Exactly 5 years ago on November 18, 2010 my life changed.
A head on collision with a fully loaded semi-truck catapulted my life on a journey like no other. A journey of self-discovery, growth and healing of epic proportions.
I was far from being ready to deal with what was about to happen and all I can say today, looking back, is that if I was given the option to avoid it all, I would have to say no.
I truly believe that everything that happen in our lives has a reason and we are given a rare opportunity to either learn and grow from it, or deny it all and take a less positive approach that is projected as being a victim to the situation.
We are all different and we all have our conditional ways of how we deal with the unexpected – there’s no right or wrong, there’s only a choice and we are the ones that make it.
My journey of healing was long, painful and filled with challenges that seemed to never end. There were days where my inner light was so weak and dim that I couldn’t get out of bed and other days where life seemed to make sense and hope sparkled everywhere. Difficult decisions had to be made and the hardest one of them all was to let go of my dysfunctional right leg and elect to have it amputated below the knee. Once again I was faced with new uncharted territory to navigate through. Stormy seas and dark days prevailed and if it wasn’t for the amazing support of my beloved family and the amazing team of professionals around me I don’t know where I would be today.
Years of injury recovery experience culminated with an unprecedented recovery from my amputation and I was able to get back on my “feet” and get my life back on track. I was elated with what I could do especially after two and half years of disability that for a while I thought the only limit to what I can do is what I set my mind on. With this renewed ambitious energy, mixed with a lack of consciousness as to the limits my body may have, I decided to follow my biggest life dream – I wanted to race the world’s longest and toughest off road race – the Dakar Rally. Initially, I was going to go for it in 2016 only a year and a bit after my amputation as I was doing so well and then took another look and reset my goal for January 2017 giving me full two years to attain my dream. To top it all off, I wanted to race it on a motorcycle, something that was never attempted in the history of this grueling race. I wanted to do this for half my life and I always had an excuse why not to do it. It’s too expensive, I just immigrated to a new country, I have a new business, I have kids and the list goes on and on. Then the accident happened and it was all taken away from me in a split second. When I woke up after 8 days in comma I had slim chances of ever walking again let alone racing motorcycles… so you can see why when I realized that I can ride again and even ride pretty well, I decided to go for it full speed – I was given a second chance and I was determined make the most of it (so I thought)
14 months of intense training, racing, raising sponsorship and world class preparation lead me to my first ever true test in rally racing – Baja Rally 3.0 in Baja California.
I prepared for this race like a military operation. Training on and off the bike offered me incredible physical strength and focus to maximize my chances for top performance in this Rally. I had the most amazing assistance and support from my sponsors (see list below) who came on board in an incredible way, I was able to build a dream adaptive rally bike and reach the start line, physically and mentally as prepared as I could be.
Day one of the Rally was a dream come true. I shouted from the top of my lungs (inside my helmet) “I can’t believe that I’m actually doing this” “is this real?”. Tears filled my eyes when I crossed the finish line that day. An amazing feeling of aliveness and accomplishment flooded my heart and soul. I was living my dream!!!
Enthusiastic and energized I set off on the second day to experience even bigger emotions. My prosthetic leg didn’t register as a hindrance as I rode through beautiful mountain passes and made my way towards the Pacific Ocean. When I reached the ocean I had to stop and touch the water – here I am I felt like I was floating in a dream come true – words do not do justice to how I felt.
The bike performed flawlessly and I started to get my head around navigation and riding long distances. I left the dunes and entered a long section of bumpy sandy trails. Everything felt great except my navigation equipment bracket broke and I had to stabilize it with one hand while I try to quickly glance at the map and instruments. I stare down one second too long and as I raise my head to look at the trail ahead I see large sand mount in front of me. At this stage there’s nothing I can do, it’s too late. It took me by complete surprise, I hold on to the bike as we both fly in the air. I crash hard on my left backside and hear a loud crack. I know what it is even before my body comes to complete halt. I broke a few ribs before (11 to be exact) and once you break one you know when you break them again…
As I hit the ground and try to sit up I know that this is the end of my race. It is over, no way I can continue like this. What I didn’t know at the time was that this was the end of my Dakar dream all together.
It took me two days to travel back home and get my broken body to the hospital.
First series of x rays startled the ER doctor who said he can’t see anything due to the extensive damage I sustained years ago. He sent me to do a CT scan. An hour later he approached me with a stunned look in his eyes. I don’t understand how you can walk, let alone drive and move around, what are you made of?”. “Why? “I ask, “How many ribs you think you’ve broken?” I replied “I’m not sure” confused by his reaction “maybe 2, maximum 3 right?” “Come here and take a look.” He shows me the screen and points to the first broken rib, “This one is pretty bad and it’s not aligned anymore, it snapped like a tree branch, see the sharp edges here?” then he points to the second and third and forth and fifth and sixth and seventh – “7 broken ribs!” My jaw drops… and that's not all he adds, “You also punctured your lung and there’s blood and fluid in the left one.”
At this stage I ask him “Are you sure this is my CT and not some else’s, perhaps you got it confused somehow?” I truly could not digest the news. “I want you to see a specialist asap” he adds… when you hear that you know it’s bad. “Listen Erez, you sustained serious injuries, the fact you survived a flight is miraculous, your lung could have collapsed in mid air and there would have been very little anyone could have done for you then” I am stunned! How can it be that this injury is so severe and here I am able to move, breathe and fly… maybe he’s over exaggerating? Reality bits hard and after a few minutes it sinks in – here I am severely injured again!
A few days later I visit a thoracic surgeon and after a through examination he declares: you have 2 options:
First option: we can operate and try to fix your broken ribs, however, this is an experimental surgery and we don’t have any long term studies on it and in your case 4 ribs are located behind the shoulder blade which we will not be able to reach and fix. If you were admitted to our hospital right after your accident, we would have operated on you immediately.
Second option” live with this condition and know you are now at very high risk to re break your ribs with any kind of impact. Because the ribs broke like a tree branch and are misaligned with each other, chances of complete healing is questionable, any small impact will break them. Our fear is that the edges can penetrate your chest cavity and may puncture your lung or worst they can penetrate your heart.
The blood runs off my face, I can’t believe what I’m hearing. After everything I went through here I am again in a life-changing situation, but this time I brought it on my self.
A rude awakening and realization of all the risks I have taken on, what I have put my amazing wife and family through and what I have to lose, launches me the to the deepest exploration within my heart and soul to date to ask myself “Why do I pursue such a physical path to get to here and now?”
Don’t get me wrong, my pursuit of Dakar has been the most important driver in my recovery. It provided a clear target and pushed me to explore every possible area in my life, from nutrition and physical exercise, to meditation and stress management. It was an incredible journey and I don’t regret a second of it. The dangers and risks were always there but now it’s the first time I see them clearly and have a new appreciation to what I have at risk.
A new relationship with my mortality and place in this lifetime is forming by the minute and here I am on a major juncture in life again…
The most difficult decision followed – my body has been repeatedly broken so many times I lost count and it has now said ENOUGH!!! Now you must STOP and find a different way, a different channel to find your joy and happiness.
I realize that I am ‘addicted to adrenaline’ – my rush and brush with “almosts”, extreme activities and solo adventures had provided me deep experiences throughout my life but now it’s time to re-examine it and search for answers within. No wonder I chose Dakar rally, the Everest of races as my next pursuit… I am programmed to push my human boundaries and go beyond them.
Since I was 15 I went on solo adventures in the amazing deserts of Israel, served in an elite commando unit in Israeli Air Force where we were trained to ignore feelings of fear and danger and go where no one will dare, our slogan is “those who dare win” so no surprise I made this part of my life.
It is with a clear heart and awakened soul that I now declare to you all that my endeavor to race the Dakar Rally has reached its end. There’s too much to risk and it’s time to change my direction. My physical journey to heal and prove to myself and others that I am not disabled has ended and now a much deeper inner journey has begun.
Will I find the same joy and excitement elsewhere? Time, soul searching and being of service to others will determine this over time. What I do know is that my old ways have ended, a new path begins with a gentler, conscious respect to my body and life has now begun.
I want to share this and take this opportunity to thank you all for your endless support and confidence in me and a huge thank you to all of my sponsors who have supported me along this amazing journey. I do not regret a single moment and know that every step was needed to get me to where I am now. I am humbled and grateful to share this and the next turn in my road and journey ahead.
Once I have fully healed this body, my next evolution will be to help others as I have gained so much experience in injury recovery, I feel it is part of my future life path and calling.
Now its time to venture on my own personal Dakar, this time without the bike. It’s a deep dive into uncharted waters but I’m ready and open to whatever revels itself.
Huge thank you for my amazing sponsors and supporters
CTI knee braces
Great Beat Bites
in Reach Canada
Impulse sport therapeutics
Faast Company / Fleex Bars