A firefighter who was paralysed in a cycling accident has transformed his love for scuba diving into a therapeutic lifesaver for other patients with spinal injuries.
Pete Lau, 48, had travelled the world scuba diving before his life changed forever when he was involved in a collision with a car when cycling with six friends in Wensleydale, North Yorkshire, last April.
The father-of-two said: “I remember coming round at the side of the car and trying to stand up and not being able to move my legs and this real ‘odd’ sensation in my legs. It was like my legs were hovering.
“I knew it was bad. One of the things you learn in the fire service is how to do a casualty assessment. I did that to myself and realised that I could not feel my hands touching myself.
“I said to one of my friends, ‘I have done something major to my spine’. I thought this could be it.”
After the accident, he spent four weeks in a coma at The James Cook University Hospital, Teesside, while wife, Debbie, a senior sister for the Calderdale NHS Trust, stayed by his bed side.
Pete had shattered his vertabrae and a bone had been pushed through his spinal cord. He spent a further two months in hospital.
In June, he was transferred to Pinderfields Hospital, Wakefield, where he started the rehabilitation to “rebuild” himself.
He dedicated hours every week to developing his core strength and balance and mapped out wheelchair training routes around the hospital and would time himself.
“Having a firefighter’s background made a difference. We all have a massive strength and discipline in us and we have a drive to do the best we can,” Pete added.
He later become a mentor for other patients and set up a snorkel group for other patients in the hydrotherapy pool on site.
Pete and other members of the fire service give scuba diving experiences for patients several times a year.
“Paricipating in activities such as scuba diving shows those suffering a spinal injury that they can still do amazing things despite having a disability.
“My message to people is that you only have one life so live it well, but if something like this happens to you, it’s not the end,” he added.
So far, more than £5,000 has been raised for Pete so that he could purchase a new wheelchair and/or adapt his home to help him in the future. For more information on fundraising, visit www.gofundme.com/dpaftc