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In March 2015 Pete Burch suffered serious injuries after a road traffic collision while out riding his motorcycle with his father and friends on the A30 just outside Salisbury. He was airlifted by Wiltshire Air Ambulance (WAA) to Southampton General Hospital, a major trauma centre, in six minutes. Since then Pete, 27, of Ashurst, Hampshire, has undergone a radical operation on his left arm and has achieved his goal of riding his motorcycle again. Pete takes up the story;
“Lying in my hospital bed in March 2015, I said to everybody that “I will ride again”. Before I really knew the extent of my injuries or even what a brachial plexus injury was this seemed quite a reasonable aim, however as the weeks and months went on my hashtag #willrideagain seemed more and more of a dream. That aside, I had the unconditional support of my girlfriend, family and friends to achieve my goal.
Fast forward just 7 months and with the support of an incredible charity called The Bike Experience, I got back in the saddle! On a cold, windy, overcast autumnal day up at Donington Park the charity provided me with a semi-automatic 850cc Aprilia Mana which has no clutch lever, but does has 7 gears. My first run was very scary. One handed I twisted the throttle, loving the fact I was wearing leathers and a helmet again and away I went. Within minutes I was off the practice track and buzzing around the track realising just how lucky I am to be back riding, I did RIDE AGAIN! I loved every second and as soon as I got home I was straight on eBay...you can guess which button I clicked.
One major problem with my injury which severely impacted my physical ability was the permanent subluxation (lowering) of my shoulder joint. In March 2016, I underwent a very rare and intrusive operation at Bristol Spire. Known as a Free Muscle and Nerve Transfer operation, part of my left hamstring muscle (gracilis) was removed and inserted into my paralysed arm, through my shoulder down past my elbow. Nerves were taken from my intercostals region to fire the new muscle. I’m told this is really as extreme as plastic surgery can get. 9 hours later, I was woken up and felt very rough, but, the operation had been a big success. I was discharged 6 days later on Good Friday and I’m now 4 months post op (July); everything is looking very positive. My left shoulder is now permanently in joint and as a result I am in a lot less muscle pain. I still suffer from incredible chronic nerve pain but this is managed well with a safe level of medication. My left arm looks more like a London Underground map if I’m honest however I quite like the scars.
2016 has seen me start driving again, ride my motorcycle again including both road riding and a track day at Silverstone in June, visit the Isle of Man TT with my girlfriend and best mates and probably most importantly, I am now working again. I was a charity fundraising Manager before my accident and as the Air Ambulance is very close to my heart, I have landed a perfect part-time role as Trust and Foundations Fundraiser at the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance. I know, I know...HIOWAA! The office is only 15 minutes away from where I live and I am very close to their passionate CEO Alex Lochrane, who was my former CEO at a previous job. I started in June and the team, the mission and what I do is brilliant. I clearly owe WAA my life but being a 2 hour drive to Devizes, I feel this is really the next best way to say thank you and help save other people’s lives.
I still continue to support this amazing charity and have decided to donate to Wiltshire Air Ambulance on a monthly basis for the rest of my life. I’ve also been to see the current airbase to meet the crew in and see the helicopter in Devizes and I was very pleased to have attended the Winter Charity Ball just before Christmas with my girlfriend Verity. We had a superb evening and it was great to see everybody all dressed up too.
What does the future hold? Physically, it’s 50/50 as to whether my arm will ever move again following this major operation. The Surgeon and my physio team are hopeful as everything has gone right to plan so far, especially with stabilising my shoulder, but it won’t be moving until at least Christmas 2016. I hope to purchase a track bike soon so I can really increase the amount of riding I do in a safe and controlled environment – rather than riding on public roads. Sorry Mum! Finally, I hope to increase the amount of hours I can work at Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance and continue to keep getting better and loving my second opportunity to live life to the max.”