If Nick Mercer could remember it, it would be a bike ride he would never forget.
He had started a master’s degree in public administration at the University of Victoria in B.C. He was out with a riding group on a summer day when he went down a hill. A rider was coming toward him and he swerved to avoid a collision. He hit a tree so hard he shattered his helmet.
Two weeks later, Mercer awoke from a coma. When he got home to St. John’s, he was in the Health Sciences Centre for a month and the Miller Centre for five months learning basic abilities such as how to walk all over again.
Just prior to his accident, he was a young man in his 20’s biking across Canada with his friends as a way to celebrate getting his undergraduate degree.
Those two parts of Mercer’s life — his life as an athlete and then as a young man recovering from a brain injury — are the subject of his self-published book “Detour: Cycling, Coma and Living with a Brain Injury.”
“I’m not the world’s greatest athlete, but I did play a lot of sports. I was pretty good at them. Now I can’t really play any team sports because they all involve throwing, running, jumping and stuff like that,” Mercer says.
He played water polo, basketball and trained for triathlons. Today his left side is weak. He has double vision. Balance is also an issue.
“I think my intelligence is intact but physically ...,” he says, trailing off. “My life is different.”
He remains proud of the bike trip across the country and says he wanted to illustrate in the book the way he was then and what it took for him to progress to the point he’s at now.
His determination certainly wasn’t injured in the accident. Mercer returned to university in Victoria to complete his master’s degree. He was working as a policy analyst for the provincial government, but is not working at the moment. He works avidly on his blog www.concussiontalk.com.
And he’s never lost his athletic spirit. He does pilates and is now certified to teach it.
“I love it. It’s great,” he says.
Mercer was a main character in one segment of a six-part Telegram series written by reporter Tara Bradbury in 2011 called “The Wounded Brain: A Hidden Pandemic.” At that point he didn’t have his book finished or published.
He says these days he’s finding a level of contentment he hasn’t known in some time.
“Now I’m happy just being. Being home. Writing. Exercising. Hanging out with friends. It’s not the same as I thought my life would be like.”
Mercer’s book is available at https://leanpub.com/detour.