Madi Watt Talks about Her 2017 ISDE Crash

By Billy Rainford

Alberta’s Madi Watt just spent 6 weeks in ICU at a French hospital after a crash at the ISDE took her out. Madi takes us through the experience. | Trevor Watt photo

As we all know by now, Madi Watt headed over to the 2017 ISDE in France as part of Team Canada. It was a new experience for her and she was expecting to have some fin riding her dirt bike in a far away location at the biggest race of the Off-Road calendar.

Unfortunately, a high-speed crash would take her out of competition early and send her to a French hospital for a month!

We were finally able to get in touch with the Canadian Women’s West MX Nationals contender to find out more about what happened and what her prognosis is.

Direct Motocross: Hello, Madi. How did you feel heading into your first ISDE? Can you describe the feeling and the atmosphere over there?

Madi Watt: Going into my first ISDE, I felt as prepared as I could have been. I was super-excited to get to be involved in such an amazing experience but I did have nerves about the race, since my background is more motocross than off-road racing.

Once we got over there and got to be at the paddock and see everyone from around the world that shares the same passion as I do is when I started to get really excited for the racing to start. Honestly, the atmosphere was insane, I’ve never experienced anything like it before. Even just being a part of the opening ceremonies was crazy! The streets were crowded full of fans and racers, and there was just a feeling of accomplishment for getting to represent our country.

It’s really hard to explain the atmosphere, it’s something you just have to experience to be able to completely understand.

How did the actual racing start out for you?
On the morning of the first day of the race, I woke up with the normal race day nerves. With all the stuff going on that morning to get myself ready I ended up forgetting my goggles at the cabin that we were staying at. Once I realized we were already at the paddock I started to panic because neither Shelby (Turner) or Melissa (Harten) had an extra pair so I ended up borrowing a pair of Jamie Baskerville‘s.
After my goggles mess up and the race started, I was feeling good and started to get more comfortable on my bike. I started to calm down and not be so stressed about the day. I had a ton of fun at the start. For never racing an off-road race before, I didn’t know what to expect so my first bit of the race was really fun and an awesome experience for me!

“After ten days of being in ICU, I had surgery to remove 7 liters of blood and fluid from my abdomen.”

What the heck happened with your crash? Do you even remember? We heard you were basically found in a ditch??!!
We aren’t exactly sure what happened, really. I don’t remember any of the crash at all but we later learned there was a car involved. I was found by one of the Slovakian girls who couldn’t understand how my crash happened either. No one really knows exactly how the crash started, but yes the crash ended with me hitting a culvert and laying in a ditch. I’m lucky that I was wearing my motocross vest – a.k.a my life jacket – (Laughs) because without it we aren’t sure what the out come would have been.
What happened next and how was the language barrier at a French hospital?
After my crash I was taken to a local hospital by ambulance which is where my dad was headed once he heard I was injured and out of the race. Once I got to the hospital they realized I was in critical condition and that I was bleeding internally a lot so they transferred me to a university hospital in a helicopter that was over an hour away from Brive (where the race started at).
My dad arrived at the local hospital just as I was leaving in the helicopter so then he headed to the university hospital not knowing what any of my injuries were. I remember a little chunk of that afternoon when we were being told that I wasn’t going to need surgery and I probably was going to be in the hospital for ten days at most.
The language barrier at the start of the hospital stay was the worst because we did not know what was exactly going on so having doctors and nurses that knew no English was really tough because we hardly knew anything about the condition I was in.
After a week-and-a-half the language barrier was obviously still there but things were more sorted out and we knew who we could talk to about what was going on and get answers that actually made sense to us.
What was the extent of your injuries?
The worst of my injuries was that I lacerated my liver in 3 separate places, broke 3 ribs, had a slightly collapsed right lung and I also had an old knee injury come back. I ended up needing many blood transfusions from the amount of blood that I lost from my liver.
After ten days of being in ICU, I had surgery to remove 7 liters of blood and fluid from my abdomen. As I was recovering from surgery we then found out I had more blood and fluid surrounding my lungs so I had to get a drain put in my chest while I also had one in my abdomen.
Just a week before we flew home they did one last CT scan on me to make sure I was cleared to fly and found that I had an artery that was bleeding so I then had to get another procedure done to close that off.

Madi before things got real at the 2017 ISDE. | Trevor Watt photo

Yikes! Like most, we were trying to get some more info on your condition. How long were you in the hospital over there?
Yes, there were many people who were always trying to keep in contact with me and my dad to make sure everything was all right, so my dad ended up posting on social media throughout our stay. It was so heart-warming to know how many people were back in Canada keeping me in their thoughts and helping my family as much as they could. I ended up being in the ICU unit for six weeks.
What was your daily routine while you were there? Who was by your side?
My first 3 to 4 weeks were pretty much the same as I was on bed rest and recovering from all the procedures and complications that came along. While I was stuck on bed rest I did lots of sleeping, Netflix watching and talking to my mom, brother and sister as much as I could while waiting for the visiting hours at 4:00pm to come around so that I could see my dad for two hours before visiting hours were over.
After my fourth week of being in ICU I was able to start to learn to walk again. I started doing physio to get myself up and moving on my own. My last week-and-a-half of being in ICU I was able to shower and walk to the bathroom by myself and needed very little help from the nurses anymore.
My dad came with me for the trip and I would have never made it through that experience without him. If it were anyone else with me it would have been 100 times harder. He kept me pushing to get better and never let me give up when that’s all I wanted to do. It was very tough at times, I feel like family struggled more mentally than I did.
My mom, brother and sister were stuck in Canada getting updates little by little and my dad had to see the state that I was in at the beginning, which I can’t imagine how tough that was for him while also being alone the whole time.
When did you finally get to go home?
I finally landed in Edmonton on September 29th and was taken by ambulance to the University of Alberta hospital to have a some tests run to make sure I was OK after the flight. The tests came back OK and I was able to go home Sept 30th.
I had to have a nurse, who came from the states, fly with me and my dad to make sure I was stable through the whole flight. My nurse that I had fly with me was one of the nicest people I have ever met; she really made the whole flight home the easiest it could have been. I’m still talking to her now. She is always wanting updates on how I have been doing.
The day that I flew home and got to see the rest of my family was definitely one of happiest days of my life, no matter how cheesy that might sound (Laughs). I haven’t felt so much excitement, relief, happiness, and even some sadness all at once before!

“I kept telling him to go home for a bit to see my family but he told me the only way he was leaving was with me.” | Madi Watt photo

How have things been going since you got back to Canada?
Since I’ve been back home I’ve had an overwhelming amount of people supporting me and making sure we are doing OK. Things are starting to get back to normal with check-ups and tests pretty much weekly with my doctor and other specialists. I have had a few little things come up with my health since I’ve been back but as long as I keep an eye on them I should be just fine.
I finally got to go back to work this past Monday, but I obviously can’t be doing as much as I was before so I have to take it easy and can’t start training for next year quite yet.
What is your prognosis? How are you now and what’s the long term situation looking like for you?
My liver and lung are still in the process of healing. I am feeling good but I still have to wait for the doctor to give me the okay to start doing more.
So, I have to ask, will you be training hard or heading south to train for next season?
Sadly, I will be stuck in the snow for the winter focusing on getting my body healthy and back into the shape it was, but I will be back on the bike as soon as I can be. Being on bed rest and not getting real food for that long made me lose 30 pounds and a lot of muscle!
How about your racing future? What are your thoughts there?
I 100% will be coming back to racing, there’s no doubt about that. I’m hoping to be back for the 2018 season. Racing has been a big part of me and my family’s life since we started. Even after something like this it’s still the one thing we love and all enjoy together and I don’t want to let that go. I still have goals and a major passion for the sport. I don’t want to quit racing just yet and I don’t want to end it like this, if I don’t have to. I still have goals that I want to achieve!

But don’t worry, Madi has every intention of being on the line when the racing starts next summer! | Bigwave photo

What would you say you learned through all of this ordeal?
I have definitely learned not to take the little things for granted, to spend as much time with the people you love, laugh and take the moments in and enjoy them because you never know what could happen.
OK, thanks for taking the time to talk with us today. Good luck and who would you like to thank?
Thank you!! I would like to thank all the parents and riders from Team Canada who helped me and my dad out while they were there and showing so much support, and everyone at home and from our racing families who helped so much. Shelby Turner, thank you so much for all the support, selling your jersey, and always checking up on me, you have no idea how much it meant to me! Thank you Renee Turner for always checking up on my dad and helping him out while you were still in France, you and your family are some of the nicest and kindest people I have met. All of your guys’ help is very much appreciated. Melissa Harten, thank you as well for all that you did for us to help, selling your ISDE helmet, setting up the plumfund page and always checking up to see how we were doing your help means so much to my family!
I also want to thank the Cold Lake Motocross Association and the Midwest Amateur MX Series for the donations from your clubs! Everyone’s support means the world to me!
My dad definitely gets a big ‘thank you’ for helping me and practically being one of my nurses while I was in the hospital. I could never say thank you enough to express how grateful I am that he was there with me. I kept telling him to go home for a bit to see my family but he told me the only way he was leaving was with me.
Thank you mom for not selling all our bikes while we were gone (Laughs). But seriously, she has taken me to all my appointments, helped me by pretty much been my nurse since I’ve been back and keeping me sane for my couple weeks of bed rest that I had at home.
My brother and sister I also feel like deserve a little shout out and thank you for trying to keep life as normal as it could have been while me and dad were gone which is all I wanted them to do – they are strong little buggers!
I also want to say thank you to all the sponsors this year: FXR, Vee Rubber, Laminacorr Industries, Arai, Alpinestar, Oakley, Lucas Bachman Memorial Fund, Precision Power Products, Chaos Motocross, and Tom Ostrem.