Last summer, Niall Lissenden was knocked off his BMX and under the wheels of a lorry.
I was first introduced to Niall by our man Gunner, back in 2013. Gunner said he was a big character and a wild BMX rider... He was right on those counts.
Since meeting Niall, I would often see him out and about in London, dressed to impress, always stoked on life and usually doing something rad on his bike. Online, Niall would pop up on my social media feeds in modelling photos or for getting in trouble when riding on school rooftops... (see here for the video of that.)
Put simply, Niall Lissenden is an interesting dude. Wacky wardrobe, loose goose 'send it' attitude to bike riding, stoked on life.
When I heard about Niall being involved in a big road accident, I was scared. Not about his injuries as much as I was scared that it would break his spirit. Life changing accidents tend to mean exactly that.
Read on to find out what happened and where Niall Lissenden is heading now.
Words by Robin Pearson
Photos by Mike Drummond
– Niall, could you tell us what happened?
"It all started with a ride from South Bank to my car in Clapton, East London. It was like any other ride that I'd normally have in the city, flying through traffic as fast as my legs could take me – it's just the way I love to get around.
The crash happened on Kingsland Road in Dalston. I was riding next to a lorry and went to overtake it, but there was a parked car next to me and the gap just got too small... I clipped the car's wing mirror and went under the middle of the lorry and it proceeded to drive over me. I later found out it was a 38 tonne lorry. It was a very violent couple of seconds. I got to my knees and thought in my head, ahh I'm actually alright, then I realised I couldn't breathe and my body just shut down."
"I realised I couldn't breathe and my body just shut down."
– What kind of injuries did you sustain?
"I lost a lot of blood and needed two blood transfusions, and had multiple fractures in my neck, back and ribs. I completely messed up my shoulder and scapula, my right lung was punctured letting blood and air inside. Following that I had a tracheostomy and chest strain to help my lungs, a catheter and a tube up my nose because I wasn't able to eat, drink or physically get out of bed. I was in a bad way, they didn't know if I would make it or not, they kept using the words 'blunt trauma'. During my stay I had 2 MRI scans, 5 CT scans and 24 x-rays."
– What happened to the bike?
"My bike was so dialled, I'd just got a new frame, and just before that I'd treated myself to a fresh pair of Profile wheels so it was riding sweet. Being that I was in an induced coma for 2 weeks and had a tracheostomy for a following week or so, I was unable to ask the question. By the time I had a voice again, nearly 4 weeks had passed, so it was too late and I still don't know what happened to my bike. I would've loved to see what it looked like! Probably would of kept it for the rest of my life."
"They didn't know if I would make it or not,
they kept using the words 'blunt trauma'..."
– How has the recovery been? What stages and milestones have you been through?
"Very amazing! I have so many people helping me out, but I'm really proud of myself for the fact I'm staying so positive and pushing myself every day, considering that 6 months ago I had to relearn how to walk. I started with 2 people each side of me holding my hands, another person holding my waist up and a trolley carrying my oxygen tank, chest strain fluid, and a bag for urine... I'd say I feel like I'm smashing the competition! The first few months were really hard, I could hardly walk 10 yards then I would get really out of breath and my back and shoulder would hurt. I spent a lot of time sitting or laying down, but nowadays I can walk for miles again and my back isn't in too much pain."
– Where are you at now?
"Right now I'm waiting to hear from the surgeons to see if I will be having surgery on my scapula. The reason it's taken so long is that it's a very difficult operation, not your average break – it's not only broken, it's twisted and in the wrong place so my right arm is holding me back. Other than that I'm just trying to build my stamina back up."
"The real reason why I've been pushing so hard is so I can get back on my bike again."
– What's your daily routine? Do you have physiotherapy and training to do?
"I see a physiotherapist 3 times a month. He checks how good my movement is and if it's improved as from the start I've had very limited movement in my right arm, so each time I see him he will change up my routine in all the stretches and exercises I do. I currently spend about an hour each day working on my arm."
– What are your aims for the near future?
"There are two things I mainly think about – work and BMX. I would like to start working again soon as it keeps me busy for the right reasons and I would also like to start going out with my crew on street missions again."
– What's your ultimate goal?
"Throughout this whole experience it's made me realise a lot. I can't tell you what but it's definitely something strong. I feel very lucky to be alive. And so I'm happy how I am, how I will turn out is anyone's guess at the moment, but I don't have an ultimate expectation on myself anymore so I'm just going with the flow."
"I feel very lucky to be alive."