CS Santosh can now walk and run – gross motor skills that he had nearly lost two months ago. In January, the Indian rider met with a brutal crash in Stage 4 of the Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia – he was thrown off his bike, briefly lost his pulse, was resuscitated by two riders, chopper-flown to a medical facility within 15 minutes, and spent close to ten days in induced coma. The 37-year old has little memory of any of this.
“Until seven days ago, Santosh didn’t know what had happened,” his father Shiv Shankar tells ESPN. “He still doesn’t recall the accident but through our conversations, he’s slowly grown to accept that it did take place. Now he asks questions like, ‘oh wow, that’s crazy, how did it happen?'”
Realisation that all of this isn’t a bad dream, but a real-life situation he’s battling has had a marked positive effect on the pace of his recovery.
The impact of his fall caused a “Diffuse Axonal Injury” (DIA), a type of brain trauma that is medically described as the resistant inertia that occurs to the brain preceding and following its sudden acceleration against the skull, causing shearing of the axonal tracts of the white matter. Clinically, DIA is graded into three categories, according to its severity and anatomical distribution of injury. Shiv Shankar was relieved, when within three hours after the crash, doctors assured him Santosh’s case was “not the most severe kind”.
After spending eight days at the Saudi German hospital in Jeddah in a medically induced coma — used commonly for head injuries to shut off blood flow to damaged sections and allow the brain to heal — Santosh was flown to his home city, Bengaluru, on January 14.
His parents Shivshankar and Chandrakala were stationed at the emergency room entrance when he was wheeled in, immobile and in a heavily sedated state. “Even in that condition,” says Shivshankar, “Santosh seemed to recognize his mother. He reached out and pressed his mother’s hand. It was a defining moment for us. It was in that moment that we knew there was hope.”
“But in a few days, once he regained complete consciousness, he had no memory of what had happened. He didn’t know why he was lying in a hospital bed, why doctors were checking on him and why he wasn’t able to get up and walk. He recalled going to Europe for the pre-race training around six months before Dakar. But the Rally and the crash had been wiped from his mind. He just couldn’t make peace with being in a hospital and not being able to remember how he got there.”
‘Ace of Dirt’, a brainchild of CS Santosh, is a pilot event that will pit 32 Indian riders in an elimination contest, with the winner getting a training stint with Santosh. Red Bull
Santosh spent a good number of his waking hours in the ICU of the private hospital in Bengaluru watching race videos, both his own as well as other riders’, on his phone. “He’d talk of getting back on his bike and how much he loves the adventure of a rider’s life,” says Shivshankar, halting, to collect his words.
The short-term memory loss Santosh has been contending with since the crash is now gradually turning a corner. He’s finding his way, as he would around the salt flats and dunes at a Dakar rally, without navigational support. Over the past week, he has been ticking with nervous energy, making 85-km trips to the Big Rock dirt park, an off-road training facility in the outskirts of Bengaluru he created eight years ago. The venue hosts the second edition of Red Bull’s ‘Ace of Dirt’ this weekend, where off-road racers will be tested in a specially laid course set up by Santosh in a single-elimination format
“My eldest brother, who was Santosh’s favourite uncle, died four years ago but he just couldn’t imagine that he had no recollection of it,” says Shivshankar. “But when I accompanied him to Big Rock last weekend and I ran him through what we already had in place, he kept nodding and could remember almost all of it. When we describe past events, he tells us it helps him recall them. It must be tough on him but anyone who knows Santosh knows what a fighter the guy is. In fact, even doctors in Bengaluru, who’re helping him with his neurological rehabilitation, are quite surprised at his rapid progress. It might take some time but we’re quite certain he will touch full recovery.”
CS Santosh CS Santosh
Outside the few dozens of people who compete in this grueling, danger-laden event, where man and machine are fused and pitted against treacherous terrain, the calculus of a Dakar Rally rider’s life isn’t quite comprehensible to the rest. In 2013, Santosh suffered a near-fatal accident and third-degree burns after his bike caught fire at the World Cross Country Rally Championship. Two years later, Santosh rode a KTM450 rally replica and became the first Indian to compete in the Dakar. “There are times when you’re sitting on the motorcycle and wondering why you’re even doing this, going through all this pain and torture…,” Santosh would tell us in an earlier interview, “but at the end of the day when you make it, there’s a reward in store.”
This year was his seventh attempt at the annual rally raid event spread over 14 days, 12 stages and 7646 km in Saudi Arabia. Santosh crashed when he was 135 km into the 685 km long fourth stage – comprising the rally’s first dune sighting for a 30 km stretch, followed by a lengthy off-road section leading to sandy tracks, between Bisha and Wadi Ad-Dawasir.
He is now taking baby steps to normalcy and has begun moderate physical workouts. He plans to start cycling soon.
“It’s for the first time in years that Santosh is home for such a long period,” says Shivshankar. “We go out for quiet dinners on some nights. He is a lot more at peace now. Our toughest days are perhaps behind us.”
Source by www.espn.com