Fran Scannell is one lucky dude, but he had to figure it out the hard way…….the really hard way.


Fran was riding intervals for training at Cherry Creek State Park on a road that was closed to automobile traffic.  He was alone and was just recovering from a good effort when, all of a sudden, he knew that he was going to lose consciousness while he was still rolling.  He blacked out and crashed.  Something had just shut out the lights on him.  Fortunately, he was not the only rider in the area.  Two other riders found him (he had no idea how long he was unconscious) and sat him up (not the best approach in retrospect).  Fran regained consciousness.  The doctors at the hospital told him that he had a concussion, six broken ribs, a broken pelvis, a broken clavicle and a bruised lung…..and that was the semi-good news.  After a cardiologist checked him because he had gone unconscious without warning, the doc told Fran that Fran had a bicuspid aortic valve.  

The aortic valve is usually tricuspid with three leaflets.  Sometimes two of the leaflets are fused or one is oversized and the two smaller leaflets are fused.  The condition is often congenital and Fran’s mother had had her aortic valve replaced.   The doctors advised him to take a month and a half to recover from his broken bones and report back for open heart surgery.  When he asked for options, they said he could opt for a porcine valve or an artificial valve, but that open heart surgery was really the only way for him to grow older…..period.  His cycling was not their priority ….even though it was still his.

Since the mechanical valve replacement required blood thinners post-op, Fran opted for the pig valve.  The normal recovery period (for a normal person) would be about three months.  After recovering from the broken bones and then having his heart valve replaced in open heart surgery, Fran was ready to race after seven weeks post-op since he had been training for all of….say….about a week.  He says ‘ I was off the back of the pack.”  No kidding??  Given a few more weeks training, he was racing in the Nationals in Ogden, Utah and he finished with the pack.  

If you are looking for inspiration after a personal setback, carefully reread the above. 

I guess I should mention here that he had been the Colorado State Champion for his age group just a few years prior to this situation….and he was 71 years old when he crashed.  He is now 80 and still quietly dropping younger riders who try to hang onto his wheel in Bear Creek Lake Park.  He did not start riding his bike until he was 43 years old.  Just sayin’…….

Oh, P.S.     You might hear his voice on Colorado Public Radio.  Having majored in English at Rutgers and Monmouth University in New Jersey, Fran got a post graduate degree from D.U. in mass communications and had his own advertising business here in Denver for many, many years.  He contributes to CPR. 

The first photo features his emotional support cat, Crosby, who aided Fran through his recovery.