Pete Reed: Three-time Olympic rowing champion on spinal stroke, paralysis and the future
“It was scary. I had been lying down and I could feel the life draining out of my thighs.”
On 3 September Pete Reed walked in to his community hospital, an imposing figure at 6in within his Royal Navy uniform. He was not able to pee and had a pain in his chest legs.
A small stroke, the physicians said. Three days after, he had been walking around the hospital when the pain returned, only this time it was a lot more acute. “Like nothing I’ve believed,” he states.
He returned to bed because the”outstanding” pain radiated throughout his chest and his back.
“Jeannie [his partner] was holding my feet because I asked , since I had been wiggling my toes up and down, then slowly they came to a halt,” that the 38-year-old tells Sport.
“I could slowly feel it coming up throughout the thighs and up to my chest. Within about 45 minutes the pain had gone I could not move.”
Reed, a three-time Olympic rowing champion, had endured a spinal stroke that was larger. He is currently paralysed from the chest .
In his first meeting since the injury, he informs Sir Matthew Pinsent how his life has changed in the three months that are near since.
“After the pain had died away, the very first thing I tried to do was sit up,” he remembers. “I caught the sides of the bed to pull myself up and I fell forwards as a rag doll, then fell backwards. That’s really scary.”
Three days before, Reed was finishing an attack course as part of the training to the Royal Marines. After retiring from Pilates in April 2018, he had returned to some naval career.
He do . After all, this is really a guy who’s reported to have the world’s biggest recorded lung capacity and, by his own admission, has been a”physical specimen”.
Now is the ability to wiggle a toe that is major. After bladder infection, he also contracted bladder infection as well as a rare form of meningitis during his time in hospital.
The injury’s cause is unknown and its extent will become evident once the inflammation because of the injury reduces. He might acquire some movement in his legs, but walking would be a”miracle”.
“If the harm is done, I won’t be walking again. I can try out all I like but it might not happen,” he states. “That’s quite tough to take, but I’ll take any motion I will get.
“It’s a balance of being positive and realistic, so I’ll make certain I keep my emotions in check”
Three months ago after two weeks in a NHS hospital, Reed moved to a professional spinal unit at Salisbury. After he is discharged, he’ll visit the rehabilitation centre at Stanford Hall near Loughborough.
“People will find someone who has been throughout the Olympics very able-bodied, and today they’ll see the wheelchair, but there is more to it than this,” he states.
“The gloomy realities are bladder care, bowel care, nourishment and skin care and how all of it affects you.
“In the days following that big stroke, I would be alert in five in the morning thinking’how am I going to go to the toilet?’ . That is challenging.”
To the minute, the everyday life of Reed was intended for several decades as a rower. A row onto a couple of hours out on the water, the machine in the morning and then time in the gym.
It is still much the same. On his telephone he’s a schedule, filled with meetings with physiotherapy sessions, advisers and educational sessions, where he learns about his own body’s newest demands. Green is for visitors – and there is a great deal of green.
Many of the crewmates – Alex Gregory, Andrew Triggs Hodge, Stan Louloudis to name a few – along with his former coach Jurgen Grobler are to visit. This had been the latter, the mastermind of a head trainer, who Reed believes fought the most of GB.
“Nobody knows my body better than Jurgen,” he says. “He saw me in my bodily best so for him coming to see me in a wheelchair was not tough.
“He had been the 1 person who I would try to impress , and it’s a different world now.”
A different planet but as Reed says, he could not have had greater preparation for his new life.
“There’s nothing more valuable for me now than my athlete mindset. Nothing.”
His life has lived Olympiad later Olympiad, winning gold at every Games. In this new chapter of his lifetime, he’s treating it substantially the same.
“Where we were moving before was a gold medal, we understood what the target was, we understood the place, the beginning time, the norm – typically a moment or two faster than the world record,” he says.
“Now, the normal is walking again. Let us say a golden trophy mountaineering , back into my previous life is walking again and functioning for the Navy.
“It is so familiar it is untrue. I count my blessings that I’m up for this challenge.
“If the aim is walking again rather than a gold medal, the target is even bigger than before and also the motivation is much larger than ever before, and I didn’t think I’d ever say that again.
“Following London 2012, that believed that I’d have a bigger challenge and more motivation to achieve?”
Reed doesn’t understand what his future holds. He hopes he will be able to return in some capacity to the Navy, although he wants to work with his voice and his stage to raise awareness of the difficulties men and women face.
A great deal of adjustment, both physical and psychological, will occur. He’ll never come back to his own first-floor London apartment, and he has to become accustomed to looking up in people, rather than straight down from his preceding towering physique.
“I pride myself on being brave and bold and on occasion somewhat reckless,” he says. “Today, when I go out to the city, a sidewalk is an obstruction. Can I get up? Can I get down that, or even a set of stairs? Right now, it’s a no-go.
“I shall learn to tackle these things, I will learn to get as near my previous life.
“It is going to take a lot of time, as a kerb is a boundary. I want to reach some stage where there are no boundaries.”
Yet could the near future see a return? Could this Olympian one day compete in the Paralympics?
“I will not lie, I’ve thought about it and that I thought about it rather fast. I started looking up all the Paralympic sports and classifications,” he states.
“But we’ve got to provide that the Paralympians credit. While I’d fantasise about this, those athletes really are incredible.”
But which sport? Rowing is out due to his lack of back power and control, but javelin, archery or shooting? Maybe.
“Invictus Games, why not?” He states. “At the moment that the Paralympics feel like fantasy land. I have got three medals and I didn’t think I have these, so why not?
“There are tons of things to do in your life, however, envision representing ParalympicsGB. That would be cool.”