A Family Affair: `My mechanic told me not to jump'

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The Independent Culture
World champion motorbike stuntman Eddie Kidd was left brain-damaged and confined to a wheelchair after an accident in August 1996. The 40- year-old now lives in a nursing home in Hemel Hempstead. His younger sister, Sarah Simpson, 31, lives in Turnford, also in Hertfordshire, and sells advertising space

Eddie:

WHEN I was 12, I saw The True Life Story of Evel Knievel at the cinema. From that moment, I knew I wanted to be a stunt man. My mum and dad bought me a bike and I did my first professional show when I was 15.

My family has always been supportive and very close. I remember staying at home on Saturday nights with Sarah because we didn't have any money to go out, and driving mum and dad mad because we were always laughing.

She used to nick my clothes, even my leather jackets. People used to think it was me coming down the street, but it was her. When I was 25, I went on a six-month tour of Sweden. I asked Sarah to come with me because we get on so well. I used to pay her to clean my leathers, but she was useless.

I never used to touch anything before jumping, in case it impaired my judgement, but the night before the accident at a Hell's Angel rally in Long Marston, Warwickshire, I took cocaine and I'd been drinking.

I was to jump 50ft over a moving jet car, and land on a hill. When I got there, they hadn't built the scaffolding which would stop me falling down the other side of the bank. Neither were there cardboard boxes to break a fall.

My mechanic told me not to do the jump, but there were 20,000 people there, and I didn't want to let them down. That's the one thing I regret - maybe I should have been selfish. I landed on my head and the bike hit me on the chin. I then fell 20ft. I broke my pelvis and collar bone, damaged my neck and suffered brain damage.

I was in a coma for nine weeks. If I hadn't been so fit, I would have died. I was in intensive care for three weeks, and I have lived since in rehabilitation centres. It's all paid for by the NHS - I wasn't insured and I'm broke.

I spend most of my day in physiotherapy. I've stopped trying to walk at present because I was doing it wrong and picking up bad habits. I'm concentrating on my balance. I feel a bit of a fat pig at the moment, but in two years I'll be walking, and I'm already riding a quad bike.

I'm also learning to write again, and today I got dressed on my own for the first time. The worst thing is being so dependent on other people. Before, when I was pissed off, I would just get into my car and drive. All I've got now are four walls - but in three months, I hope to leave here and move in with my fiancee, Olive Reynolds, a physiotherapy assistant. We're getting married next year.

I don't want people to think of me in a wheelchair, or to feel sorry for me. I see my future as happy. God has given me a second chance, and they do say life begins at 40.

Sarah's been brilliant through out it all. We laugh all the time, particularly at me being in a wheelchair. When I was in intensive care she came every day, and would sit up all night with the nurses massaging my hands to stop them curling up. She tried to bring me round by rubbing familiar food on my lips - Kentucky Fried Chicken, and those sweets called Milk Bottles we used to eat when we were kids. When I first moved to rehab she used to come three times during the week, and then at the weekend with her husband and three kids.

After seven months in rehab, I still hadn't been out, so she kidnapped me and took me out to the park without telling anyone. It was spring and I felt like I was alive. She did it another time - she got up at 6am and brought me back to her house for the day. I love her to death.

Sarah:

WHEN EDDIE first started jumping, I couldn't watch it, then I found it really exciting. He bought me a motor-bike when I was six and taught me how to jump. He used to really spoil me. He bought me loads of sweets when he babysat for me, and then as he got more and more famous he would give me so much money. My mum said he ruined me. He always came back from America with a big case full of stuff for me - roller skates, cowboy boots, denim jackets. Everyone became my friend from a very early age because they wanted to get to know my brother, particularly the women. I didn't mind. Every Saturday, there used to be a crowd of girls outside the house.

Before the accident, he used to come to our house at midnight with a bottle of wine. We would sit up chatting till four in the morning. When he had his accident, nobody knew whether he would walk or talk again. I just wanted to feel some of his pain for him. I'm such a positive person I always thought he would come through it. I remember my mum and dad saying: "Eddie's got severe brain damage, he could be like that for the rest of his life." But I wouldn't listen to them. They would be there all day with him and get the same response, and then I would turn up and he would start laughing. My mum used to ask me how I did it.

In the March after the accident he was really at a low ebb. It was the only time he complained that he wasn't happy. So I put him in my car and we went for an ice-cream in the park. Because of his head injury I prepared myself for a completely different person, but I've got my brother back. We're so lucky as a family. Mentally he's the same, he's just got a problem with his co-ordination and slurs when he talks if he's tired.

I don't promote the fact that I'm Eddie Kidd's sister, especially since the accident, because people always ask about it and it gets tiresome. A lot of people don't understand the situation. I don't want sympathy, and he doesn't need it. He's quite happy. Sometimes people recognise him when we're out, and ask me whether they can talk to him. I tell them to ask him.

At times he's a pain in the arse - he's really fussy and wants everything in its place. We still shout and swear at each other, but I wouldn't have him any other way. Being with him makes me feel good. I couldn't ask for a better brother. He stole my line - I love him to death.

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