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Gavin gets on his bike to celebrate recovery.

A welsh primary school teacher will cycle a thousand miles to Geneva this August - three years after life-saving surgery following a ski accident.

Gavin Rees, 29, who is originally from Milford Haven and now living in Cardiff, will undertake the Cycle Geneva Challenge with his friend Duncan Edwards, 34, from Reigate, Surrey, who was injured in the same accident.

They will set off from Milford Haven, cycling to Alpe D'Huez in France, via Geneva, to celebrate Mr Rees's recovery and in thanks for the support and ongoing care he has received from Morriston Hospital's Maxillofacial Unit.

In February 2003 the friends were among a party of teachers from Reigate Priory School in Surrey reconnoitring the French resort of Les Gets, in the Portes du Soleil region, for a school ski trip.

Due to post-traumatic amnesia, Mr Rees and Mr Edwards' recollections of what happened are unclear, but from information pieced together from eyewitness accounts it appears they collided while traversing a ski run in Linge in the French Alps.

Mr Rees, now a primary school teacher at Bryncethin Primary School in Bridgend, said, 'If it wasn't for the quick thinking and actions of members of the ski party and mountain medical staff, the outcome would have been significantly worse. After being airlifted to hospital, it transpired I had suffered extensive facial, head and brain injuries, as well as breaking my leg and tearing my anterior cruciate ligament.

'Fortunately, Duncan's injuries were less severe, although he suffered cuts to his head and leg, and several cracked ribs.'

At the Hospitaux Universitaire of Geneva, Mr Rees underwent a 19-hour operation performed by head of maxillofacial surgery Professor Michel Richter.

Among his injuries were major and multiple fractures of the cranium, frontal bone, nose, orbits, ethmoid bones, mid-face and anterior skull base, together with damage to his brain and leg.

Mr Rees' head injuries were so extensive that 130 screws and around 21 plates were used during his surgery - believed to be the highest number used in surgery in Europe.

'The standard of care I received at the Hospitaux Universitaire of Geneva was first rate, and I credit ProfRichter with saving my life - I will be forever indebted to him and his gifted team,' he said.

A month after the accident, Mr Rees was deemed fit enough to be transferred back to Wales, where he was put under the expert care of Adrian Sugar, consultant cleft and maxillofacial surgeon at Morriston Hospital and honorary senior clinical lecturer at the Swansea Medical School.

'Mr Sugar and his team at Morriston worked closely with the medical applications team at the National Centre for Product Design and Development Research at the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff, using cutting-edge 3D scanning in the planning of my surgery.

'The follow-up surgery and aftercare I received from the hospital was exceptional and, I believe, instrumental in my recovery.

'Earlier than predicted, I was able to return to work in September 2005 as a supply school teacher in South Wales, and I am now teaching seven to nine-year-olds at Bryncethin Primary School.

'It's been an incredible physical journey since the accident in 2003, to get where I am today. Now I'm preparing and looking forward to a different kind of journey - cycling all the way back to Geneva to raise funds for Morriston Hospital,' he added.

Anyone wishing to donate to the cycleGENEVA fund, which will go directly to the Maxillofacial Unit at Morriston Hospital, can visit a special website set up by Gavin at cyclegeneva.co.uk for details and updates.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Mar 16, 2006
Words:592
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