Blind man trains for Round Taupo ride

SELINA POWELL
Last updated 10:31 29/01/2013
HUTblindweb
SELINA POWELL

In training: Phil Thorn with his family dog Ruby. Mr Thorn, who is deaf and blind, hopes to complete the Round Taupo cycle challenge in November with his friend Neil Davis, right.

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When Phil Thorn woke to complete darkness and silence in 2008 he thought he had been abducted.

The keen mountainbiker had in fact been struck down by bacterial meningitis, a disease that had taken away his sight and hearing and left him in a month- long coma.

He was told by doctors that he would not be able to walk again. He could not speak and had lost control of his facial muscles.

"I looked a pretty sad person," Mr Thorn says.

But even when Mr Thorn was confined to a wheelchair and unable to sit up unsupported, he still held out hope of returning one day to the activities that he loved.

"I had a dream back in the early days that I would walk again with my family."

More than four years down the track, Mr Thorn can walk for short distances without help and is now training to complete a 160km bike race in November.

He can hear sounds with the help of a cochlear implant and speaks clearly.

"The progress is pretty huge from the time I came out of the coma and discovered to my horror what had happened."

Most of the time he can't make sense of the words he hears but jokes, "if they say things like pavlova, Speight's - I can hear those words really well."

Mr Thorn hopes to complete the Round Taupo with the help of his friend, Neil Davis, who met Mr Thorn when he moved down the road from him in Fairfield.

Mr Davis, who now lives in Upper Hutt, did not know braille when he first met Mr Thorn, but as their friendship grew he learnt hand signing.

He now translates my questions by using his hands to draw letters on Mr Thorn's palm.

Mr Davis is helping with fundraising efforts to meet the $15,000 cost of the bike.

"If any one deserves help it's him."

The pair will ride a recumbent tandem with Mr Davis steering at the front and Mr Thorn lying down at the back of the bike using his arms and legs to pedal.

Mr Thorn is currently training for the race at the gym and at home but hopes to begin training rides on the bike in April.

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