When Lewis Foster was knocked off his motorbike two years ago he faced a massive battle for survival –one he certainly wouldn’t have won without road safety heroes in the form of Yorkshire Air Ambulance.
Aged 17 at the time, he was given just a 35% chance of survival when emergency teams arrived at the scene in Hornsea, East Yorkshire, after Lewis had been knocked off his motorbike by a car driver at a junction.
Lewis suffered a serious brain injury as well as further serious injuries to his pelvis, bladder, liver and right arm.
Paramedics from the air ambulance had to put him into an induced coma on the roadside before he was rushed to hospital, ensuring he remained in a stable condition as his life was in the balance.
Those quick actions and that immediate roadside treatment saved his life, preventing his brain from swelling and his organs failing.
He was given a second chance at life – but also a new life a world away from that he’d enjoyed before.
Road Safety Heroes recognised as part of awareness week
As this week marks Road Safety Week 2021 (November 15-21) – an initiative led by the safety charity Brake – Lewis is sharing his story of survival and ongoing recovery in the hope it helps raise awareness of the need for all to take greater care on the roads, and the long-term impact injuries have.
The focus this year is Road Safety Heroes, seeking to highlight and celebrate the heroic work of road safety professionals, but also emphasis how everybody can all play a part in making journeys safer for all.
For Lewis, there can be no bigger heroes than the people who saved his life.
He spent a week in intensive care and then a further five weeks in a specialist brain injury ward before being discharged to start the long process of rebuilding his life. He knows it was in those initial moments when the air ambulance team treated him that his life was saved.
“I know I am very lucky to still be here and I obviously owe everything to the paramedics from Yorkshire Air Ambulance and Hull Royal Infirmary. They gave me a second chance at life, and that has been a chance I have been determined to take since,” he said.
Lewis, now 19, has always been keen to share his story.
He was in the rare position of being able to see film footage of himself being treated on the roadside as the air ambulance crew were being followed on the day of his accident by a documentary crew, filming the programme Helicopter ER for the Really television channel.
“It was very strange watching the documentary on television and just seeing how badly injured I was and how close I came to losing my life. That footage showed how the paramedics saved my life.” Lewis said.
“I have no memory of the accident at all and all I do remember is waking up in hospital with my injuries and my mum crying. I just couldn’t comprehend what had happened to me. Still now I’ll often feel like that was a different person and that I am living in a parallel universe.
“I have had to try and come to come to terms with what happened and how that has impacted on my life, but I have never felt sorry for myself.”
Determination led to fundraising challenge and start of studies
Lewis’ story has been far from easy since his accident, but he has been determined to challenge and push himself, raising £700 for the air ambulance crew by completing the National Three Peaks Challenge before the first anniversary of his accident, and then by embarking on a media studies course.
His mother Julie says she is having to ensure Lewis doesn’t try to do too much too soon, but is immensely proud of the way he has handled the impact of his life-changing injury.
“Lewis has been determined to bounce back the best he can and that is why he was so determined to climb the Three Peaks and to start his studies in media, but he also had to realise that he is still only at the start of a very long road to recovery,” she said.
“He has struggled more of late, and he’s had to accept that his recovery is long term both physically and psychologically.
“Thankfully though, he has a great team of specialists supporting him, including doctors, psychologists, and care workers. They are constantly assessing and advising him to ensure he recovers as is best possible.”
Legal support has included comprehensive rehabilitation programme
That support is being orchestrated through an ongoing personal injury compensation claim, led by Samuel McFadyen, an Associate solicitor at Hudgell Solicitors.
Mr McFadyen specialises in handling catastrophic personal injury claims and has assembled a team which has provided a comprehensive rehabilitation programme to include a specialist brain injury case manager, clinical neuropsychologist and neuropsychiatrist to provide treatment and input for Lewis.
The rehabilitation is overseen by the case manager, whose role is to ensure a bespoke package is provided and continually adapted to meet Lewis’ needs as they change throughout his recovery.
Mr McFadyen says Lewis will still need a great deal of support moving forward but is someone who has the determination to make the best possible recovery.
“Lewis is very inspirational in terms of how he has accepted what has happened to him, and in his determination to not let his injury hold him back,” he said.
“We have tried to wrap our arms around Lewis and his family to support and guide them through these challenging times.
“In is important for a serious injury victim and their family to have the right support around them to ensure each new step they take forward is at the right time, when they are physically and emotionally ready.
“Many people who suffer life-changing injuries find that difficult, as they want to push themselves and live life to the full again as quickly as possible, often before they are ready to do so.
“We are working hard to ensure Lewis has all the physical, psychological and financial support he needs, both now and into the future, to rebuild his life.
“A key message to take from Road Safety Week has to the life-changing consequences of unsafe driving.
“There are road users such as motorcyclists who are more vulnerable to sustaining serious injury. Accidents can leave people like Lewis needing a lifetime of support. It is a difficult journey for anybody to follow.”
Mum says ‘second chance is more than we could ever have asked for’
Lewis’ mother Julie added: “Life is far from easy for Lewis and he can become anxious or stressed, but he is so determined and driven.
“He knows he was lucky to have a second chance in life and is determined to ensure he makes the most of that, and that makes us proud.
“When he had his accident we all feared he had been taken from us, but the paramedics in the air ambulance gave us him back, and that is more than we could ever have asked for given his slim chance of survival when they arrived. We’ve had fantastic support from Samuel and Hudgells, and things would have very difficult without their help.
“Lewis has an inspirational story to tell, but also one of difficulties and struggles which will impact on him for the rest of his life. I hope that is the message anyone who reads his story will take away.
“When we get behind the wheel of any vehicle we have a loaded gun in our hands which could seriously injure or take away somebody else’s life. Lewis can’t turn back the clock. We all wish we could.
“I hope people take that message from Road Safety Week. “