Michael Biggs showing the scars of his head injuries.
MICHAEL Biggs knows he is lucky to be alive.
Just seven months ago, he was fighting for his life in the specialist neurological unit at Southampton General Hospital, after an horrific motorbike accident, at Cowes.
The 21 year old had lost control of his Honda CG 125 motorcycle and collided with a lamppost in Castle Hill. He had been drinking.
Michael has learnt the hard way but hopes, by raising awareness of his ordeal, others will think twice before making the same mistake.
His message is crystal clear: "Don’t even think about riding a bike or driving a car if you have been drinking, it’s not worth it.
"You will kill yourself or, worse still, someone else. Could you live with that on your conscience for the rest of your life?"
The former Medina High School pupil has little recollection of the accident. He has vague memories of being on Cowes Esplanade after a night out with friends at the Waterside and then waking up in a hospital bed surrounded by tubes, machines and strangers three weeks later.
"I don’t even remember getting on to the motorbike," he said.
His mum, Heather Rutherford, however, remembers the phone call the family received from Michael’s friend telling them of the accident.
She said: "We weren’t expecting it to be serious, so we were quite calm when we arrived at St Mary’s Hospital.
"We were not allowed to see him straight away and nobody was giving us any information. We were sitting in the relatives’ room and there were quite a few doctors going backwards and forwards. Their priority, quite rightly, was treating Michael, rather than speaking with us.
"It was a good two hours before we found out the extent of his injuries. It was every parent’s nightmare."
Michael, who was put into an induced coma, had suffered multiple fractures to his skull and shattered his right eye socket.
He was taken to Southampton by ambulance, where he underwent emergency surgery to remove exposed brain tissue protruding from two cuts to his head.
The huge head trauma had caused Michael’s brain to swell and surgeons were forced to operate again seven days later to remove the front section of his skull, known as the bone-flap, to relieve the pressure and prevent possible brain damage.
The section of bone was stored in a cavity below Michael’s stomach to reduce the chances of his body rejecting it when surgeons replaced it once the swelling had gone down.
Heather, who visited her son every day, said: "We were told they were life-threatening injuries and they had done everything they could possibly do. It was a waiting game to see whether Michael would pull through.
"The doctors weren’t saying anything about his chances of survival; they didn’t want to give us false hope.
"We just had to take it one day at a time and hope for the best. The worst part was not knowing the extent of his brain injuries."
Michael was brought round from his coma on November 12, three weeks after his accident.
He said: "I didn’t know where I was or who all these strange people were around me.
"There were all these machines around me beeping and tubes coming out from everywhere. They explained what had happened to me and the first thing I tried to do was get out of bed because I thought I might be paralysed."
Four days later, he was moved back to St Mary’s, where he spent two days in intensive care and then a week on the ward.
Because of muscle wastage, Michael, who lost three-and-a-half stone in hospital, underwent a week’s intensive rehabilitation when he took his first tentative steps, before finally coming home on December 9.
"I was determined to get out of hospital by Christmas," he said.
Michael, who has two brothers and a sister, knows he is one of the lucky ones.
He suffered no brain damage and, apart from some scarring and blurred vision in his right eye caused by nerve damage, has no lasting injuries. He puts this down to the fact he was wearing a crash helmet.
"There was hardly any damage to the helmet, apart from some chips to the outside and a little crack above the right eye," he said. "If I hadn’t been wearing it, I’m sure I wouldn’t be here now."
Heather said: "As it became clear Michael hadn’t suffered permanent brain damage, it was like a huge weight had been lifted. He didn’t have any bleeds on the brain, which can cause the worst damage.
"The frontal lobe controls moods, personality and decision-making. I do notice a slight difference in Michael’s personality but you would have to know him well to see it."
Michael, of St Boniface Road, Ventnor, has benefited hugely from the support of Headway IW, a charity dedicated to the care, support and successful reintegration within the community of people who have survived a head injury.
It has helped him come to terms with his accident through speaking to other people who have survived head injury.
"When I came out of hospital I didn’t go out for quite a while. I think my friends were worried about visiting me, because they didn’t know how I’d be.
"Headway enabled me to meet new people and make new friends. It gave me the opportunity to talk to people who had been through similar injuries. The charity was a great help, not just to me, but the whole family."
Michael, who still has ambitions of training as a motorcycle mechanic, has agreed to work with police to educate Island sixth formers about the dangers of drink-driving and the importance of wearing a crash helmet.
"I made a silly mistake that night, one which almost cost me my life. Others may not be as lucky as me."