Champion says he’s determined to win the tough race to walk again.
A champion Kiwi motocross rider who broke his neck in a horror crash is determined to walk again.
Rory Mead was paralysed when he lost control of his bike and struck a tree on the final lap of a three-hour race at a North Carolina forest circuit in March.
The 27-year-old professional rider was rushed to hospital where surgeons fused bones in his shattered neck and inserted a titanium plate.
Mead, talking to the Herald on Sunday from his rehab base in Florida, said that for a time he felt trapped in a nightmare that threatened to change his life forever.
But six months down the track the former Wellingtonian is able to hold himself upright, undergoes rigorous strengthening and therapy sessions and has regained his independence.
He's even back behind the wheel of an all-terrain-vehicle.
But this was all coming at a high cost after his insurance ground to a halt in August.
Mead said he had been relying on money from family, friends and the motocross community to pay for treatment at The Shepherd Centre, considered one of the top spinal injury clinics in the US.
A social media fundraising site had raised US$40,000 ($52,000) and riders in the close-knit racing community were continuing to fundraise to foot his expensive treatment bills.
A basic rehabilitation programme at the Florida centre costs $3000 a month.
Mead attended three therapy sessions a week and was doing everything he could to walk again.
"If I fall short and remain in a wheelchair for the rest of my life, then so be it," he said.
"At this point I've accepted it but at no point will I ever give up trying."
Mead paid special tribute to the support of his girlfriend, Courtney Allen, who has been beside him while he goes through the most difficult time of his life.
"I don't know if I could have done this without her and the support of her family."
He said the accident was possibly due to fatigue when he lost balance on rough terrain towards the end of the gruelling Steele Creek GNCC race.
"There was a tree there and I just leaned over a little bit to try to avoid it.
"I was so close to missing it."
The branch clipped the top of his helmet, breaking his neck on impact.
He let go of his bike and rolled to a stop.
"I just lay there on the ground.
"When I thought it was time to get up nothing happened. Then I thought 'shit, I'm in trouble here'. I could move my arms but my legs wouldn't move."
It took a month before the severity of the injury hit home.
"I couldn't get out of bed and into my electric wheelchair on my own," Mead said.
"My fine motor skills were so impaired that I couldn't even drive my wheelchair independently. At meal time I couldn't feed myself or brush my teeth before bed."