A year ago former national road champion Lynette Burger could barely breathe, let alone ride a bicycle, after being involved in a life-threatening accident.
This year she is celebrating her ongoing recovery – which she underlined by winning the National Classic Cycle Race in Brakpan at the weekend.
“Last year almost every bone in my body was broken and now I can celebrate life as I’m getting back to being ‘normal’,” said the 38-year-old.
Burger was hit side-on by a taxi on September 26. She suffered two punctured lungs, bleeding on the brain, a broken collarbone and broken ribs on her left side.
The Demacon rider, who won the National Classic ahead of teammate Kim le Court, said it had always been one of her favourite races and the fact that she lived in the area made it extra special.
“It’s been very emotional for me at every race this past year just to compete and to finish,” said Burger, who placed second in the recent Satellite Classic and fourth in the Amashova.
“Now I can start racing again, helping my team and even be on the podium myself. So it does lift you mentally and physically.”
Burger said this had been one of the toughest years of her life.
“It’s difficult to explain, as people just see the outer you and you seem ‘fine’ in their eyes.
“I’m physically struggling as my lungs are still only at 80 per cent and I have other internal issues still, all related to the accident. The emotional and mental aspects have been the toughest.
“I want to share this as I think there are many people who can relate in different ways. Stress is so normal in our everyday lives, but with ‘added’ things happening it sometimes spirals out of control before we even know it.”
Burger has been diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD] and initially did not want to tell anyone. But now, with getting the help she needs, she wants to share her story to show that people are not alone and that there is a way out.
“I’ve learnt so much about myself in the last two weeks and things have really changed.
“It’s not an overnight thing. PTSD comes slowly, creeping in day after day, month after month. So it won’t just disappear like a bout of flu and you feel better the next day. No, it takes time – months, even years.
“It’s to be ‘OK’ with it and deal with things as they come [that is key]. You need to find a place where it’s just you and nobody else, even if it’s just five minutes a day. You need time out.
“With kids and a full-time job apart from cycling we always make time for everyone except ourselves. And if you aren’t happy with yourself you cannot make anyone else happy.”
She added that there were still things she could not do, but she had come to terms with that.
“The only thing that gets to me is that I can’t play with my kids the way I used to. But they’ve got used to it now, too, and the oldest one will always say ‘don’t hurt mommy’.”
Burger said she was definitely still going through the emotional, physical and mental repercussions of the accident and had her good and bad days.
“I’ve learnt that it’s also OK to feel sad or sore or just not want to speak about it; time is what I need.
“If anything though I’ve learnt that I’m actually a strong person. It might not seem or feel like it every day, but the people around me keep saying it, so I’m starting to believe that I am.
“My husband and family have been phenomenal and so understanding, especially my husband. My friends and close cycling friends – they know who they are – have had such a huge impact on my life, especially this last year, and they lift me up more than they know.
“It’s been tough, as when you go through PTSD you don’t really see any good [coming] from yourself or actually even others. But now, getting the help that I need, I’m starting to believe in myself again and I know that God has a plan with me and he saved me for a reason.”
Burger said she was taking it race by race, week by week, as she did not know how her body would respond. But for now she has some good form – and she’s using it.
“I hope to keep it until the end of the season, finishing off with the 947 Ride Joburg,” she said.