A superfit businesswoman whose career as a triathlete was abruptly ended when she was mown down at the end of a race leaving her severely injured and with PTSD told how a bizarre twist of fate saw her accident leading to love.
Diagnosed with the inflammatory bowel disease ulcerative colitis in 2010, Kat Parkin, 39, began swimming, running and cycling to attain peak fitness, so she was not reliant on endless pills to stay well.
Competitive by nature, Kat, of Midsomer Norton, Somerset, who runs an equestrian outfitters, was soon entering 70 mile triathlons – combining all three disciplines – all over the world.
But on July 17, 2019, as she finished a cycling race in Horne, Surrey, she was hit by a vehicle – leaving her unconscious, with burns all over her body, a golf ball-sized hole in her left knee and battling post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that left her too frightened of traffic to cycle or run on roads.
With her physical injuries healing, a mindset coach then worked with Kat to restore her confidence and in October 2019 introduced her to fellow triathlete Ieuan Hudson, 28, also a business owner, only for them to fall in love.
She said: “As luck would have it for me, my mindset coach worked with top level athletes and knew Ieuan was just as passionate about triathlons as I was.”
She added: “I actually knew of Ieuan, as he was a bit of a star in our area. He texted me and we didn’t stop talking.
“I was still recovering and was just about mobile by the end of October, so we were able to go on a few dates together.
“He came to see me every weekend in November and we just clicked immediately.”
She added: “We were both passionate about sport and endurance racing. We were just on the same wavelength.
“But I think what was most important was that there was never anything to worry about with him. I just felt like I could trust him.”
Kat – who moved from her home in East Grinstead, East Sussex, to Somerset to be with him within three months of them meeting – says Ieuan helped to restore her confidence and even reintroduced her to cycling.
She recalled how, in November 2019, as she struggled with PTSD, he took her to an airfield at an army camp, so she could cycle without fear of encountering traffic, adding: “It was so thoughtful of him.
“It was the first time I’d been on a bike since the accident and I was able to cycle away without fear of seeing any cars.
“Already, I felt that I was lucky to have met him.”
She added: “I completely trusted Ieuan from the start, which was just amazing.”
But the road to recovery was not easy for Kat, who had just completed a time trial bike race in Surrey on the day when she was run down near the finish line.
The driver was later convicted on charges including failing to stop and driving without due care and given a suspended jail sentence.
Left with burns all over her body and injuries that ended her career as a competitive triathlete, she says her worst problems were psychological, as she battled to overcome PTSD.
She said: “I was really scared when it happened, as I didn’t know what was wrong with me.
“I could only really feel an intense pain in my ankle, but I was covered in blood.”
She added: “The most terrifying part for me was when I lost all memory of my family’s phone numbers, so I started to panic.
“I was worried that my brain wasn’t normal.”
Kat was rushed to East Surrey Hospital in Redhill, Surrey, where she was treated for multiple injuries. She had surgery to pin together her broken right ankle and had a two-inch hole the size of a golf ball in her left knee.
At first, she still clung on to the hope that she would be cycling again within weeks.
She said: “I thought I’d be back on a bike in a few weeks and it never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t.
“But when I was discharged the following day, I was completely immobile and I was in constant pain all over my body.”
She added: “I needed my friends to come and help with everything. I couldn’t stand on my own, I couldn’t go to the loo or shower and I couldn’t eat on my own.
“I lost my independence.”
As well as needing physiotherapy, Kat had months of specialist treatment for burns to her back, arms and shoulders.
Still, her physical recovery was easier than her psychological battle, as she fought short term memory loss and PTSD.
Kat, who says her GP told her she displayed classic signs of post concussion syndrome and post traumatic amnesia, added: “For three months I was on my own, immobile and trying to overcome the brain side of things, which was the hardest thing.
“I had surgery during that time as well.”
She added: “I thought, ‘Okay, the broken bones will heal’, but with your brain, you can’t know if it will.
“There would be times where I’d wake up in the night and I wouldn’t even recognise the house that I was in.”
Feeling isolated and scared for her future, Kat began obsessively writing down everything that happened to her during the day in a desperate bid to “regain control” of her life.
She said: “It was horrendous and terrifying.
“I would just sit at home crying. I got to the point I was trying to write everything down so I could remember everything.”
But, realising she needed help to tackle her PTSD, she was recommended a mindset coach by a friend in August 2019, who eventually introduced her to Ieuan, who runs a dog training business, a few months later.
Kat, whose health issues also saw her leave her job of 15 years and start her own business in March 2022, said: “It was a really difficult time for me because I was just coming to terms with the fact that I would never become this top athlete I had been working so hard to become.
“But it was also an amazing time, looking back, because I met Ieuan through my coach after he put us in touch because we were both triathletes.”
By November, the besotted couple had been on four dates, with Ieuan travelling from Somerset each weekend to see her.
They moved in together in January 2020, just two months before the first national Covid lockdown and soon added two rescue dogs, George a four-year-old Dalmatian and Peaches, a two-year-old Cypriot sausage dog, to their family.
Sadly, walking the dogs was tough for Kat, who still feared encountering traffic when she was out.
She said: “We lived on tiny lanes and even walking along the lane, if I heard a car anywhere, even if it was miles away, I’d be terrified.”
She added: “I had to have a lot of therapy and I still don’t think I will totally overcome this fear.”
But Kat says Ieuan’s thoughtful encouragement has been such a massive help that at Christmas, she has even bought an off-road gravel Reilly bike, which has rekindled her love of the outdoors.
She said: “Lockdown was a great time for us, as we were in a beautiful part of the country and it was very quiet, so I made a lot of progress with cycling.”
She added: “On Christmas Day I took my new bike out for a ride in the rain and after five metres my love of cycling came flooding back.
“I’m still terrified of being hit when I’m on the road, but I’m not frightened of cycling off-road.
“I’ve had spectacular falls, but it’s not put me off and Ieuan and I love going cycling together.”
As well as finding love and regaining her confidence as a cyclist, Kat also started a new business, We are Dappled, in March this year.
Born into a “showjumping family” she rediscovered her equestrian roots in 2021 when she adopted Darren, a three-year-old warmblood horse, and says her equestrian outfitters was a natural follow-on.
She said: “I may have been to hell and back, but I now feel like I have unlimited potential and I’m so excited about the future.”
She added: “I have never felt happier.”
You can find out more about Reilly bikes which Kat says restored her love of cycling at: https://www.reillycycleworks.com/collections/titanium-bikes.