Former resident paralyzed when struck by a car while bicycling

August 26, 2015   ·   0 Comments

A former Orangeville resident has been paralyzed after being struck by a car while riding her bicycle.

Julie Sawchuk, who now resides near Blyth, was training for the Goderich Triath- lon when she was struck from behind by a Volkswagen sedan on July 29th, and was air- lifted to a London-area hospital after first-re- sponders arrived on the scene.

The driver of the vehicle, a 47-year-old man, was charged with failing to turn left to avoid a collision. The accident led to the fracturing of Ms. Sawchuk’s t4 vertebrae, of which a piece of pierced the membrane around the spinal cord, leaving her para- lyzed from the chest down.

In what has been called a twist of fate by friends and family, Ms. Sawchuk had penned a letter to the editor of the Blyth Citizen only two days before the accident; a written plea with drivers to share the road with cyclists. She did not have the opportunity to send the letter before being struck on July 29.

Since the accident, there has been an online crowdfunding campaign (which was closed Tuesday on surpassing its $10,000 goal), as well as a website, www. forjulie. com, where people can follow Ms. Saw- chuk’s journey, including updates posted by a friend of the family, as well as a personal blog where Ms. Sawchuk has begun to share about the journey from her perspective.

In early August, other participants in the Goderich Triathlon created an awareness campaign in her honour. For a suggested $5 donation, those interested can get an ‘I Share the Road’ bumper sticker to show their sup- port and awareness for cyclist/driver safety.

On August 5, Ms. Sawchuk was moved from ICU Trauma to Observation, and by August 11, CKNX reporter Steve Sabourin reported that Ms. Sawchuk had begun physiotherapy.

“I am paralyzed from the chest down. I have no feeling at all whatsoever, can’t walk, can’t turn myself over in bed,” she said in an interview with Mr. Sabourin. “The healing that has to happen is in the fracture in my back. They did surgery on that and fused my vertebrae together so T2 to T5 are fused with rods and screws.”

Ms. Sawchuk began her blog on August 11, and has done a series of interviews with different news agencies, including the CBC, continuing to spread awareness about the need for more safety on the road for cyclists, and has written nearly a dozen blog posts regarding her recover.

“Here I am, standing on the edge,” she wrote in a blog post on August 15. “I am not sure what I am on the edge of, but I can tell that the only direction I can go is forward. I look behind and can see faces, places and things that I know, but there is no way to go back to them. Like some kind of video game with no reverse button, you can only go ahead, not knowing what zombies or creep- ers are around the corner. There is no choice but to look ahead, even though all there is is blackness – no shapes, no figures, no light.”

She went on to explain the darkness she has been facing; and shared the light that is beginning to break through for her.

“The lights come from everyone sur- rounding me, both physically and virtually,” she wrote. “And I don’t even know all their names. It’s crazy, because the lights just keep lighting. They are the cards, e-mails, texts, tweets, the fb messages, posts and reposts. They are the 4J campaign, the hugs, the food, the coffee, the time you spend with my kids and the kind words you say to my hus- band. They are the words that say “Share the Road” everywhere. They are the turtle. They are my family.”

Ms. Sawchuk has continued her journey forward, participating in physiotherapy, and continuing to call for rider safety. In a recent update on, a list of frequently asked questions has been posted, including, ‘Does Julie think I should cycle on the road?’ and the response no, she doesn’t. The answer outlines four suggestions for bikers to help continue to be safe when out cycling:

1) Hit the Trails. To quote Julie, “I wish I had and I am glad I did the Sunday before I got hit. I may have been dead.”

2) Take your bike to a community where there are paved bike lanes/paths or paved shoulders.

3) If you feel compelled to cycle on Huron County roads, Julie suggests setting up temporary signs that say “Watch Out For Cyclists” and do a continuous loop. … Some- one needs to look into the legality of this and permission from roads, I guess. Let me know if you know the answer to this one, please.

4) Never bike alone. Never ever.

In her letter to the editor, which can also be found on the website under ‘Julie’s Plea’, she shares the story of two recent incidents where she was almost hit by cars passing without care for her as a cyclist. Her plea is to increase safety – a need that is evident by the accident that occurred to her only a few days after the first two near incidents.

To follow Ms. Sawchuk’s journey or recent blog updates, visit Details for the Share the Road campaign, her letter to the editor, and medical progress are all available through the main site.

Readers Comments (0)

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.