Trauma Team Puts an Athlete Back in the Saddle

Avid cyclist Manny Menendez is restored by trauma team, runs marathon during COVID-19 pandemic.

Trauma Team Puts an Athlete Back in the Saddle | Manny Menendez's Story

Avid cyclist Manuel Menendez was less than a minute away from completing a long, Labor Day bike ride with friends along the Capitol Crescent Trail in Washington D.C. One house away from his own driveway, Menendez was struck by a hit-and-run driver, cracking his helmet in half when he landed on the pavement. A nearby jogger heard the accident and raced to summon help. The ambulance arrived at nearly the same moment as Menendez’s wife, who happened upon the scene while returning home from a morning walk with a friend.

After a brief stay at Suburban Hospital’s emergency department, Menendez was airlifted via a Johns Hopkins Lifeline helicopter to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, where he had immediate surgery to repair a torn artery that had caused bleeding between the inner surface of the skull and the brain.

Typically, an arterial tear would lead to major bleeding within the skull. But in his case, the tear was contained within the covering of the brain — the dura — and had developed an abnormal connection to the adjacent veins. This rare type of injury is called a pseudo-aneurysm and fistula.

The artery tear wasn’t evident on initial scans, so Menendez seemed relatively stable for a period of time, but then his condition deteriorated. Since his rupture was embedded within the tissues that cover the brain, the bleeding was contained, but no less dangerous. Using a catheter, a neuroradiology team was able to inject a special glue into the damaged blood vessel in his head, preventing additional bleeding and saving Menendez’s life.

After several days recovering in the surgical intensive care unit, Menendez was stable enough that an orthopaedic trauma surgeon could begin to address the extensive acetabular hip fracture he endured in the crash. Part of the pelvis, the acetabulum is the socket portion of the ball-and-socket hip joint. Menendez had the most complicated type of acetabular fracture, a both-column fracture. His acetabulum was broken in multiple places, and the cup of the hip joint was shattered.

Menendez’s pelvis now includes a 25-centimeter-long stainless steel plate, several screws and one additional plate, which was placed to support the weight-bearing part of the acetabulum. Without reconstruction, he wouldn’t have been able to walk again.

Menendez also sustained a large soft tissue injury around his hip joint, which is common in an accident such as his. For this injury, he had to return to the operating room four additional times to ensure proper healing.

Athlete Manny Menendez

After a difficult rehabilitation near his home, Menendez was able to return to work as the multifamily chief credit officer at Fannie Mae. An attorney by trade, Menendez went through extensive neurocognitive testing before resuming work, initially for three hours a day, then with a full-time schedule by January, four months after his accident.

Most importantly, he was able to resume riding within a year of his accident. “Every one of my doctors told me that my fitness and discipline were the key to my recovery,” Menendez explained.

After starting first on a stationary bike, Menendez slowly returned to the road riding he loves, although always with a special beacon app that shares his location with his wife while he’s riding with friends. “She set rules for me! My memories are all good,” says Menendez. “Her memories are all terrible. She remembers the difficult times from the accident, while I only remember my excellent care.”

I realized that there are very few places where I could have gone through this injury and still be here. I feel lucky to have landed at one of the best hospitals in the world, and am grateful to have been placed in their care.

Manuel Menendez

Dreams Restored

In 2018, Menendez was able to accomplish a lifelong dream, cycling up two classic mountain rides from the Tour de France, Alpe d’Huez and Mont Ventoux. In 2020, he ran his first marathon: the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. It was held virtually, and Menendez trained for it all year, though running has never been his sport of choice. “I always hoped to run a marathon, but I didn’t know if the hardware would hold up,” he says.

Recently retired from Fannie Mae, Menendez volunteers on nonprofit boards related to his long career in housing development, and he hopes to travel more with his wife. He is back on the road — riding in sponsored races of 100 kilometers or 100 miles as often as he can — and is grateful for the friends who ride by his side.

“When I reflected on what I had been through,” says Menendez, “I realized that there are very few places where I could have gone through this injury and still be here. I feel lucky to have landed at one of the best hospitals in the world, and am grateful to have been placed in their care.”