On Sunday 28 July 2013, Steve was competing in a motocross race in Culham, Oxford, battling his way around the dirt tracks, when he lost control in the unforgiving weather and flew over his handlebars. His life would change forever. Below he tells his story.
Before my accident I was a very fit, strong and determined person. I have always been a keen cyclist and competed at national and international level on and off for 15 years, before going on to race in the British EVO four-stroke motocross championships in 2011.
As the race at Culham started, it began raining. I was having a good race when, all of a sudden, I lost control of my bike. I flew over my handlebars and, as I landed in the wet sand, I felt my neck bend backwards. I laid on my back looking up at the sky, my arms started flapping uncontrollably. I tried to move my body, but nothing happened. I started to feel like I was winded and thought, ‘Oh no, I can’t breathe’. I started to panic as I couldn’t move, and the next thought that came to me was, ‘Well, this is it.’
The event marshal hurried over, swiftly followed by someone from St John’s Ambulance. When the road ambulance crew arrived, they told me, ‘We’ve got some serious problems with your spinal cord, we’ll need to call the Air Ambulance in’. At this point I knew I was in a pretty bad way.
When the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance (HIOWAA) Critical Care Team arrived, they strapped me on to a spinal board and treated me while they airlifted me to John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford. Without a doubt the crew on board the Air Ambulance that day kept me alive.
At John Radcliffe Hospital the consultants came to see me, and I said, ‘Look, just tell me straight’. They said I had two big spinal cord compressions and had suffered a C5 spinal cord injury.
“You’ll never walk again”, they told me. But I wasn’t born to be in a wheelchair.
I spent between six-to-eight weeks in John Radcliffe Hospital, totally paralysed. They reconstructed my neck with metal discs and performed cervical decompression surgery. I had metal plates, screws and bolts inserted into my spine. The treatment I received from everybody at HIOWAA and John Radcliffe Hospital was fabulous.
I was transported to Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Buckinghamshire, where I stayed and underwent spinal rehab for a further five months. When discharged, I was given a wheelchair and they told me, ‘You’ll never walk again’. I turned to my wife and said, ‘I am never getting in that wheelchair. I am getting my old body back.’ I trained and trained. I would crawl around the house, through the garden and up the stairs. Now I can cycle up to 20 miles, swim 500 metres and spend most days on my feet at work.
In 2014, I designed my own recovery programme. I deliver presentations around the world to encourage people who have Multiple Sclerosis, spinal cord injuries or who have suffered strokes, to try and get as much of their body back through alternative therapies, at no cost to them. It’s brilliant. If 10% of the audience take something away and it helps them, then job done: I’m happy.
I am now looking to start fundraising for Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance and have two collection pots in my bike store to start me off. I want to give something back to the Air Ambulance, as without them, I wouldn’t be here today.