Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
Pieters was placed into a coma after she suffered a head injury in a fall while out training with the Dutch track team on December 23.
Her team announced in April that she was conscious for the first time since the crash. Though she is able to recognize people and can understand an increasing amount of what is being said to her, she is still unable to talk, and she is using a wheelchair.
Progress is slow but she continues to talk small steps in her recovery as time goes by and it is hoped that she will be able to talk again before long.
“She woke up at a very low level. There was very little reaction from her. Very slowly that has improved in recent months,” her father Peter Pieters told Dutch broadcaster NOS.
“First she had to learn to breathe on her own, then she had to learn to eat and now she actually eats completely with us. The next step is that she learns to talk herself.”
- Amy Pieters wakes from coma four months after crash
- Chantal van den Broek-Blaak: ‘We think about Amy Pieters every moment’
- Amy Pieters airlifted to hospital in Alicante after crash
Following her crash, Pieters was initially treated in Spain before her condition stabilized enough for her to be able to return to the Netherlands, where she continues to undergo treatment. While she has not been able to return home full-time, she is now able to spend weekends with her family.
A video produced by NOS shows Pieters, who is the reigning Dutch national champion, with her father watching videos of her racing. She responds to what is being said to her and is able to agree or disagree with things by nodding or shaking her head. As time goes by, her family is noticing a little more of the old Pieters coming back.
“There is gradual progress. She is convalescing in Dordrecht, but she is now home on the weekends. They will bring her on Friday, and we will bring her back on Sunday evening. That is very nice now. And that is also good for her, you notice that as well,” her father said.
“She understands more and more when you ask something. Then she nods yes or no. You also notice more and more that she has her own will again. That she occasionally says no. Do you want to eat? No. But despite everything, she is optimistic, and quite cheerful to deal with.”
Recovery from brain injuries can be hard to predict in terms of the time it can take and the extent of it. For Pieters’ father, there is little he can do but wait and see how it develops.
“We can’t do anything about the brain, they say. It has to happen by itself. The connections have to be made again and that takes time. They tell us that if 10 patients come in with exactly the same injury, they can leave in 10 different ways,” he said.
“We hope she can go to Woerden soon, there is a rehabilitation center there for younger people. Things can go really fast there, where there is attention for four hours a day, also you are able to learn everything at once. To walk, to talk.”
Pieters’ father takes some confidence from the recovery path of former cyclist Stig Broeckx, who suffered a brain injury in a crash at the 2016 Tour of Belgium. Doctors thought he may be in a vegetative state for the rest of his life, but he woke from his coma and learned to walk and talk again.
Though he never returned to professional racing, he has been able to ride his bike again.
“He had a very different brain injury, but he is still making progress after six years. I’ll sign if Amy can get that far,” Pieters’ father said.