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Israeli who biked 66,000 km around world hit by bus, critically hurt, near home

‘Praying for a miracle’: Veteran extreme adventure athlete Roei Sadan, who made stunning recovery from 500-meter fall in 2015, hit while cycling close to kibbutz in northern Israel

By TOI staff, March 11, 2021

An Israeli extreme adventure athlete who gained fame by spending five years biking 66,000 kilometers (41,010 miles) around the world, and later recovered from a 500-meter fall, was critically injured after a bus hit him near his home, Hebrew media reported Thursday.

Roei “Jinji” Sadan, 39, was riding his bike near the entrance to Kibbutz Rosh Hanikra in northern Israel, where he lives, when a United Tours bus hit him at about 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

Medics found Sadan unconscious with severe multisystem injuries and without vital signs. After resuscitation efforts restored his pulse, he was taken to Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya, sedated and on a breathing machine. The hospital said Thursday that he was still in serious condition and doctors were fighting to save his life.

“Unfortunately there has been bad luck and we are praying for a miracle that he will recover from this accident as well,” Mateh Asher Regional Council head Moshe Davidovich told the Walla news site. “Roei is a person who lives every moment of his life to the fullest, fulfilling his dreams, and no challenge is too big for him.”

From 2007 to 2011, Sadan biked over mountains and through valleys, across deserts and ice fields in 42 countries on six continents.

But in 2015, Sadan slipped on a rock on his way down after climbing the 6,100-meter (20,000-foot) Stok Kangri mountain in northern India with a friend. He plummeted hundreds of meters, his body bouncing off of rocks like a rag doll.

He was miraculously caught by a group of climbers who happened to be climbing below Sadan and his friends. When they saw a body falling down the side of the mountain, they dug their ice axes into the snow and absorbed the force of Sadan’s fall with their bodies and then provided him with oxygen until a helicopter rescued him.

He was eventually taken to a hospital in Israel, where he fell into a coma for more than a month.

“The doctor told my parents, due to the brain injury I could return to be like the old Roei or I could be a vegetable, or anything in between that,” Sadan told The Times of Israel in 2016.

Despite suffering a diffuse brain injury (damage to the brain over a wide area, not a specific spot), as well as many other injuries, Sadan ended up leaving the hospital six months later and returning to riding his bike.

Sadan’s worldwide bicycle route took him from the northernmost point of Alaska down the entire west coast of North, Central and South America, then from the tip of South Africa to Ethiopia and a two-week break in Israel. He then cycled across Europe from Spain to Istanbul, across Turkey through Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to a tour across China the long way, and a final four months in Australia along the coast, where he biked for two weeks on a tandem with blind Israeli biker Orly Tal. Sadan and his girlfriend in his hospital room in Tel HaShomer hospital during his recovery in 2015. (courtesy Roei Sadan)

Along the way, he was one of Israel’s farthest-reaching informal ambassadors, bringing his blue-and-white hybrid Thorn bike named Emuna (“faith” in Hebrew), bedecked with an Israeli flag fluttering behind, to corners of Australia’s Outback, Africa’s deserts, and Central America’s jungles that had never seen an Israeli before.

He spoke at schools, embassies, Jewish communities and synagogues, encouraging his audiences to follow their dreams. Afterwards, he’d always get back on Emuna and bike off toward the horizon, alone.

His injury had caused him to become more dependent on others, drastically changing his relationship with his family and friends. He has been suffering from weakness on his left side, chronic fatigue and impaired short-term memory.

But this week’s injury has halted his years-long path to recovery.

“My slogan before was ‘Dream with Open Eyes,’” Sadan said in 2016. “Sometimes a nightmare is a type of dream. At the end of the day, everything is an experience. Sometimes an experience is a nightmare that ends.”

Melanie Lidman contributed to this report.

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