CINCINNATI — Sunbury Press has released Ken Mercurio’s medical memoir Head Over Wheels – A ‘Lucky Stiff’ Turns Tragedy into a Cycling Triumph.
About the Book:
The inspiring story of how a 56-yr-old avid cyclist recovered from a life-threatening bicycling accident to conquer an “impossible” biking tour just 9 months later. On a training ride going 28 mph, Ken’s bike fork suddenly snapped apart, catapulting him onto his head and breaking his neck and six other bones. With pulverized neck vertebrae, his neurosurgeon said it was a miracle he didn’t die or become a quadriplegic. Five vertebrae were surgically fused to save his life, leaving him with a permanently stiff neck and almost no ability to turn his head.
In a momentous twist of fate, Ken had already registered to ride one of the country’s most difficult bike tours, scheduled nine months later. With no idea if he could ever ride again, Ken made that 5-day/500-mile tour his recovery goal. He tells a remarkable tale of love and support from family and friends, and of spiritual growth, to return to normal in as many ways as possible despite numerous emotional setbacks. From climbing back on a bike for the first time, to walking his daughter down the aisle exactly six months after the accident, readers will share Ken’s joy at reaching each milestone on his recovery journey.
Finally, in early afternoon, after a longer time than promised, Dr. Virella came out and spoke with them. The 4½-hour operation had gone well, but the damage was even worse than he had thought. I had broken cervical vertebrae #s 2 and 4, thoracic vertebrae #s 4, 6, and 10, and three ribs. That much they knew going in. What they didn’t know was how bad the break was on cervical #2, which is the most critical vertebra in the neck. It has a unique shape because it is the pivot point for the neck and head. Dr. Virella said it had snapped laterally all the way through it, and he had “no idea why” it did not injure the spinal cord that runs in between. He used the word “pulverized’ to describe the bone. This kind of break had a name, he said: Hangman’s Break. He specifically said to my anxious family that he was surprised I had not died instantly or become a quadriplegic.
Hangman’s Break got its name, of course, because the cause of death from a person being hanged by a neck noose could snap the cervical #2 bone, which in turn fatally injured the spinal cord. Most Hangman’s Breaks occur from falls that hyperextend the neck, which is exactly what happened to me. However, in only a small percentage of cases does this hyperextension not also injure the spinal cord due to a broken piece of the cervical bone coming in critical contact with it. Any injury or slightest cut to the spinal cord results in paralysis, and of course the greater the cord damage, the more extensive the paralysis is, up to and including death.
Dr. Virella mentioned then and many times since, that when he saw how badly my cervical #2 was pulverized, he would have completely expected this amount of trauma to have pushed the bone pieces into my spinal cord. Bone on both sides crushed and fragmented, but nothing touched the cord in between? He felt that was impossible! He always mentioned Christopher Reeve’s injury that made him a quadriplegic, and told me that my injury was similar to his. He always said it but didn’t have to: “Ken, you were very lucky indeed.”
About the Author:
Ken Mercurio is a 63-yr-old father of two who continues to endurance-ride his bike despite his permanently stiff neck and near-death bike accident. He worked 31 years for Carnation and Nestlé Food Company as director of nutrition and food-product labeling, and continues to consult in these fields during retirement.
After living his entire life in the Los Angeles area, he is now enjoying a new environment in Monroe, Ohio. Ken graduated from University of California, Davis, home to the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame, with a degree in nutrition science. His master’s degree is also in nutrition, from UCLA.
Head Over Wheels is Ken’s first book. He hopes his tale of recovery will inspire others to set goals to overcome what might seem like insurmountable hurdles in their lives.
What Others Are Saying:
“This fast-paced book is a must-read for cycling enthusiasts as well as anyone who has faced a life-changing challenge and wants to be inspired. Ken Mercurio has faced life’s demons and lived to ride again.”
Julie Davey, writing professor, author and cancer survivor
“Essential reading for those passionate about cycling and life! Tear-jerking, triumphant and joyous. Ken does an outstanding job of not only telling his story but inspiring us to reach our toughest goals!”
Jim Cunningham, Two-time South Carolina Cat. 1-2 State Road Race Champion
“Having your front fork snap is a bicyclist’s worst possible nightmare. There is only one place you can go and that is head first to the pavement. At the speed Ken was going, it is an absolute miracle he was not killed. The story of recovery that follows is one of great courage and determination, one that will appeal to cyclists and non-cyclists alike. I encourage you to read it and acknowledge Ken’s achievement.”
Thurlow Rogers, 1984 Olympic Road Cyclist, 2006 Masters World Road Race Champion, Multi-year National Champion, and author, “Fit and Fast: How to Be a Better Cyclist”
“When I saw Ken lying in the ER after his accident, I knew his recovery would be tough. He was extremely lucky to have survived the fracture in his neck known as Hangman’s Break. This story of his determination to recover is remarkable, a success I like to see in my patients.”
George A. Dichter, M.D., the author’s doctor
“Quite simply one of the most inspiring men I have had the pleasure of knowing. I am honored to have had the opportunity to share in Ken’s seemingly impossible goal of cycling the entire length of the Blue Ridge Parkway and to witness first hand his remarkable comeback. After having read the book, I am even more ‘inspired’ by him and his story.”
Paul Wood, Owner Black Bear Adventure Tours and former pro bike racer
“Fascinating tale of determination and desire. It demonstrates once again how strong the mind is when a goal is emotionally important. Anything is possible and Ken proves it.”
Steve Ring, author of “How to Change your Life by Sitting on your Butt.”
Head Over Wheels: A “Lucky Stiff” Turns Tragedy into a Cycling Triumph
Authored by Ken Mercurio
List Price: $14.95
5.5″ x 8.5″ (13.97 x 21.59 cm)
Black & White on White paper
Sunbury Press, Inc.
BISAC: Sports & Recreation / Cycling
Coming soon on Kindle
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