A champion motorbike rider who has been left paralysed from the chest down following a horror smash has begun a fund-raising campaign to help him live “as normal a life as possible”.
Lewis Meldrum’s world was changed forever when he suffered a devastating crash in June last year.
Despite a number of crucial operations, doctors have told him he is unlikely to ever walk again.
But brave Lewis, who worked as a mechanic before he suffered the injuries, is refusing to let the situation get him down and now he wants to be as active as he can be.
“If you aren’t laughing, you’re crying so it’s all about trying to make the best of a bad situation,” said the 20-year-old.
It was at Oulton Park race circuit in Cheshire that Lewis, of Grangetown, Sunderland, saw his life changed forever.
Competing on his Supersport Kawasaki ZX6-R bike, he started 16th on the grid of 50 riders in a race.
On the third lap, and in fifth place, Lewis took a corner at 160mph.
“I was gearing down for the corner but the bike lost control and I face-planted the gravel,” said the former St Aidan’s School pupil.
“I was conscious throughout the whole thing but by the time I realised what was happening I felt pins and needles and I couldn’t move at all.”
He had suffered multiple fractures to his vertebrae, spinal fixation and a bruised spinal cord which resulted in complete spinal cord injury.
After being airlifted to the Walton Centre in Liverpool, Lewis spent a week in intensive care as well as several weeks on a high dependency unit before being transferred to a specialist spinal unit at James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough.
While in the hospital with dad Kevin, 52, and girlfriend Charlotte Hope, 19, Lewis was given the news he had been dreading.
“They just said they were sorry to say you will never walk again and it was very hard to take,” said Lewis.
“I then had a seven-hour operation on the same day where they inserted two metal rods into my back along with 14 screws to hold it together.”
The aftermath of life post-accident has been a difficult one for Lewis and his family which includes mum Marie, 46.
“The house had to be adapted as soon as possible because it wasn’t done by the time I came home and it was a massive struggle.
“It was just getting by, by whatever means really.”
The support of family, friends and his employers Jaguar, who have allowed him to do administration work instead of the mechanic role he joined to do at the company’s Stoneygate dealership in Houghton, has helped lift Lewis’s spirits.
He is now looking to raise £50,000 to help buy equipment and go towards any therapies which will help him become as active as he can for the rest of his life.
“You can get all sorts of different things to help get about,” he added.
“For example if I go out at the minute I can’t really go down to the beach, but there are things you can buy to do that.
“They cost a fortune though.
“Since my crash there’s been many tears but a few happy times, I received a signed T-Shirt from TT legend John McGuinness and a signed personalised photo from nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi.
“I’ve also been learning that I can still driving using an automatic car.”
Despite knowing it is unlikely, Lewis, who had first raced mini bikes aged 13 and was a British champion for his age group in 2010, also says that he won’t give up hope of walking again.
“It’s a weird situation, but there are things in development which I could benefit from in years to come.
“It might be 10 years down the line from now,
“At the minute I’m just trying to make light of the full situation. “The support I’ve had is unbelievable and Jaguar have been brilliant, I can’t thank them enough.
“I’m extremely grateful to my grandparents for buying me a lightweight wheelchair which I use.
“Now, I just want to have as close to a normal life as possible.”
To donate towards Lewis’s campaign, go to www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/lewismeldrum75.