Pete Lau had travelled the world scuba diving and had a passion for the outdoors, but his life changed for ever when he suffered devastating injuries when he was knocked off his bike while cycling with friends in Wensleydale in April 2014.
The crash shattered vertebrae, and pushed bone through his spinal cord - injuries so severe he spent four weeks in a coma, required a tracheotomy to breathe, contracted double pneumonia and wasn’t able to speak for two months
But after spending five months “rebuilding” himself at the regional spinal injuries centre at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield, he was able to leave hospital for his new home, a specially adapted bungalow in Baildon, Bradford, and has just spent Christmas with his family.
Mr Lau credits the training he has had during his 24 years with West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue service for the determination he has shown in his recovery. He had risen to the rank of Assistant District Commander for Bradford and early in 2014 he had been deployed to southern England to command West Yorkshire Water Rescue resources that supported the national resilience widespread flood response.
He said: “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 – it’s instilled into us from recruits stage.”
That training, and the love of scuba diving he had before the accident, has led to him setting up a snorkel club for people with spinal injuries in the hydrotherapy pool at the spinal injuries centre, with the help of colleagues from the WYFRS scuba section.
Mr Lau said: “Participating in activities such as scuba diving shows those suffering a spinal injury that they can still do amazing things despite now having a disability”.
Mr Lau’s colleagues have also helped him purchase a new wheelchair after they raised almost £4,000 on his behalf with a Cycle Endurance event at Todmorden Fire Station, collections at fire stations and a charity car wash. A race night at the force’s headquarters in Birkinshaw in November raised a further £2300.
Mr Lau said: “What I endured almost killed me, but I’m a fighter, I‘m still here, still smiling and looking forward to the new challenges ahead of me.”