A MOTORCYCLIST who broke his neck AND his back in 120 mph crash has stunned medics who warned he might never walk again – by training for a marathon.

Club racer Nick Matthews, 47, sustained catastrophic injuries when he forgot to tighten his brakes sending him speeding head first into a wall at 120 mph.

Pals at the Oulton Park race circuit in Cheshire who witnessed the horrific crash feared he was dead. But after being airlifted to hospital surgeons managed to save his life and rebuild his shattered body – but warned he might never walk again.

But determined Nick from Market Harborough, Leicestershire, proved them wrong by walking out hospital just three weeks later and is now training for a marathon despite his body being held together with screws and metal rods.

He said: ‘ My body was completely broken, but not my spirit.

‘It’s been painful and exhausting but I owe it to the guys who saved my life not to be beaten.

‘Life in a wheelchair was not an option for me.

‘I won’t break any records or beat any times when I run but I will cross that finish line.’

He is hoping to raise funds for the air ambulance that saved his life.

Nick knows he is lucky to alive after the horror smash in June last year.

The motorcycle enthusiast and haulage firm manager who had been riding at club level for five years was preparing for a race the following day when the accident occurred.

He says: ‘ I’d gone to the track a day early to put my bike through road testing and do some practice laps like normal.

‘It had been checked by the circuit and was fine.’

But crucially while he was about to tighten his brake bolts, Nick thinks he must have become distracted and forgotten – before taking to the circuit for a pre race practice.

Just seven minutes into his practice laps he approached a corner at 120mph and went for his brakes.

Terrifyingly he pulled them, but felt no resistance at all and in that split second knew he would probably die.

Nick, whose father was killed in a motorcycle crash when he was a baby, explains: ‘ It was a moment of shock and horror. I pulled at the brakes and there was nothing. Blind panic washed over me.’

The terror was captured on camera thanks to a video recorder attached to his bike.

He left the circuit at 120 mph and went hurtling head first into a tyre wall before being crushed by his 160 kg bike.

Medics on the scene found him barely conscious but saved his life by inserting a chest drain when he stopped breathing.

He was then airlifted to Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester in a critical condition where the full extent of his injuries was revealed.

Not only had he broken his neck, but his back was also broken in three places as well as his collarbone, six ribs, sternum, wrist and two fingers.

He’d also suffered a collapsed lung.

Wife Kirsty, 38, mum to the youngest of this three children aged 19, 16 and seven, was warned he was unlikely to survive the next 24 hours.

She says: ‘ They told me that even if he did survive he would never walk again. This was a life changing accident. I knew Nick wouldn’t want to come round if he wasn’t going to be able to walk again, sport is his life.

‘The list of injuries was terrifying. They said it would be easier to work from the top down when they started listing them to me.

‘I could tell they didn’t think there was much hope.’

But doctors managed to stabilise his breathing and seven days later he was transferred to The Salford Royal Hospital for a five-hour operation to rebuild his back using titanium rods. Surgeons also fused seven vertebrae to fix the three that were broken.

Just three days later – ten days after the smash- he stood up for the first time.

He says: ‘ A physiotherapist came to see and very gently helped me to the edge of the bed.

‘I put my feet down and remember thinking how cold and flat the floor felt under me.

‘Then I just stood up. It was an amazing feeling.

‘All the consultants came to look at me standing up because they couldn’t believe it. I felt like a freak show.

‘I vowed there and then that anything was possible and one day I would run a marathon.

‘One of them joked that I must be concussed from head injuries to say such a thing because running would never be possible for me again, but I meant it.’

The following day Nick took three painful steps and managed to sit in a chair on the ward.

But when wife Kirsty came to visit and saw his empty bed – she feared the worst.

Nick explains: ‘ She saw the bed empty and thought I was dead. Then when she saw me sat in the armchair she smiled and I stood up in front of her for the first time.

‘She was gobsmacked and burst into tears. It was a very emotional moment for us.’

By day 16 of his recovery Nick was able to take enough steps to leave the ward
and three weeks after the smash stunned doctors by walking out of the hospital unaided.

He says: ‘ I felt like the luckiest man alive and all my friends agreed. Especially the ones who had witnessed the crash who couldn’t believe I had survived, let alone got back on my feet.’

He has since undergone two more operations as well as intensive physiotherapy and in January this year ran for the first time.

He says: ‘ I only went twice around the block but every step took all I had, but they say a marathon is more about what is in your head so I kept going.’

He can now run two continuous miles and hopes his training schedule will see him ready for the Berlin marathon in September.

He will run with a group of friends for support.

But he has promised his family not to ride motorcycles at club level again.

‘I couldn’t put them through that worry again, not after last time.’

But he still hopes to ride motorcycles again one day.

‘My father rode a Triumph Bonneville and it’s always been a dream of mine to own one so maybe one day.’

He says: ‘ My friends call me the bionic man because I am full of so much metal.

‘I owe my life to the people who saved me, rebuilt me and helped me come this far and I want to give something back by showing people what is possible and raising money for the air ambulance that got me to hospital.’

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