From the brink of death to paracycling championship

After suffering shocking injuries leaving doctors unsure if he would survive, a former Horncastle vet has gone on to excel at paracycling.

Julian Earls has become a national paracyclist after almost losing his life in a bike crash. EMN-211018-113251001
Julian Earls has become a national paracyclist after almost losing his life in a bike crash. EMN-211018-113251001

Julian Earl, 64, from Oxcombe, was a respected veterinary surgeon who owned Banovallum Veterinary Group on Prospect Street, Horncastle.

He was also a keen cyclist who has been racing since he was a student in the 1980s.

Then on August 8, 2012, he sustained life-threatening injuries in a crash during a road-race at Aby, near Alford. He struck his head on a kerbstone while travelling at 35mph - thankfully he was wearing a helmet at the time.

His wife, Annika, received a phone call from one of their friends to say Julian had been involved in an accident and needed to get to the hospital immediately.

Julian was first rushed to Grimsby Hospital and then immediately referred to the specialist Neurosurgical Unit at Hull Royal Infirmary under the care of neurosurgeon Gerry O’Reilly, who told Annika that he was unlikely to survive.

Julian was placed in an induced coma for 11 days and he spent four months in hospital.

He said: “I don’t remember anything about the crash, I remember warming up and doing the lap before the race, but that’s it - next thing I know I woke up in hospital 11 days later.”

When he finally returned home, it became clear that he could not work again due to the loss of use of his left side.

Julian said: “It took me a good two years to get used to not being a ‘proper vet’ any more, and during my convalescence, I discovered this relevant piece of writing by Lord Alfred Tennyson:

“‘Though we are not now at that strength which in better days moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are; one equal temper of heroic hearts made weak by time and fate but not in will; To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.’

“I have adopted this as my mantra as I decided not to yield to my injuries.”

Julian recalled when he awoke from his coma: “ Gerry asked me, ‘What was I like and what did I want to do in the future?’. I said, ‘Stubborn, I do not give up easily! In future? Well, all I want to do is get back on my bike!’

“To Gerry’s credit, he did not say ‘don’t be daft man, you cannot even stand up at this minute!’ Gerry said, ‘Well if you want to get back on your bike then I will get you there.’”

Gerry was as good as his word and in 2015 Julian was able to register as a para-cyclist to return to the competition he loves, and incredibly he achieved a top ten placing in the National Para-cycling Championships in 2018, 2019, and then placed fifth in this year’s event in June.

But the best was yet to come for Julian as just last weekend, he won the National Para-cycling Time-trial 2021 Series in his category.

Julian said: “Never in my life did I expect to be winning a national title in my beloved sport and especially at my current age.

“When I achieved my fifth place in the national championship in 2018, Gerry was genuinely as pleased as I was.

“He tells me that my recovery is an inspiration to both him and his other patients. That inspires me to battle on even further.”

“He is genuinely my hero, he not only saved my life but also his positive attitude makes him stand out even more. I now class him as a close friend, as he has literally been inside my head.”

Julian has also published two books detailing his career as a vet, named ‘Cows in Trees - A Warm and Witty Memoir of a Vet’s Life’ and ‘The Dog with the Head Transplant’ in 2014 and 2019 respectively.