Fearless Hayling motocross rider paralysed in accident has big dreams for the future
It is a blazing hot, flaming June day and Michael Newman and his band of fearless mates have spent it tearing around the Oxfordshire countryside on motocross bikes.
The 27-year-old, from Hayling Island, is a self-confessed adrenaline junkie who loves nothing more than when he is pushing himself to the limit, physically.
But this day is different, this day will change everything.
As they are getting ready to finish and head home to Hayling, Michael is involved in a devastating accident.
The air conditioning engineer explains: ‘It had been a very good day’s riding and things were nearing an end when the unexpected happened.
‘I went round the corner, hit a rock and clenched the handlebars of the bike.
‘The accelerator throttle got stuck wide open and sent me flying off the side of the track. I flew about 18ft before landing flat on my back. Luckily the bike stopped before I did.
‘I tried to move. I took my helmet off and pulled myself forward but there was nothing.
‘I was in so much pain but could not feel my legs at all. I was there screaming in agony for quite a long time.’
The whole thing was captured in high definition on the Go-Pro camera strapped to Michael’s helmet, which can be seen at portsmouth.co.uk.
But it was an agonising two-and-a-half hour wait until he could be transported from the ground, in a 4X4 to a waiting air ambulance because the accident had happened so far off the beaten track.
All the while Michael was in excruciating pain.
At John Radcliffe Hospital, in Oxford, a CT scan revealed the extent of the damage.
Michael says: ‘I had a broken tailbone, pelvis, and an L3 burst fracture – there had basically been an explosion in my spine.
‘It caused major trauma to my cauda equina.
‘I had a six-hour operation where surgeons tried to remove as many fragments of the bone that had exploded in my back as they could.
‘They could not remove it all unless they opened me up from the front but the nerves were so badly damaged and crushed the surgeon would not do it. He did the best he could.’
There followed a very frank discussion.
Michael says: ‘He came to me and said very swiftly, “you’re never going to walk again. You’re very lucky to be alive because there was so much trauma to the nerves and bones.”
‘I accepted it straight away, although I was in shock, it didn’t seem real. Then I just said, “Challenge accepted”. I’m not going to let it beat me. I’m going to give it everything I’ve got.’
The former Hayling College pupil, who played rugby for the school, spent five months in spinal treatment at Salisbury District Hospital.
He was only allowed out for a few days – one of which was his good friend Terry Cowan’s wedding, where he was an usher.
Michael says: ‘I have got a really good support network of friends and family, they have been amazing.’
Now back home with his mum, those family and friends are on a mission to raise £10,000 for intensive physiotherapy – which costs £100 an hour.
Michael believes the work he does in rehabilitation during the next two years will be crucial to his long-term recovery.
‘I genuinely think I can do this’ he says. ‘If it was going to break me it would have done so by now – I’m never going to let it. It will just take time and dedication.’
His generous friends and family have adapted the family home to accommodate his wheelchair.
And every day he does some form of workout to make him stronger.
He has a home gym where he pumps weights and he swims and weight trains at Horizon Leisure, at Havant.
It is a world away from the intensive muscle-building he would do before the accident but he is on his way back.
‘It is a very adaptive workout’, says Michael. ‘I generally do more reps now and less weights. I also swim a lot. I strap floats to my legs and just use my arms, which builds up a lot of strength. I do about 25 lengths.’
It is hard to imagine the devastating accident was just six months ago. Michael’s strength of character has brought him through and he is already focusing on his next goal.
‘I plan to spend a couple of months focusing on rehab and getting used to the changes’, he says.
‘But my goal is to do personal training courses for people in wheelchairs.’
And Michael’s attitude to adventure has not diminished.
‘Before the accident I would go to work, then go training, then get out and do more sport, as much as possible. My passion is for living, trying new things. I may be more limited now but that desire has amplified.’
n Michael’s friends and family have set up a fundraising page to raise the £10,000 needed to pay for intensive physiotherapy.
So far just more than £3,000 has been donated.
You can donate by going online to gofundme.com and searching for Please Help Michael Newman Walk Again.