Cambridgeshire man Matthew Stephenson owes his life to Magpas doctor
MATTHEW Stephenson nearly died in a road traffic collision. This week, he told us why the message to Drive Safe - Save a Life it is one all young people should take seriously.
WHEN you meet the bright, bubbly and handsome Matthew Stephenson, it is hard to believe that just seven years ago he was lying on the side of a Cambridgeshire road fighting for his life.
“I am one of the rare lucky ones, a real exception. Most people who had been in an accident like mine don’t go on to lead normal lives, if they live at all,” said Matthew.
“I had just jumped on my motorbike to get the rent for my landlord from the cash machine at the local petrol station – I hadn’t even put my gloves on, which was very unusual for me.”
Aged just 20, that five-minute journey to the petrol station left him in a coma for more than a week with a further two-and-a-half years of rehabilitation before he was finally able to move on with his life.
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And Matthew, whose family live in Comberton, is adamant that he was only saved from serious brain damage due to the miraculous work of Dr Simon Lewis, one of the Magpas emergency charity’s volunteer doctors.
Matthew said: “I’d been riding a moped since I was 16, and I passed my driving test a month after I was 17.
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“My dad had a bike and I never saw any danger in having one.
“I was driving within the speed limit and had overtaken two cars and a lorry, but I had done so sensibly.
“I didn’t really think before I got on the bike, which was so unusual as it’s usually safety, safety, safety with me after I saw a video once showing how much skin you lost if you weren’t wearing the right things on a bike.
“A woman was making a U-turn but she didn’t see me. When I hit her I pushed her estate car around 25ft into a nearby ditch, so I hit her with quite a lot of force.
“I was injured from head to toe – broken left big toe, torn quadracep tendon, a ruptured spleen and internal bleeding.
“I subsequently had 2.5ft of bowel taken out due to adhesions.
“My elbow was all fractured and there is a metal plate in it now, my left two fingers are pretty messed up too. I had plastic surgery on my cheek-bone.
“The worst injury was that my brain stem was bruised and bleeding and so I had to have a borehole put in to relieve the pressure.
“At the scene I was lucky to have Magpas attend to me. My lung collapsed, but was re-inflated at the scene by Dr Lewis, and he made sure my brain wasn’t starved of oxygen. He also paralysed me using drugs at the scene to stop me from being further injured.
“These are services only Magpas could give me at the scene – in fact the drugs Simon gave me were so strong that they can normally only be used in hospital.”
Despite his massive injuries, Matthew, now 28, says he doesn’t resent the accident which kept him in Addenbrooke’s Hospital for more than a month.
He said: “I really can’t see how I would be who I am now without it. Of course, I wouldn’t wish it to happen. But I am now so much stronger, better, more determined as a result.”
Matthew was expelled from school at 13 because of his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and left school with just five GCSEs.
He is now studying for a masters in sustainability following an access course and a degree in business enterprise.
“There is no way I’d have done any of it had it not been for the accident. And without Simon and Magpas at the scene there is no way I would have recovered so well and been able to function at this high a level,” he said. “I would really like to do more to help Magpas.”
Matthew was in rehab for almost three years at Papworth Hospital.
“You really have absolutely no idea how brain injuries affect you,” he said. “My body healed up really quickly as I was fit and healthy, and young, but your brain… I wasn’t the same person for a good year and a half.
“It’s taken me a long time to get to a point where the accident is part of my life rather than it dominating my life.
“I don’t ride a bike any more – it’s for my parents really.
“My message would be when it comes to road safety think about the consequences of what you do. Not just for yourself, but for your family and friends.
“I had a mate who was driving when he had an accident and his friend, who was a passenger in the car, died. He’s never really got over it.
“I was much luckier, thanks to Magpas, but I really wouldn’t wish anyone to go through what I did.”