a bike or in the your professional area.

    With much love and admiration,

    Chris

  2. Charles Mossiah

    February 1, 2016 at 12:28 am

    Respect to you Geon…I had the pleasure of riding with you out here in Los Angeles. ..you remind me of the Marco Pantani story. ..He had a really bad accident while racing and recovered to win two of the biggest grand tours..You can do it hard work will payoff in becoming a Belizean Champ