Following two weeks in a deep coma caused by a vicious wreck in the Circuit de la Sarthe bike race in western France, Saul Raisin’s medical condition was showing stunning signs of improvement.

Fifteen days after the April 4 mishap in which Raisin suffered a broken collarbone, a broken rib and a serious head injury — which 48 hours later threatened his life — a doctor for Raisin’s racing team, French-based Credit Agricole, said in a posting on bicycling.com: “There is no longer the chance of death.”

Raisin recuperated at a trauma hospital in Angers, France, and on May 1 flew from Paris to Atlanta on a medical Lear jet, a flight that lasted nine hours. He was accompanied by his mother, Yvonne, one nurse and one medic.

“It was nice,” Raisin said in a 45-minute interview, his first since the crash, while enjoying an outpatient weekend at his parents’ Dalton home. “Our jet had priority in the sky. We got to Atlanta and pretty much all the airplanes had to get out of the way because we had a straight shot to the runway.”

While being carted to the awaiting medical jet for takeoff, the 23-year-old professional cyclist suddenly realized the extent of the injuries sustained in the high-speed crash.

“I thought, wow, I must be really hurt if they’re putting me on this plane on a stretcher and flying me home,” he said. “That’s got to be bad.”

But when the plane lifted off the Paris runway, Raisin left a tumultuous month-long portion of his life behind.

“I remember a lot of bad things in the hospital,” he said. “The worst thing was when they drained that (stuff) out of my lungs. They had this tube up my nose and down into my lungs. That was the most painful thing I’ve done in my life.

“I don’t remember my family being there and that’s the disturbing part. I know they were there. I remember my girlfriend, Daniela Pollitzer, and some of my family singing to me, although I don’t remember actually seeing them. I recall hearing them.”

Raisin and Pollitzer, a German college student, met on the top of a mountain while each was cycling in the Alps. It was, Raisin said, one of the most beautiful places on the planet. The two found a cafe and sipped coffee.

Pollitzer, who plans to visit Raisin here in late July, was camping while Raisin was staying at a friend’s home when they met.

“It was minus-5 degrees and she was sleeping in her car in a sleeping bag it was so cold,” Raisin said. “I told her this isn’t normal. I said we had extra rooms where I was staying, we were going to have a big party, good food, and she should come back with me. She thought about it and said no.”

Raisin didn’t give up and finally convinced Pollitzer to take him up on the offer. They’ve been dating for eight months now.

Once in Atlanta at the famed Shepherd Spinal Center, Raisin focused on his rehabilitation. The near fatal hemorrhage he suffered two days after the crash had stroke-like effects and his left side remains extremely weak. His balance is shaky at times.

On his Web site, www.saulraisin.com, the young cyclist has posted pictures and medical updates on his condition so fans all over the world can keep in touch.

In a posting dated May 24, he wrote: “Today was the first full day of rehab at the Shepherds Pathways. I think the one thing I found out the most is I have a lot of work ahead of me. No matter what, I am going to give it my all and get over this.”

Raisin spent his first days at the Shepherd Center in the intensive care unit, and he quickly became a hit with nurses and doctors.

In short time, attending nurses noticed a pair of green and white racing shoes with “Raisin Hell” printed on the side.

“The nurses said that if Lance (Armstrong) can have a bracelet (signifying his battle with cancer), why can’t Saul have a bracelet,” he said. “So, check this out. They came up with this green and white bracelet with ‘Raisin Hell’ on it with a picture of a bicycle. And it says, ‘Ride On.’”

The bracelets are being sold for $3 and profits will go to the Shepherd Center.

“We’ve been selling them for a couple of weeks now,” Raisin said.

Last Friday, Raisin was granted a weekend pass to go home for the first time since January. His father, Jim, drove him home. Saul sat in the front passenger seat and slept most of the trip to Dalton.

Jim Raisin exited I-75 onto the North Bypass and turned left on Haig Mill Road. As they turned left into the Windemere subdivision, the first thing they saw was a large white banner with “Welcome Home Saul” printed from one end to the other. Mailboxes on Coventry Road had yellow ribbons on them.

“It brought tears to my eyes,” Raisin said. “When we turned in, I saw the sign and it really hit home that a lot of people here are supporting me. It was very emotional.”

Saul wasn’t the only one fighting back tears.

“We all were crying,” said Jim Raisin, who will take his son back to Atlanta today.

Returning home, however, is not the final stop on Raisin’s long road to full health.

“Being in bed so long, my muscles are really weak,” Saul said. “The best way to describe it is when I try to walk, it’s like walking on noodles. I’ve got some balance back, but I still have a long way to go.”

Doctors have told Raisin and his parents that it will be a full year before he can even think about getting back on his bike and resume training. That’s tough to take, but Raisin has accepted the prognosis.

“I’d like to go outside right now and get on a bike,” he quipped. “But I know I’m not able to do that. I’d probably need training wheels and still it would be dangerous. It wouldn’t be a pretty picture.”

Ever the jokester, even on bad days, Raisin just smiled, got up from the living room sofa and politely ended an interview, saying, “That’s enough.”

And he smiled.

It’s nice being at home.

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