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An Nguyen meditated to stay calm after being crushed by truck

09/25/2014 10:47 EDT | Updated 11/25/2014 05:59 EST
Cyclist An Nguyen says she relaxed the moment she realized she was about to be run over by the four back wheels of a flatbed truck carrying a 454 kilogram crane.

“I wasn’t scared,” she told Michael Finnerty, host of CBC Radio’s Daybreak.

Nguyen survived the May 9 collision despite long odds and told Finnerty about it in an interview.

Nguyen was biking to yoga class around 9:30 a.m. and was coming down the hill on St-Urbain Street between Sherbrooke and Ontario streets.

The truck was making a right hand turn onto Ontario Street and Nguyen says its driver didn’t see her doing the same.

“In the moment, it was very slow. I watched the wheels run over my body. I could see the treads. Time slowed down. I wasn’t panicked, basically. I never thought that I would be so calm in that situation,” she said.

Channelled reiki energy

The devoted reiki practitioner said she focused on symbols common to the spiritual practice and invoked their energy.

“I really saved myself by invoking those symbols. It was probably my choice to live at that point. I would have died if I wanted to,” she said.

Nguyen’s pelvis was crushed by the truck’s wheels and her right leg was heavily damaged. Her right arm, shoulder blades, ribs, tibia right foot and knees were all broken.

Her bicycle seat was embedded in her right thigh and severed her femoral artery, causing severe blood loss.

“I almost bled out,” she said.

She underwent multiple surgeries, skin grafts and blood transfusions. Miraculously, none of her organs suffered significant damage.

Nguyen also attributes her survival to her ability to stay conscious through the immediate aftermath of the crash.

“I would have died if I wasn’t conscious at that point. I didn’t panic the entire time… People were screaming at me. They were just so scared for me. I never blacked out, so I felt every ounce of pain,” she said.

“I was so in the moment, and I think that’s what saved me.”

Asked paramedic to stop screaming

Nguyen’s also benefited from the presence of police and paramedics who were keeping watch over a protest taking place nearby.

“I actually locked eyes with a police officer as I was run over,” she recalled.

An ambulance was at the scene in three minutes and Nguyen was rushed to hospital. During the journey, a paramedic at her side saw Nguyen close her eyes and screamed at her to keep them open.

He didn’t realize she was meditating.

“I opened my eyes and ‘you need to be quiet’ as nicely as I could,” she says with a laugh. “I took his hand and told him I’d squeeze it. It was much more scary for everyone else in the moment than it was for me.”

Nguyen did eventually pass out in hospital, and remained out of it for a day and a half. She awoke to find herself surrounded by family and friends.

“It was so intense the amount of love that poured into me. I felt like I was almost on a high,” she said.

She did despair early in her recovery that she would never walk again. But she’s now back on her feet and getting around, at least for short periods.

She attributes her miraculous recovery to the love and positive thoughts that she received from so many, friends and strangers alike.

“I think at this point that everybody who thought positively about me, who sent wishes, whether physically or in their heads, that contributed to my healing.”

Tomorrow: An Nguyen talks about road and cycling safety in Montreal and her desire to meet the truck driver in part two of her story on CBC's Daybreak. Tune in to CBC Radio One on Friday at 7:15 a.m. ET.

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