When David Lambert suffered a life-threatening motorbike accident which left him in a coma, it was feared he would never see the birth of his baby daughter.
However, seven months on from his “lottery-winning” survival, David is now looking forward to a bright future with his wife Claire, son Christopher, five, and newborn Bethany.
David’s accident left him with his spine broken in five places with one vertebrae ‘burst’, flailed and broken ribs and both lungs collapsed.
He also shattered his collarbone and shoulder blade, and had a brain swelling which left him in a coma for 11 days.
David says his life was saved by the quick actions of the North West Air Ambulance, which took him from the accident scene at Oulton Park Race Circuit in Cheshire to hospital in Stoke for treatment after the accident on June 13 last year.
“If not for them I would not have survived transit, and would not be here today,” David, 36, said.
“My wife was 12 weeks pregnant at the time of my accident, so if not for them I would have missed the birth of my baby girl.”
Bethany was born on December 18 and, due to complications through being born premature, arrived at the family home in Dutton Drive, Lancaster, on Christmas Day, giving the family an added reason to celebrate the festive season.
But it could have all been very different if not for the quick-thinking of the North West Air Ambulance (NWAA) team, along with paramedics based at the race track.
David was on leave from his job in the Merchant Navy when the accident happened.
His pregnant wife had postponed her 12-week scan to allow him to take part in the race.
“I came together with another biker on a high speed corner and left the circuit on wet grass,” said former Our Lady’s Catholic College student David.
“I tried to rejoin the track and the front wheel went between the grass and the tarmac and I went over the handlebars at more than 100mph.”
It’s believed David hit the ground at a speed of between 80 and 100mph, landing on his head and causing life-threatening injuries to his chest and spine.
Doctors attended the scene, along with a race track first responder who immediately saw the need to use specialist equipment to puncture and drain David’s chest.
David was then airlifted to Royal Stoke University Hospital, where he would spend the next 29 nights – 11 of those in an induced coma – recovering from his ordeal.
“The surgeon later told me that once I left the bike it was like winning the lottery,” he said.
“When I arrived at the hospital they thought I would probably get away with being in a wheelchair if I was lucky.
“The air ambulance team thought they were taking me on a one-way trip to hospital.”
Two days after the accident, David underwent a nine-hour operation which saw metal rods inserted into his back to fuse his spine – surgery which saved the use of his legs.
After waking from his coma, David was moved to the hospital’s trauma ward, where he immediately began rehabilitation.
Amazingly, he was on his feet again within days.
He has since spent months undergoing rehab, including large amounts of swimming.
He also has treatment for damage caused to the frontal lobe of his brain, which has affected his short-term memory.
“I can remember nothing from being on the ship at Heysham before I went to the track,” he said. “I have absolutely no recollection of the accident or being in intensive care.”
It’s not the first time David has been involved in a serious motorbike accident – in 2005 he spent six months learning to walk again after a crash.
However, motor sports are off limits now, and all that David has left of his kit is the helmet which helped save his life.
“Everyone who knows me knows I am not the sort to sit and watch TV,” David said. “I have to throw myself into things.
“But whenever I am feeling down all I have to think is that it could have been a lot worse.
“It was very emotional being at Bethany’s birth and knowing that I so nearly wasn’t here for it.”
In a bid to pay back a little of what the NWAA did for him, David and his son undertook a sponsored swim last month – six months to the day after his accident.
David swam one nautical mile (1,852 metres, or 75 lengths) at 3-1-5 swimming pool, assisted by Christopher who joined him for the final 100 metres.
“I started swimming as soon as I came home from hospital,” he said. “At first all I could do was get in the water and walk up and down, but then I started to do a kind of breast stroke on my back and after a few months I could go onto my front.
“One day I was swimming and I thought, why not do a sponsored swim?
“Being a Marine I thought I could do a nautical mile. It gave me a goal and something to train for.
“I owe everything to the air ambulance. Without them I wouldn’t be here.
“Most of my rehabilitation and physiotherapy has been in the water for the last six months, and so I felt this was the best way of me raising money, and I wanted to try and give something back to the service that saved my life.
“I wouldn’t have survived a trip by ambulance to hospital. Without the air ambulance I would have died at the side of the track.”
So far David has raised around £3,700 – while Christopher has collected £200 from friends and teachers at St Bernadette’s Primary School.
“I’m blown away by the support I have so far received,” David said.
“As much as raising the money, the other thing I really wanted to do was to try and get people aware of the air ambulance and how important it is.
“The NWAA attend more than 2,000 missions every year, and it seems not a great number of people know this is a charity with no government day-to-day funding.
“I have been riding motorbikes for 20 years and I didn’t know the air ambulance was completely run on donations.
“When it became apparent I was only here for the birth of my little girl thanks to the air ambulance I had to do something.
“Any one of us may need them at any moment of any day.”
David and his family now hope to visit the air ambulance base at Eccles to meet the team who saved his life and hand over the money they have raised.
l To donate to David’s fundraising page, go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/dave1nmile