Last year, attorney Tim Atkinson, an arm amputee, was riding the Triple Bypass bike event, a 120-mile course that climbs over three of Colorado’s highest mountain passes. After just having come over Vail pass, Atkinson was racing through the flatlands around Lake Dillon at 25 mph when he cut over some rumble strips, lost his balance and crashed.
“At first, the pain was not terrible, but when I tried to stand up to shake it off my right leg was paralyzed from the hip down,” Atkinson said. The severity of the pain got progressively worse. X-Rays at Summit Valley Medical Center confirmed Atkinson had suffered multiple fractures of his femur, one in the upper part of the femur’s vertical shaft and two others in the hip area.
“As a longtime amputee, the thought that I had done something to permanently affect my mobility was my worst fear realized,” he said. But Dr. Joseph from Vail ∙ Summit Orthopaedics took Atkinson immediately into surgery, where he placed a titanium rod vertically down the femur, almost to the kneecap, and attached a second rod diagonally that ran up the femur neck to the hip ball. The surgery was successful.
Now, it was time for recovery, a difficult task that Tim approached with characteristic focus and determination. In a matter of weeks, he was riding a stationary bike. Within two months he was back up on a road bike, tackling his 20-mile commute to the office. At the end of September, he drove to the Trek factory in Waterloo Wisconsin to pick up a Trek Domane road bike that had been custom designed for one-handed operation, a project Tim and Trek had been working on for close to a year.
Atkinson has been involved in adaptive sports in ways that go far beyond his personal disability. In 1974, he lost his left arm in a sailing accident. The injury played a significant part in giving him a purpose for his future endeavors. A Paralympic athlete and several time national ski champion in the 1980s, and a former staff instructor for the National Sports Center for the Disabled, Tim now spends his weekends during the winter coaching his daughter and other athletes on the Special Olympics Alpine Team and the summer coaching in the cycling program. “After losing my arm, re-engaging in athletic activities was such an important part of healing for me. And being able to give back to the community by working with physically and cognitively different athletes has been more fulfilling than I could have imagined,” Atkinson says.
As all good litigation attorneys know, it’s not over until it’s over. In July of this year, Atkinson plans to get on his new Trek ride the Triple ByPass, this time in both directions, a total of 240 miles and six passes over two days. A number of his friends have promised to ride it with him, at least one way. “They say they’re going to point out every pebble and pothole along the way! I’ve told them they better start training now.”