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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

Tour of California - 2.HC

USA, February 18-25, 2007

Raisin Hope at the Tour of California

24 year-old Saul Raisin from Dalton, Georgia is competing in is own Tour of California this week on a quest to raise support for his Raisin Hope foundation. He is racing each stage ahead of the peloton in preparation for the Raisin Hope ride on March 31, 2007 in his hometown of Dalton. He crossed the finish line of stage two in Sacramento thirty minutes ahead of the peloton's scheduled arrival and met with Cyclingnews' Kirsten Robbins for an interview to talk about his recovery after coming out of a coma just eleven months ago.

Saul Raisin
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
(Click for larger image)

"When I was in the hospital bed I told my mom that if I ever ride a bike again I want to help the people that helped me," Raisin said. "I honestly feel that you can do anything that you set your mind too. I feel like I have been given another chance at life. Riding here and completing each stage of the Tour of California is used to show people that you can do anything."

Raisin was one of America's brightest talents in road cycling riding for France-based team Crédit Agricole in 2005 and 2006. The team noticed him while racing in several European events for the under 23 national team in 2004. After spending one year with their espoir program, Raisin joined their professional ranks and had a successful spring until Circuit de la Sarthe held in April of last year.

Raisin was involved in a crash during the Circuit de la Sarthe that resulted in a hematoma on the right side of his brain. He was rushed to the hospital and remained in a coma for over one week and paralyzed on the left side of his body. "I had a hematoma the size of a lemon in my brain because my head hit the ground so hard that it split my helmet and lacerated the top of my head," Raisin said. "I have seven staples in the top of my head; if it wasn't for wearing my helmet the doctors said that my brain would have been lying on the concrete."

The young talent was transferred from a French hospital to Atlanta Georgia while still in a coma state where he woke remembering nothing of the bike accident. "Other guys in the race that day told me that I slipped on a patch of gravel," Raisin said. "I remember flashes when I was in the hospital and in a coma. It was like someone had their hands over my eyes and would take them away for a second to see my mom's face or a friend's face and then cover them back up. They were like little flashes of memories."

Not only did he suffer from head trauma but he also had a broke scapula and collar bone that he was unaware of due to the paralysis the left side of his body. "When I woke up in Atlanta, Georgia I didn't realize I was injured because I didn't have any pain," Raisin continued. "I didn't know that I had broken bones because I was paralyzed and the injuries had healed before I could move again. My brain trauma was on the right side and caused my to be paralyzed on the left."

Saul Raisin pre-peloton
Photo ©: Russ & Nancy Wright
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Raisin's story is a remarkable one because the doctors had told his parents that he may not live or at best he would be unable to walk or live a normal life again due to his paralysis and brain trauma. "I feel like I have been giving a second chance in life," Raisin said. "Most doctors told my parents that I would be a vegetable for the rest of my life, if I even lived. They told my parents to start thinking about what to do with my organs if I died or that I would be in a coma for about five months, in the best case scenario."

His second chance in life did not arrive without a hard work. Raisin remained in the hospital for over one month in Atlanta before being released. He did not return home but rather to a hotel next to the hospital enabling easy commutes to visits to his doctors daily. "I was in the hospital going to therapy during the days, every day and all day," Raisin said. "The mental tasks and exercises were more difficult for me than the physical ones. I lost the ability to add and subtract five plus two, I couldn't tell you the answer to that question and just to be able to say my name, Saul Raisin, took all my energy. After half a day of small mental tasks I had to go to sleep because they exhausted me. Every little thing was an effort for me. Once I finished with my therapy I would go back to the hotel and ride my bike on the trainer for an hour."

"If I can return the message and I can reach out to explain this through Raisin Hope then that is my goal."

- Raisin

Slowly Raisin began to return to normal but without the same charisma he had once had. His head trauma had rendered him with a blank stare. "For about seven months I was absent," Raisin said. "I was not in a coma any more but I was not here either, I was completely absent. I was in a coma for more than a week and it took me seven months for me to begin acting normal. My friends would come to visit me and leave crying because I wasn't really there."

In the hospital
Photo ©: Saul Raisin
(Click for larger image)

During his days in the hospital he met the people who influenced the direction he was about to take his new life. His mission is to deliver a message. "I met a guy who was stuck in a wheel chair, his wife had taken care of their child and they were going to lose everything," Raisin said. "I told him not to give up and by the time I left the hospital he was walking again. I asked God to give me my life back because I realized I don't care about my bike, my car or money. I only care about getting my life back. Now I can live a normal life and I have the possibility to race my bike again some day. Honestly, if I can return the message and I can reach out to explain this through Raisin Hope then that is my goal. Because I honestly believe I can do anything I set my mind to and racing my bike again is one of them."

More information on the Raisin Hope ride can be found at saulraisin.com. The funds raised will be donated to four charities close to Saul Raisin and his family. The charities that will benefit from contributions are: Shepherd Center, Camp Twin Lakes, The Brain Injury Association of Georgia as well as the USA Cycling Development Foundation.

Also, read Cyclingnews' Raisin racing to recover interview.