February 20, 2024


DAMMAM: On the first light on Dec. 17, because the seemingly limitless line of vehicles and vehicles whizzed by on the busy-at-all-hours Dammam checkpoint on the way in which to Riyadh, one commuter on wheels ready to embark his 30-day journey throughout the Kingdom.


The lone biker sporting a helmet, heat jacket and shirt embedded with superior biosensors started hand biking down the highway, as the tough morning winter air swirled round him. An entourage of a couple of dozen crew members adopted in numerous automobiles behind him.


He’s none apart from King Abdullah College of Science and Know-how’s affiliate professor of utilized arithmetic and computational science, Matteo Parsani, who misplaced using his legs six years in the past after a highway accident. He didn’t wish to let that cease him from making this historic journey.


The journey, known as “Athar – East to West,” will take him from Dammam to Riyadh, to Qassim to Hail, then AlUla in 2023 and, beginning in 2024, he’ll cease at Purple Sea International, Madinah, Makkah, Jeddah and eventually, KAUST on Jan. 17. Parsani will cowl a distance of over greater than 3,000 km, or 150 km per day.


“I might say that perhaps I’m like a transferring lab,” he informed informed Arab Information moments earlier than he began rolling away.


Parsani can be sporting custom-made biosensors made by KAUST scientists that may collect knowledge from his physique. The sensors will gather biodata in actual time, and have been developed by a crew of researchers and scientists. One sensor will monitor his coronary heart price, whereas one other will measure issues like his dopamine ranges, power degree, sweat secretion price in addition to physique movement.


It began a couple of years in the past when he requested his dean for a couple of month off so he may handcycle throughout the Kingdom. The dean informed him he would get again to him.


Just a few weeks later, Parsani discovered himself on a Zoom name with about six different professors who work on the college. They proposed that he put on among the sensors that they have been growing of their labs. As an alternative of merely happening a handcycling vacation, Parsani’s journey would turn into a part of the KAUST analysis expertise.


“It is a very good collaboration, a really good synergy with my colleagues,” he stated.


The dates are important. He selected to begin two days after the KAUST graduation, which was on Dec. 15. Whereas many on the college conduct analysis in December and January, there are not any scheduled courses throughout that point.


The cooler climate is one other optimistic issue.


All the pieces logistical was deliberate meticulously forward of time by his devoted crew — they even did a dry run of the whole lot of the route forward of time to check out the entire journey and anticipate all believable interruptions or disruptions. A couple of dozen specialists and crew members will be part of him alongside the way in which, with some coming alongside for under a part of the journey.


Parsani additionally has a complete line of Saudi authorities entities and industrial sponsors backing him. Native sponsors embody the Ministry of Sport, Ministry of Inside, Saudi Embassy within the US, Authority for Individuals with Disabilities, Albaik, Purple Sea International, Diriyah Gate Growth Authority, the Royal Fee for AlUla and Saudi Sports activities for All Federation. Worldwide entities sponsoring the undertaking embody McLaren Utilized, McLaren F1, E1 Sequence, Sparco, Villa Beretta Rehabilitation Analysis Innovation Institute and Partanna.


The Authority for Individuals with Disabilities will distribute 50 handbikes to varied teams throughout the cities Parsani will go via in order that locals can be part of within the enjoyable.


However anybody can tune in, regardless of the place they’re. Parsani has three GoPros on him which can be reside stream video to the the KAUST web site by way of YouTube.


As a teenager, Parsani was all the time athletic: “I’ve been all the time a ‘sport particular person,’ I performed at a semi-professional degree. Once I was youthful, at a sure level, I made a decision to stop the soccer profession and give attention to my grasp’s diploma after which Ph.D. So, at that time, I needed to discover one thing else to maneuver — to get excited. I began to run. After which in 2017, I had a highway accident, and I received a spinal wire damage,” he stated.


That accident, which occurred six years in the past, modified Parsani’s life.


“My legs and a part of my physique stopped functioning. So, I spent two years actually darkish — I used to be 36 on the time,” he stated.


However his optimistic outlook on life began to emerge as he had conversations with these round him. He met a gaggle of younger girls visiting Saudi Arabia and one among them informed him how she misplaced two sisters and her father to a highway accident. That dialog modified his perspective.


“After which at that time, I believed: ‘I’ve a beautiful bike, which prices some huge cash. I’ve a wheelchair, which additionally value some huge cash as a result of I can afford it, I’ve a fantastic job.’ I wish to do one thing for someone … to provide hope to the group, to provide again to Saudi Arabia, which I’d say is a spot to name house now,” he stated.


Parsani stated that he desires to hitch the dialog on inclusivity within the Kingdom and that his handcycle journey is greater than simply him.


Dr. Franco Molteni, director of Valduce Hospital Bodily Medication and Rehabilitation Division, “Villa Beretta” Rehab Centre in Italy, who has been monitoring and treating Parsani ever because the accident, highlighted the impression of bodily exercise on the professor’s progress: “The final 5 years of Matteo’s follow-up demonstrates that train can regenerate some connection between the mind and the muscle mass.”


However as a lot as they ready, a part of the joy for Parsani isn’t understanding precisely what to anticipate when it comes to panorama. And whereas they deliberate conferences, they’re excited concerning the natural interactions they are going to have with nature and with individuals.


“I couldn’t sleep final night time, I felt like earlier than an examination on the college. It was actually a bizarre sensation. So, I’m trying ahead to begin, as a result of I simply wish to do it,” he stated.


Parsani started his bodily coaching a 12 months and a half in the past, and the logistics of defining the route and securing the sponsors alongside the way in which took about six months.


The journey is presumably the primary documented Kingdom-wide route from coast to coast by anybody, even an able-bodied particular person.


At first, Parsani was meant to journey for 20 days, however after discussions along with his crew, the journey was prolonged to 1 month, giving the affiliate professor the chance to see the great thing about Saudi Arabia and have conferences alongside the way in which.


“I additionally have to let my physique to relaxation,” he stated.


Alongside the route Parsani will make key stops at particular locations to have conferences with organizations and the incapacity group.


“There are a number of issues happening. The rationale why we do that’s as a result of we’ll wish to attain out to many, many individuals and go the message; doing this type of exercise goes to boost the message and the impression,” he stated.


This 30-day journey goals to advertise bodily exercise, increase consciousness about individuals with disabilities, showcase KAUST analysis and spotlight the great thing about Saudi Arabia’s areas. It is going to additionally research the impact of intense bodily train on the musculoskeletal system and the psychological well being of individuals with restricted mobility.


Parsani stated: “I imagine within the energy of private tales to encourage change. My journey embodies the spirit of dedication and resilience. I additionally see this as a chance to showcase Saudi Arabia’s dedication to inclusivity and its promotion of adaptive sports activities and, usually, sports activities to boost high quality of life.”


He added that the analysis side is essential: “It is going to assist us determine gaps and areas for enchancment. We’re trying ahead to the dear insights this journey will present.”


Parsani will hearken to music alongside the route, from a playlist created with the assistance of his household. His daughter is presumably his largest supporter and supply of hope: “She helped me to organize the playlist and he or she is all the time fearful about me,” he added. “She noticed me earlier than the accident and after … after I may stroll round and do many issues, and now that I’ve sure limitations or that I can do issues in another way.”


His household is a big motive why he feels empowered to undertake the journey.


“I even have a son who’s six years outdated. He was born two weeks after I had my accident and I didn’t see him for a very long time as a result of I used to be within the ICU,” he stated. “I wish to present them that there are numerous issues that they can’t do, however there are additionally massive issues they will do. My children — they’re one of many causes I’m doing this,” he stated.


Parsani will return to KAUST two days earlier than his daughter’s twelfth birthday so he will be there to have a good time along with her.