Janet Robertson looks up at her husband Eric Robertson. She is recovering from a severe brain injury that she suffered July 30, 2011 on her bicycle at Lake Kaweah. Before her accident, she managed Citizens Business Bank on West Main Street in Visalia. She has been in banking for 27 years and hopes to return to her job. / Teresa Douglass
Eric Robertson holds the bike helmet and sunglasses that his wife Janet wore during her cycling accident last summer at Lake Kaweah. This helmet saved her life, he said. The right lens of her sunglasses tore off the right side of her face, he said, as she hit the pavement. / Teresa Douglass
As Eric Robertson, left, talks about the damage on his wife Janet's bike helmet from a cycling accident last summer, she grimaces, at right. The right side of her face took the brunt of crash on the road behind Lake Kaweah. They are pictured in their garage as she holds onto her bike, a Synapse model Cannondale racing bike. The bike was hardly damaged in the crash. For now, she only rides it on a stationary stand in the garage. / Teresa Douglass
As Eric Robertson, left, talks about the damage on his wife Janet's bike helmet from a cycling accident last summer, she grimaces, at right. The right side of her face took the brunt of the crash on the road behind Lake Kaweah. They are pictured in their garage as she holds onto her bike, a Synapse model Cannondale racing bike. The bike was hardly damaged in the crash. For now, she only rides it on a stationary stand in the garage. / Teresa Douglass
Around Visalia, Janet Robertson is a familiar face. Her life-sized picture can still be seen on the side of a couple of city buses in an advertisement for Citizens Business Bank, where she has worked as the manager for 15 years. To look at her today, she looks much the same — an attractive, fit 47-year-old woman with short, dark hair and pretty green eyes. Lately, however, she is not wearing too many business suits. For now, she’s on hold with the bank, she said.
She has recently started driving her own car again and running her own errands. She cooks meals for herself and her husband, Eric. But it wasn’t that long ago that these everyday tasks appeared out of reach.
On July 30, 2011, she suffered a severe head injury when she crashed during a bicycle ride at Lake Kaweah. Now, almost a year later, she is still recovering from what is commonly called Shaken Baby Syndrome or diffuse axonal injury. Connections between neurons in her brain were sheared.
Going about 30 mph, she hit the pavement with her head and face. Her helmet shows some damage but is still intact. Her sunglasses, however, have the right lens missing. It helped tear the right side of her face off, Eric said.
“The brain actually rattled inside the skull,” he said.
A very high percentage of people who suffer severe head injuries end up in a vegetative state, she said.
“I feel blessed to be alive,” she said. “But over the last few months I felt kind of blue. I know I should feel nothing but thrilled, but I know there are shortcomings.”
She said her balance is a little off and her memory isn’t as clear as it should be. Sometimes, when she looks to the side, she sees double. On July 18, she goes in for at least one more surgery at the University of California, Los Angeles, on her right eye to adjust the muscles.
“There’s no guarantee that I will be 100 percent,” she said.
Her bicycle crash came on the heels of surviving breast cancer. In May 2011, she took her last radiation treatment. To celebrate, her husband gave her a brand-new Cannondale road bicycle. She rode it a few times to Yokohl Valley.