Lewis Kerr finds it easy to split up the toughest days of his life. Fortunately, while fighting for his life, first on the track at Peterborough, then in hospital, he was unaware of what was happening.
The speedway world collectively held its breath after Kerr was rescued on track by paramedic Jason Gillingham after he was thrown headfirst into a metal gate in a horrific fall. He was flown to Addenbrooke’s Hospital where he was placed in a medically induced coma for three days before regaining consciousness and breathing on his own.
During those agonizing hours, his family, including his wife Jessie, who was five months pregnant, were told to brace themselves for the worst. But this weekend, after a wondrous and inspiring comeback, Kerr is hosting his testimonial to celebrate 11 years and counting in the sport.
“I don’t remember that time in my life, so it’s weird,” Kerr admits. “But when we get to the point, it’s pretty unbelievable, when I think about what actually happened, I forget some of the things I went through.
“When it happened, they didn’t know if I would make it through or if I would become severely disabled. They didn’t know it at the time and warned Jessie about the worst-case scenarios.”
Eddie Garvey/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
The days and weeks following Kerr’s accident were a tough grind as he had to relearn the most basic tasks and teach his body to function again.
“I just remember being so confused,” he recalls. “I couldn’t read anything, I pretty much had to learn to walk again and everyday things were just a real struggle.
“It’s been so long it’s hard to remember how hard it was, but the simple things were so difficult. Just little things like handling a knife and fork, I had to think so much about what I was doing. Not remembering where I lived back then wasn’t very nice either.”
At the time, few would have thought that Kerr would return to the sport, which almost took his life. But just seven months later he was back on a 500cc bike with no brakes, sliding around carelessly.
“A lot of people said I would never be what I was again or I would never drive again,” he recalls. “But I think that just gave me more determination. Now, a few years later, we ended the season better than ever, so I’m glad I was able to prove people wrong.
“I was back on my bike in February and it happened in early August,” he recalls. “It wasn’t really that long ago that it happened and I don’t have any side effects now so it was really lucky.”
Ian Charle/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
This weekend, Kerr will mark a milestone few – including himself – thought he would ever achieve when he hosts his testimonial at King’s Lynn, his home club. Some of the sport’s most respected drivers will flock to Norfolk to show the 31-year-old’s standing in this close-knit sport.
Kerr never dreamed of becoming a speedway driver. Instead, he grew up with motocross before trying someone else’s bike in late 2009.
“I was hooked right away,” he says. “We ended up selling all the motocross gear, got me an old bike and it just took off. I was instantly hooked.”
“I really can’t believe how quickly it’s gone. I didn’t really think about a testimonial until King’s Lynn said I was eligible for one. It should have been last year, but because of the pandemic, it’s an 11th year testimonial. I never thought I would get to this point.”
It would have been fairly easy and understandable for Kerr to retire from the sport after his bad fall in 2015 and the ensuing agony. But without remembering it, he never considered resigning.
His only moment of self-doubt came towards the end of his comeback season when he broke both his legs and was confined to a wheelchair as both legs were in a full cast for 16 weeks. Despite the painful moments that followed, Mrs. Jessie remains his biggest supporter and has never tried to pressure him to give up his passion.
“You know what, Jessie never said to wrap it up,” he says. “She is my biggest supporter. After the first accident it never crossed my mind to stop, the only time it crossed my mind was after the double broken leg when I just couldn’t believe it had happened again.
“That was really tough. It wasn’t long after the first fall and again it wasn’t my fault. Those two big falls I’ve had, both of which weren’t my fault, and you start to think, ‘Why is this happening to me?’
Ian Charles/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
“It was difficult because I was in a wheelchair, couldn’t move, and had both legs in a cast. It was a pretty bad leg break, especially one of them, so it was really tough. Just mentally dealing with having another big accident was really tough.
“But that (thinking about quitting) was maybe literally for a day, then I knew I wanted to move on. I just keep going, keep trudging, and I’m lucky to have that support from my family because I know they’ve been through a lot.”
Kerr, 31, is hoping his testimonial will fuel the best year of his career after ending last season in fine form. Winning a league title, either in the top flight with King’s Lynn or in the second division with Redcar, remains a burning goal.
He says: ‘I feel like I got back to my peak, then had a bad injury, back to my peak, a bad injury, then we had COVID, but in the season just ended I’ve made my mark in both leagues and improved at the end of the season i was definitely in the best shape i have ever had in my career. I think if I can continue that this season, hopefully I can take the next step.”
Ian Charles/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Whether or not Kerr ends the season with the silverware he awaits, it’s hard to argue that if he’s got to this point he’ll be one of the sport’s winners, and it’s hard to give him his holiday this weekend to begrudge.
“It’s probably going to get pretty emotional,” he says. “After everything we’ve been through, I think it’s probably going to hit me and Jessie that day that all these fans are there to support me. I’m fitter and stronger than ever these days and just happy to be able to keep racing.”
Lewis Kerr’s Testimonial takes place on Sunday March 20 (4pm) at the Adrian Flux Arena in King’s Lynn. More details can be found here.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/other-sports/speedway-lewis-kerr-testimonial-interview-26496082 Speedway star Lewis Kerr reflects on an incredible journey after nearly losing his life