Making the most at a second shot of life

Riding a motor cycle can feel exhilarating and create an amazing sense of freedom, but do the dangers to this thrill seeking hobby outweigh the adrenaline endorphins it creates?

There is a massive stigma with the dangers of driving motor cycles. 14% of traffic deaths are caused by motor cycle accidents and 9.1% of motorcycle accidents result in amputations to limbs most likely lower limb amputation. Motorcycling gives people a huge sense of freedom and has a huge community behind it. Hundreds and thousands of people share passions for motor bikes but there are also thousands of people who have lost their lives of limbs from the accidents these vehicles cause.

Losing a limb due to accidents can be a distressing and dark place. It is a difficult trauma to go through and something that only a minority can relate to. 15,312 people have amputation from motor accidents in 2020 and 70% of them were lower limb amputations.

Keith Hulme is 57 years of age and when he was 30 he ended up in a motor cycle accident that wasn’t his fault. A car didn’t check their blind spot on a motor way and pulled in front of him and this accident caused him to lose his entire leg. He was on the back of the motor bike and his friend was driving and she unfortunately lost her life.  Keith loved riding motor cycles and also cycling. He regularly competed in city bike races as well as riding motor cycles. After the accident his life changed forever.

After Keith lost his leg his world was turned upside-down, it was a huge readjustment to his life. “When the doctors told me I was going to lose my leg my world crumbled. It felt like everything I knew had been taken away from me. My life was so close from being taken from me so it was a big adjustment that I was thankful for. I felt guilty for such a long time because my friend had lost her life and I was lucky enough to be alive. It is something that will always live with me. It created a whole new perspective on life and made me value everyone in my life even more.”

“I have always been a very active and keep fit type of person so I knew it was going to be a long journey of rehabilitating and hard work to even coming close to the life I was living before.”

Keith was in the hospital for 2 months after his accident and in the space of 2 years he underwent 7 different surgeries. he was given a prosthetic leg and he went through over a years’ worth of physical therapy programmes to regain his strength and getting him to adjust to a new way of life.  

“When I was fit enough to get my prosthetic leg I remember thinking it was going to be a difficult time. I looked at the leg and immediately thought what am I going to do with this. I had no idea how I was going to adapt to a so what normal life with a fake leg I didn’t know how to use. I was in physio therapy for a year and had weekly appointments to learn how to walk again. What I struggled the most with was regaining my balance, because my whole leg was amputated this meant I have a prosthetic knee, I felt like Bambi on ice when I first started to walk because my balance was completely off, it was hard to bend over to pick things up. I just wanted to maintain my balance more than anything.”

“It had taken me a long time to accept that life had taken me down a new path and I needed to embrace the second chance at life that I had been given. I wanted to integrate as much of my old life into my new way of life. For the first year of having my prosthetic leg I found it difficult. I became less social and stayed in because I felt I was treated differently and that is something that was hard to accept I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me I just wanted people to treat me the way they always had.”  

“The hardest part of the accident was accepting the loss of my dear friend and having a huge weight of guilt on my shoulders. I know there was nothing I could have done but I found it hard to accept that my friend was gone and made me realise how lucky I was.”

“I have always been a person like that likes to be a part of the community and I loved doing my bit in the sports part of the community. I didn’t want my disability take that aspect of my life away from me. Once I got into the swing of life with one leg I wanted to share my journey with as many people as possible and to spread the message of to not let struggles in life hold you back.”

Keith decided to do a ski season in the French Alps to help children with disabilities learn how to ski and show children that anything is possible. He taught skiing lessons in France for 2 years and inspired so many people that it doesn’t make you any less of a person by having a disability and that you can still do anything that a regular person can do. Keith wanted to share his journey with as many people as possible.

“Going to France was one of the best things I have ever done in my life. I wanted to take my trauma and show children that have either gone through the same situation or have another form of disability to not let it stop you. Seeing so many children believe in themselves skiing motivated me to want to help more people. Hence why I stayed in France for 2 years it was the most rewarding thing I have ever done and changed the way I view life.”

Dealing with such traumas can massively effect a person’s way of life some people like Keith feel like they can make the most of the life they have been dealt however many struggle as it can take years and years for people to accept what has happened to them. Losing limbs through road accidents go through trauma and stages of PTSD.

Keith loved the freedom and buzz that riding a motorcycle gave him but after his accident he never wanted to ride a motor bike again. Keith was also an avid cyclist and that passion he had for being free on the road was something he still wanted to have in his life. So he decided to learn how to ride a bike with a prosthetic leg.

“Learning to get back on a bike was a lot more difficult than I anticipated. I felt like I was back being a child learning how to ride a bike again but I was determined to be back on the road. Once I got to grips with my balance I was off. I missed that feeling of riding. A lot of my friends and family thought it was crazy that I wanted to be on the road after my accident but it was such a big part of my life I just missed feeling free and the feeling of the wind pushing against me whilst on my bike reminded me of what it used to feel like before my prosthetic leg.”

After falling back in love with cycling and feeling confident on the road it gave Keith a new sense of life and he started competing in cycling races in Manchester and hardly drove anywhere he always cycled. Keith wanted to share his journey with his community. He grew his Facebook profile and started to write daily posts about what he gets up to in his day to day life in the hope to motivate and spread awareness to those going through the same journey as him.

“I decided to be open about my life with a prosthetic leg to show and help people who have missing limbs and people who are struggling to adapt back to life. I just want to help as many people as possible and show my followers that it is normal to go through tough times but when life pulls you down that there is always a reason to get back up and try again. I grew a small following and started going into schools and give small talks to children with disabilities about the dangers of the road and to always be proud of who you are no matter what life throws at you. I organise cycle rides in the Cheshire community for people with missing limbs and disabilities to build a small community. I want people to know they are not on their own and there are plenty of others that have gone through then same situations.”

“People always ask me when they see my leg and what happened and I am very proud of my story and how far I have come. I try to be a glass half full type of person and always see the best in what life brings. One thing that still helps me to this day is speaking to a therapist. After the accident and with the loss of my friend it was difficult to fight the thoughts in my head. Speaking to someone did me the world of good and helped me understand that my trauma will come in waves and not every day will be good and when I am having a challenging day that it is normal. My biggest message I give to people is that losing a leg, arm finger or toe it doesn’t define who you are and it doesn’t make you any more or less of a person. What is important is that you know you have got this and no one is ever alone. The only thing in your way is you and how you want to see your new life. Finding the inner strength to say yes to things, going out of your comfort zone and not letting your traumas hold you back is the best mind set to have.”

Keith lives a normal day to day life he works at his family’s butchers and carries on with his weekly cycle runs and keeps his Facebook up to date with his journey. He has now had a prosthetic leg for 27 years and continues to give back to his community and help those who are going through the same challenges he has faced over the years.