Published: 25 July 2023

A Swansea motorcyclist who suffered a serious brain injury after coming off his bike has said he probably wouldn’t be alive today if it wasn’t for the Wales Air Ambulance.

Darren Lewis, from Penplas in Swansea, was thrown from his motorbike while riding in Mumbles in May 2021 after a dog dashed out between two parked cars.

His skull was fractured in five places, and he suffered a life-changing traumatic brain injury, spending two weeks in hospital before being transferred to the Neuro-rehabilitation Unit at Neath Port Talbot Hospital.

Although he has made significant progress, he continues to experience difficulties that affect his daily life, and which will remain life-long.

Despite the challenges he still faces, Darren recently took part in a sponsored 12 mile bike ride from Dunvant Rugby Club to Knab Rock in Mumbles and back to help raise profile of Wales Air Ambulance and raise money for the Brain Injury Service which helped support him.

The dad-of-one said he would always be indebted to the crew who helped him.

He said: “If it wasn’t for the Wales Air Ambulance I wouldn’t be here today. The job the Wales Air Ambulance crew do is unbelievable. I have a lot of respect for them.

“If it wasn’t for the air ambulance, I would probably be dead. I don’t know what would have happened if the air ambulance hadn’t been able to get to me that day.

“Every time I see the helicopter, I think how lucky I was to have the helicopter available to take me to hospital in the fastest time possible. You don’t realise how important it is until it happens to you. I will always be thankful for them for saving me that day.”

The Wales Air Ambulance relies entirely on public donations to raise £8 million every year to keep the helicopters in the air and rapid response vehicles on the road. 

The Charity offers advanced critical care across Wales. It is delivered via a unique Third Sector and Public Sector partnership between the Wales Air Ambulance Charity and the Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Service (EMRTS Cymru).

As a result, the service is consultant-led and is known as a ‘flying emergency department’, taking hospital-standard treatments to the patient. This includes the ability to administer anaesthesia, deliver blood transfusions and conduct minor operations, all at the scene of an incident.

Since Darren’s accident, he has experienced difficulty with his memory, concentration and speech. He initially experienced dizzy spells when standing as well as hearing loss, which impacted his balance and mobility. He has also experienced fatigue, one of the most common effects of brain injury, and it can also result in mood swings, irritability, frustration and anger.

The 48-year-old used to work as a security officer, at venues including Swansea University, but his injury meant he had to give up employment.

He said: “The injury affected my balance, I’m deaf in one ear so people have to stand on my left hand side to speak to me, and it has affected my temperament and I snap at people.

“I used to get up, go to work, do what I had to do, and I have been trying to back to a routine and get out and about, but there are days when I just can’t be bothered.

“I’ve been told it is unlikely I will be able to go back to doing what I used to do, and doing something standing up like stacking shelves will be difficult because I have dizzy spells, and my memory is gone, so I don’t know who would take me on. At the moment my wife Joanne is supporting all of us. She and my son Deon have been my rock over the past two years and I’m so grateful to them.”

Darren decided to challenge himself to a sponsored bike ride to give himself something to focus on and he managed to raise £986 for the Brain Injury Unit. He broke up the journey into sections alongside his rehab specialist Rob May and said it was an emotional day.

He said: “We went along the cycle track in Dunvant as it was the safest way. I was worried at first that I wouldn’t be able to do it, as this is my first challenge since the accident. But we took it slow and had regular stops. There were times when travelling down Mumbles Road brought back memories of being back on my motorbike, but I pushed on and despite being exhausted, I completed the challenge.

“It was difficult on the way back and I walked some of the distance. I am really pleased I did it and look forward to the next challenge.”

Image: Darren, right, with Rob May