Jimmy Guardino woke up and stared at his family and friends as a nurse pulled out his feeding tube. He concluded he was in the hospital. Next, he figured it had to do with the bicycle race he was just competing in.
“How’s my bike?” he asked his dad.
What Jimmy didn’t know was nearly two days had passed. He had crashed headfirst at more than 30 mph, lapsed into a coma and was airlifted to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. He had a fractured skull, his teeth had literally shaken loose and he couldn’t move. His bike had just a three-inch crack.
Before cycling, Jimmy played bass for The Goodnight Anthem, which toured the country and appeared on MTV, NBC and at the Warped Tour. But Jimmy decided to continue the education he had put on hold and return to Temple. A friend asked Jimmy to join him for a bike workout. He was a natural and quickly joined a team.
Jimmy trained heavily with the Chester County Velo team, earning first place in the team’s annual Cheyney Challenge and the Sportsfest Irving Park Criterium.
But before he could complete his first season of competition, Jimmy crashed in his final lap at the Liberty Criterium in July 2009.
Jimmy’s neurosurgeon told him he would probably need to relearn how to walk. Jimmy didn’t believe him.
To his doctor’s surprise, Jimmy regained movement in his limbs. Within a week, he walked. He was sent home to a flood of letters and donations from people he didn’t even know.
Still, his recuperation was tedious. Jimmy spent a month in bed, heavily medicated. As his body used all of its energy to heal, Jimmy labored to get up to eat applesauce or Jell-O before falling back asleep. All he wanted was a bowl of cereal, but his loose teeth couldn’t handle solid food.
A month later, Jimmy played Wii Tennis. His arm ached for a week, but he was progressing.
Two months after the accident, Jimmy’s neurosurgeon, also a cyclist, said he’d fully recover. Jimmy began planning his return to school – and cycling.
Still fighting extreme fatigue and aches, Jimmy returned to class, even teaching statistics as a Diamond Peer Teacher.
Chester County Velo, looking to help their teammate’s return, bought him a new bike.
“Jimmy never wanted to stop racing,” said teammate Eric Salzar. “From the moment he came to, he was talking about racing again.”
Now cycling at his most competitive level, Jimmy placed top five in the 2010 Pennsylvania State Criterium, the Pennyslvania State Road Race and Pennsylvania’s Best All-around Rider competition.
“I just wanted it,” he said. “Never think that you can’t achieve what you want.”
– Meg Hughes
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