“Every inch counts”


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Alex’s life was full of success. In 2005 he graduated as an engineer in Esslingen. Shortly afterwards he was offered a job in Shanghai where he met his American wife to be, Christine. In 2007 he took part in 4 marathons in a period of just 5 months. Alex’s happy life seemed to be running smoothly until a fatal accident threatened to destroy his dreams.

The Jump
“In 2007 Christine and I were on a bike trip in the mountains about 200km from Shanghai. We came across a lake, the weather was hot and humid, the fresh water was inviting and I launched into a somersault into the water” Alex, now 36 reminisces. “When touching the surface of the water the sound of a dull bang was the only recognisable sense. Then I could only recognise the green water around me, I could neither move nor breathe. My only thought was that I would never be able to walk again.“
He was brought out of the water and soon regained his ability to breathe. Alex’s colleague Tori knew a doctor in a renowned clinic in Shanghai, who advised him what to do. “They put me on a barrow until the ambulance fetched me. The drive to hospital was terrible. The place where the accident had taken place was isolated and remote. To make matters worse we had to stop often in order to pay the toll charges“. He remembers his five hour journey, how the feeling in his body slowly returned. “When I was able to feel my toes again, I felt severe pain.”

The Aftermath 
“Mr. Liu, the doctor on duty, was a spinal specialist. He diagnosed that the C1 in the spine was broken in 3 different places and the dens of the C2 was fractured. This dens slid into the spinal cord and caused a blood cot. Nevertheless, his doctor assured him he would be able to walk again. “I was happy about that but I was aware of the long road ahead.“ After a while the swelling decreased and the surgery could go ahead. “The discs and the dens were secured in place with a bolt that was implemented by the neck along with a “Halofixateur“, a process which measures levels of pain.“

Alexander with his "Halofixateur" and his doctors in Shanghai
Alexander with his "Halofixateur" and his doctors in Shanghai  

The Recovery
At this point I didn’t see much progress in getting back to my old self” Alex faced problems with essential bodily functions such as eupepsia and bowl function, which made everyday life a struggle. He lost 15 kg within two weeks.
Three weeks later Christine watched him take the first steps with the help of a walking frame. A great feeling. "After incurring a life-changing injury you realise how you are improving your state of health every day. Every inch counts.“
Alex returned to Germany where he undertook a rehabilitation and physiotherapy program. He wanted to have a normal life again so flew back to Shanghai. The pain remained constant and Alex told us how difficult it was to keep concentrated and motivated. “Looking back, I did not take my time to recover, thankfully I was lucky enough to recover quickly.” In 2009 Alex and Christine married and moved to Australia where he discovered his passion for triathlons. “One year after my accident I finished a half ironman competition“ he proudly told us. 

2011 at his first Ironman in New Zealand
2011 at his first Ironman in New Zealand 

Their son Nicolas was born nearly two years ago. To be able to physically carry him means everything to Alex. Today is the eighth anniversary of his accident “at the beginning we celebrated it like some kind of second birthday but these thoughts now vanish more and more every day.“
After making such a fantastic recovery, Alex still suffers problems caused by his accident such as limitations when rotating his head and a great deal of back pain.
“Since coming into contact with Wings for Life I often reflect on the situation in a quiet moment and think how thankful I am for how lucky I have been.”