Club Dinner – 8 April 2024 – Speaker – Alex Lewis

Past President Deborah Macartney welcomed our guest speaker, Alex Lewis, together with our other guests, Rosemary Court PA to Alex Lewis, Ann White, Julie Peck and Thomas Bwambale.

This dinner meeting was a special occasion – we were privileged to hear Alex Lewis tell his inspirational, unforgettable life story. Many of us will be familiar with the facts of Alex’s devastating, life changing experience, but to meet him in person is a most uplifting and yet humbling occasion.

Alex quietly drew back from the dinner table and from his wheelchair he shared with us the past 10 years of his life. This account is a short summary.

In 2013 he was a young man running a village pub in Stockbridge. He had a small son and a girlfriend, Lucy. He was a ‘stay at home father’ – by his own account, not a very good one. Deep down he was unhappy, lacking direction and a chronic alcoholic. Not what one would expect from a handsome, well-educated young man from a privileged background.

In November of that year following ‘man flu’, as he thought, he fell victim to Strep A leading to Septicaemia. He was rushed to hospital and given a 1% chance of survival. As we know, Alex defied this prognosis. The Strep A had invaded most of his body causing Alex to finally become a quadruple amputee, with the additional burden of facial reconstruction surgery.

In addition to all this unimaginable physical trauma Alex had to cope with huge emotional and psychological challenges. The low times were ocean deep. His small son was frightened when he visited his dad in ICU seeing him so physically changed. Alex longed for Sam to jump on his bed for a cuddle, like in old times, but Sam hid behind Lucy’s legs. One of his nurses suggested bringing in Alex’s beloved dog, Holly, to see him. As Alex told us, that moment of sheer joy seeing Holly shaped the rest of his life.

2014 was a huge challenge – time to go home. Alex was scared; he couldn’t do anything for himself. His best friend, Chris, came to live with him for 6 months and was hugely influential in his recovery. To this day, during all of Alex’s sporting adventures which include skydiving, kayaking, mountain climbing, cycling, Chris is always his wingman.

At the time prosthetics in the UK were old fashioned, heavy and very expensive. In the USA they were much more advanced but even more expensive – out of the reach of the majority of amputees, including Alex. He decided to do without them, which resulted in him leaving the NHS.

Throughout the extensive travelling involved in his personal development, Alex realised how fortunate he had been to experience the enormous support and life saving care of the NHS. Around 2016 he decided to give back to the community. He began to work on projects to enable him to understand and meet the needs of amputees, especially in Ethiopia where he had special links due to his amazing achievement in climbing the country’s highest mountain.

In 2017 he raised £50,000 to build a wheelchair factory for the local people, using local materials and at reasonable cost. To date, over 700 have been helped. The factory also makes walking frames and cycles.

Alex travels the world speaking and working with many organisations, schools, universities, young people and the elderly, raising money to help amputees.

Alex concluded his presentation by saying, “If you offered to give me back my arms and legs, I wouldn’t want them. I have achieved far more in the last 10 years than I ever did before.”

There is no disputing that.

Thank you Alex.

www.alex-lewis.co.uk

Click the link above to watch a wonderful film about The Alex Lewis Trust.

Diana Brooks

Anthony Arkwright, Alex Lewis and Deborah Macartney

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