By Andrew Hood
Saul Raisin remains in a coma Friday in a French hospital and doctors say the next two to four days are very important to see improvement.
The condition of the 23-year-old American has stabilized following surgery Thursday and physicians say the immediate threat to his life has passed.
Raisin crashed late in Tuesday’s first stage of the Circuit de la Sarthe and landed hard on his face and shoulder. He broke a clavicle and a rib and suffered several cuts and abrasions, but doctors say emphatically that his hard-shell helmet saved his life.
He was alert Wednesday and spoke with Crédit Agricole sport director Roger Legeay, but his condition worsened overnight Thursday when he suffered an cerebral edema.
On Friday afternoon, VeloNews spoke with Crédit Agricole team doctor Dr. Joel Menard about Raisin’s condition. Dr. Menard traveled from the Vuelta al País Vasco to Angers, France, to be available to help monitor the situation. Here are excerpts from the interview:
VN.com: How is Saul’s condition on Friday?
Dr. Joel Menard: The pressure on his brain is still very high despite the operation (Thursday) and there is some damage to the brain. He is still in a coma and with heavy medication. We have to wait several more days to know his condition. The risk of death has now passed, but the situation is still critical for at least three or four more days. Still, it’s a bit better than yesterday.
VN.com: Did he undergo one or two surgeries on Thursday?
DJM: There were two interventions. The first was a small procedure to relieve the pressure on his brain and apply some medicines, but it shouldn’t be considered an operation. When the doctors saw him reacting well, they decided to make a proper operation when they cleaned the parts of the brain to avoid future problems. It was in the afternoon yesterday that the medical team made the important surgery.
VN.com: Has he remained in Angers? Is the hospital equipped to handle such cases?
DJM: He is still in Angers. This hospital is very good. In fact, it is specialized in neurological trauma. That’s why he’s stayed here and hasn’t been moved to Paris or another facility. This hospital is one of the best for these issues.
VN.com: Does anyone know what caused him to crash?
DJM: Well, I was not there, so I cannot say. What we do know is that he fell about two kilometers before the end of the stage. We don’t know if he hit someone’s tire or he hit something in the road. He fell on his face and his helmet is all broken into pieces. Thank God he was wearing a helmet. He has also broken a left clavicle, a rib and has some cuts. His face is almost clean of abrasions. The force of the fall was on the front of his helmet. That’s what saved him.
VN.com: There have been some reports that Saul is epileptic …
DJM: He is not epileptic.
VN.com: He crashed at the Ronde de l’Isard in 2003 — was that caused by a seizure?
DJM: He fell in 2003 and lost consciousness, but that fall was less serious than the one now. People are saying he’s epileptic, but he’s not.
VN.com: Which part of his brain is affected? Is it possible to tell?
DJM: He has passed several scans and it appears to be the front of his brain that is damaged. The front temporal zone is also damaged. It’s difficult to precisely say. It’s too early to make a full diagnosis.
VN.com: If he comes out of the coma, can he expect a full recovery?
DJM: We don’t know at all. It’s very early to talk about him coming out of the coma. We don’t know if it’s going to be a good surprise or a bad surprise. We are expecting some brain damage. We don’t know exactly and it’s too early to make any statements about this.
VN.com: Have you ever seen anything similar to this case in your many years as a cycling doctor?
DJM: Well, the one case that comes to mind is Fabio Casartelli (who crashed in the 1995 Tour de France). He died within one hour, but remember, he was not wearing the new hard-shell helmets like the riders are required to wear now. This crash could have been similar. The helmet saved his life, that’s for sure.
VN.com: Who is there to be with Saul?
DJM: His parents have arrived and some friends as well are here. Roger Legeay and I are here to be with him. We are taking turns here at the hospital to be with him.