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Paralyzed mountain biker says Apple Watch saved his life after crash

Paralyzed mountain biker says Apple Watch saved his life after Jamul crash
Posted at 2:22 PM, Aug 29, 2022

SPRING VALLEY, Calif. (KGTV) - A Spring Valley, California, man is back home more than four months after a mountain bike accident left him with quadriplegia. He credits his Apple Watch with saving his life.

Ryan McConnaughey, who has been mountain biking since he was a kid, was on his daily ride that April evening on trails in Jamul with his helmet strapped on when he crashed.

"It was close to sunset time, about 40 minutes into my ride. It was a steep section. My bicycle went forward, and I went over the handlebars, headfirst into the ground," said McConnaughey.

McConnaughey says he ended up on his back. He said he immediately knew what had happened. He didn't have any movement from his neck down.

He said he wasn't in much pain, but knew he needed to get help, fast.

"I knew for sure that I need to get medical attention as quickly as possible. My brain kind of kicked into survival mode," said McConnaughey.

"My phone, it's in my in backpack," he said. "There's no way I'm going to get to that. Instantly, I'm like, 'I'm wearing my watch.'"

McConnaughey bought the Apple Watch a few years prior, using it mainly as a fitness tracker. It would be put to a different use in those moments after the crash.

"I said, 'Hey Siri, call Peter,'" said McConnaughey.

He made a phone call to a biking friend who would know his location.

"It just felt amazing. It was so assuring," said McConnaughey.

McConaughey and his friend both made calls to 911. McConnaughey also left a voicemail for his girlfriend Lauren, which went viral on TikTok.

"I'm so sorry, babe. I just love you more than anything," said McConnaughey in the three-minute voicemail.

"Didn't know what was going to happen... Just wanted to say goodbye," said McConnaughey. "I also felt it was my fault. I got hurt. I knew things would never be the same after that."

Not long after leaving the voicemail, McConnaughey was located and airlifted to a hospital.

He needed several life-saving surgeries to stabilize the shattered vertebrae in his neck and relieve pressure on his damaged spine.

Diagnosed with quadriplegia, he spent months at a spinal cord rehab facility in Colorado, his family and Lauren at his side, before returning home a few days ago.

Though he can't move his fingers, he's regained some motion in his arms and wrists. As he navigates his new life, his Apple Watch will remain close by.

"That watch saved my life. No doubt about it. No way anybody would have found me. I never would have thought I'd be using an Apple Watch to make a life-saving phone call," said McConnaughey.

McConnaughey, who graduated from Grossmont College with a business degree, had been admitted into SDSU for the fall term. He's hopeful he'll be able to attend classes in the spring.

An online fundraising campaign has been set up to help McConnaughey with medical and other expenses.

This article was written by Michael Chen for KGTV.