Friends and family of Dale Stetina, the two-time national road champion critically injured in a cycling accident Saturday in Colorado, had reason to be cautiously optimistic Monday after the 57-year-old showed several small but significant signs of improvement.
Stetina has been in a drug-induced coma since he was admitted to Boulder Community Hospital on Saturday afternoon with a brain stem injury after crashing while avoiding a vehicle that had pulled out on the road in front of a group of cyclists he was riding with on Boulder’s Lefthand Canyon Road.
Though he remains in critical condition, Stetina is stable, with strong breathing and heart rate. Because of the drug-induced coma, his full cognitive function cannot yet be measured until the swelling subsides, several sources close to the Stetina family told VeloNews. First indications to the degree of any cognitive damage could come as soon as Tuesday, or later in the week.
In an email to friends and family, Don Hobbs, a longtime friend of the Stetina family, wrote, “While Dale’s condition remains critical there are hopeful signs for optimism. His family has come to be together and support him, good friends have also gathered in force.”
And on Monday, Stetina showed several encouraging signs.
Via a Twitter account his family set up for updates on his condition, reports trickled out Monday that Stetina had moved his arms and legs — removing the fear that he could be paralyzed — and that he was, potentially, responsive to a verbal command from his daughter, Claire.
“Claire was beside as his sedation was lighter for a moment,” the family reported, via Twitter. “She said, ‘Dad, can you look at me?” and he lifted his left eyelid. That was a possible reaction to a request. So far he hasn’t responded to commands to raise fingers, but this might have been the first. Today has been big improvement and docs have gone from pessimistic to cautiously optimistic. But we can’t shout ‘hooray’ yet. Despite these improvements, Dale is still in critical condition. He’s not out of the woods yet. We are just so happy he is moving up, versus down.”
Stetina’s son Peter, a professional racer with Garmin-Sharp, arrived in Boulder on Sunday, the same day he was supposed to have raced Grand Prix de Plouay in Western France. He took to Twitter over the weekend to thank his Garmin team for helping facilitate his immediate return to the States, writing, “Thank you @Ride_Argyle for the amazing love. They got me from start of Plouay (France) to Dad’s bedside in 19 hours from receiving the first call.”
Hobbs wrote that Stetina had been preparing for a riding trip in Italy when he crashed. “Dale was planning to travel with me and a group of 20 friends and cyclists to the Dolomites for two weeks of riding the famous routes of the Giro d’Italia. We had been training together, and Dale was immensely excited to return to Italy for the first time in 31 years, the last time being when he raced the fabled Settimana Bergamasca. He won’t be making our trip this time, but the rest of “Squadra D60D13″ is still planning to depart on Wednesday, and we will take a moment to honor him and send our love, prayers and healing from the summit of each of the seven Cima Coppi climbs we have targeted. He deserves to be on top of each of them, just as he helped so many others summit their challenges.”
Along with his brother Wayne, Dale Stetina was a prolific winner during a racing career that lasted from the late 1960s through 1983. He was a member of the 1976 U.S. Olympic team, and twice won the biggest stage race in the U.S, the Red Zinger Classic, in 1979, and the renamed Coors Classic, in 1983. Both Dale and Wayne were inducted into the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame.
Hobbs added that, moving forward, Wayne, now a vice president at Shimano USA, would be handling updates on Dale’s condition.
“We still don’t know about cognitive function,” Stetina told Denver’s 9News. “The doctors are ready to progress with testing once he is off sedation.”