HURTLING downhill at 25mph, an idyllic ride through the Italian countryside quickly turned into a nightmare for Phones4U founder John Caudwell when his front tyre suddenly exploded.
The British billionaire, 68, was left fighting for his life after suffering a shattered shoulder, punctured lung and 11 broken bones.
John had to be airlifted to hospital with a collapsed lung and 11 broken bones[/caption]
He was on holiday in Italy and training for his annual Caudwell Children charity bike ride fundraiser when the horror accident happened – and he credits his helmet for saving his life.
Despite being barely able to breathe, John astonishingly managed to call partner Modesta Vžesniauskaitė, while a nearby driver phoned an ambulance.
Speaking exclusively to The Sun Online, John admitted: “I’m 99 per cent certain that if I hadn’t been wearing a helmet I would have paid with my life.
“The accident came out of nowhere. I was on my first downhill bend of the ride and my front tyre exploded sending me crashing to the ground.
“I knew I’d done something serious as I couldn’t breathe and I was in agony in my shoulder and rib cage.”
The worst was to come
John was rushed to a hospital near Florence, where he was unable to communicate with staff who didn’t speak any English.
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He describes his five day stay in the medical facility as “agonising” from the treatment to open back up his collapsed lungs to nurses attempting to give him a bed bath.
He says that due to having Covid-19 two months before to the holiday, when he was given a PCR test at the hospital it came back as positive – meaning medics were forced to put him on a covid-positive ward.
John said: “The worst was yet to come after the accident. I was given some anaesthetic as they had to drill into my chest in order to re-inflate my lung.
“At first it wasn’t too bad but the deeper the drill got, the worse the pain got.
“Thanks to the lung being aspirated [entering by accident] as it went, the local anaesthetic was being pushed away which made it hurt more.”
‘Most horrendous week of my life’
Once his lung was back up and running he was moved to the covid ward and told by doctors not to move.
But sadly this message hadn’t been relayed to the nurse who kept trying to move John for a bed-bath – and they couldn’t communicate with one another.
He added: “It was terrifying having these people in hazmat suits appear every few hours and try to move all my limbs. There was nothing I could do to stop it, even though I knew they shouldn’t do it.
“I was in so much pain, I didn’t have the energy to argue. It was the most horrendous week of my life.”
During his stint at the Italian hospital, John’s partner and family weren’t able to visit him and their plans to move him back to a hospital near home in Monaco were nearly scuppered.
Due to his lung puncture, the business leader and philanthropist wasn’t supposed to fly, but luckily he was allowed to as long as the pilot stayed at a low altitude.
After moving hospitals it was spotted that John had a fractured hip on top of all of his other injuries – leaving him wheelchair-bound until it healed up.
He said: “We had a battle to move me. I was a covid leper on a ward where no one spoke a language I could understand.
“Now I’ve got a long road ahead of me when it comes to operations but at least I know what’s going on.
“The hardest bit in a way is not being able to lead my charity bike ride this year because I really love helping others.”
Last week, John had a plate inserted in his collarbone to help realign it and the broken bones on the left side of his body.
The operation went well and he insisted he is in good spirits and is “putting his limited French to use with the nursing staff”.
The Caudwell Children charity supports kids with disabilities and endeavours to make sure they have the same chance to succeed as everyone else.
John will be watching the race on 24th September from the sidelines as he starts his six weeks of recovery.
This year the one-day challenge starts and finishes in the heart of Monte Carlo, with competitors able to choose their distance, from 30km up to 85km.
- To find out more about Cycle Monte Carlo and to take part remotely visit: www.caudwellchildren.com/cyclewithchampions.
John thinks his helmet is the only reason he is still alive[/caption]
He couldn’t understand anything the Italian doctors were telling him[/caption]
He was rushed to a hospital and was left wheelchair bound for weeks after the accident[/caption]