Lawrence vows to fight back

PUBLISHED: 21:00 17 May 2002 | UPDATED: 11:57 03 March 2010

GRIM determination has earned Lawrence Hare his first step towards independence.

Every day, twice a day, he pushes his broken body to the limits of endurance, to build it back into shape.

By Tracey Sparling

GRIM determination has earned Lawrence Hare his first step towards independence.

Every day, twice a day, he pushes his broken body to the limits of endurance, to build it back into shape.

He grits his teeth and sometimes tries too hard, and too fast, in the physiotherapy and breathing sessions, but his sore muscles are slowly recovering.

His first landmark was when a metal head brace pinned into his skull, was removed on Wednesday, and replaced by a neck collar.

It used to take five nurses to turn him in bed, but he can now sit up at 30 degrees – yet he still pleads with his carers for more progress.

He remains paralysed from the chest down, but the use of his arms has returned, and he is increasingly able to grip a newspaper to read, or one of the many letters from wellwishers devastated by the crushed spine he suffered in a speedway crash a month ago.

As the sun streams in through the open window of his room at the Royal Gwent Hospital, Newport, nestling in the shadow of the Brecon Beacons, there is barely an inch of wall left bare.

Hundreds of cards crowd between a flag signed by Exeter Falcons colleagues at the foot of Lol's bed, and a proudly-displayed signed Arsenal shirt from former Town star and fellow sportsman Richard Wright.

Visitors and nurses marvelling at his celebrity, have to dodge dozens of messages which burst forth from the walls, as a rainbow of cards urge 'Don't Quit' and 'Get well soon.'

The spectacle helps Lol, 32, from Ipswich, in his battle to be positive, when he awakes and realises how many fresh challenges each day brings.

"I'm entering the unknown really. There are bad days and good days, and I wonder how I'm going to cope sometimes.

I've got really good family and friends and that's what makes all the difference."

He speaks as his mother-in-law Audrey Tully arrives to visit after a four-and-ahalf-hour journey, and his wife Stacey, 29, is already at his bedside.

He said: "The support has been unreal, really amazing. I've got two stacks of cards there isn't room for on the walls, and I've had letters from people who were paralysed and that has been encouraging.

"or the past week and a half I've been coming on leaps and bounds. I've got more strength back. I'd lost so much off my arms and shoulders, but I had good upper body strength before, and I was pretty fit, so I should be able to get it back."

But the outlook was not always so good.

Lol said: "The first week and a half, while I had to wait for surgery because of a chest infection, it was the most terrifying time of my life."

The operation then took longer than expected, because surgeons found the vertebrae were so badly damaged that a bone graft was needed from his thigh at the same time.

Then came the horseshoe-shaped head brace, bolted into his skull by a metal pin on each side of his head.

He said: "It weighed 11 kilos and felt like it was pulling my head off my shoulders, because it was designed to keep my spine straight.

"I was conscious as they drilled the holes – I just don't know how I did it."

He was also fully conscious during the accident which was the cause of his need for such treatment. That terror is still fresh in his memory, and it keeps replaying itself throughout the days.

He said: "I realised as soon as I hit the track that I had no feeling. I was panic stricken.

"I had been going round the outside when the guy in front skidded and locked up. He lost speed and I just clipped his back wheel. It happens all the time in speedway.

"I hit the fence then the bike hit me in the neck. It hit me twice and one of the hits was the handlebar, just below my helmet. There was an exposed area between my shoulder pad and helmet, and if a bike whacks you at 40mph, even if you're protected, it is going to split you in half if it hits hard enough. It will find a weak spot on your body."

Although his bike caused the paralysis rather than the fence, Lol welcomed the call for air fences at speedway meetings.

He said: "The only way an air fence might have saved me is if it had grabbed me and pulled me in so the bike missed me, but then it might have held me so the bike could hit me harder somewhere else. I can't really tell what would have happened if there had been an air fence there. It's debatable, but we have got to have them, because there have been some horrific crashes.

"The best idea would be to move them around to different tracks. That is something the Government bodies should look to do, and they are looking at safety issues."

Meanwhile, his frustration is building as he hungers to get home.

He said: "I want to get home and see friends and family. I get a lot of visitors, but it is a little bit isolated here."

In the next breath, his flashback strikes again, and he said: "All I remember is bang, hitting the track and the pain aspect, the ambulance, A&E. I wake up every day and think 'It's not a dream, it's reality.'

"But it is going to take a long while to get over that, because the path of my life has changed. It's going in an unknown direction and I don't know what will become of it all. I'm entering the unknown.

"Every day I see something else I'm not going to be able to do any more."

Days and nights blur into an endless routine, and Lol feels the frustration.

He said: "At night I can't sleep and it's then that I feel lonely. At 3am or 4am, that's when the downside comes over you.

"I feel the time, frustration, rage and anger. One day I'm crying, one day I'm angry. One day I try to be positive, and I'm going to go through that for a long while.

"The pain is being controlled now by drugs, so I'm not in so much pain physically – it's more mental now. It seems to come in two stages. I'm going to need help physically but in the end I want some independence. I want to do things in life.

"I don't want to have to rely on people. As long as people are around me to keep me going, that's all I ask."

His next major step will be a move to Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire, for intensive physiotherapy from spinal experts, hopefully within the next two weeks.

It won't be easy going, and he said: "It's going to be a real pressure cooker, but I'm looking forward to seeing other people in wheelchairs, and that will spur me on. There's always someone worse off than me.

"These things happen. You know the risks but you take them. I just got dealt a wrong hand."

Lol remains hopeful his lower body will recover.

He said: "Hopefully everything will come back. It could take months, even a couple of years. I'll try everything – reflexology, faith healing . . . I'll do the lot. You never know what might help."

He added: "I had made a life of travelling England to ride, including 300 mile trips to Exeter, so it won't be the life I used to live – at 100mph, juggling so many things.

"That's now stopped totally, but it puts everything in perspective and I just have to look on the positive side. You never know what's round the corner."

And he remains determined to visit Ipswich on May 30, when many top speedway riders converge on Foxhall in his honour, and said: "There's a 50/50 chance I'll get there."

It's not long until that date, and all that remains is to see, is if his body can match up to the challenge which his spirit is tackling head on.

Donations to the fund for Lol's future, which now stands at more than £20,000, can be sent to Geraldine Thompson, Editor's Secretary, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN.

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