Riding in the fast lane with a spinal injury
Photo by 938 Media
Aaron Morgan is living his dream as a race car driver, despite a life-changing spinal injury at age 15 that left him paralysed from the lower chest down. To help raise awareness on International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the 31-year-old shares his story with This Is MedTech.
Aaron’s injury was the result of a motocross accident that put him in a coma for four weeks. “I have no memory of what happened but my T6 and T7 vertebrae were shattered, and my spinal cord was severed,” he tells us.
The sixth and seventh thoracic vertebrae (T6 & T7) feed into the chest and down into the abdomen. While he lay in a coma, medical technology was already playing a critical role in his future as surgeons implanted two metal rods with 16 screws to support the damaged part of his spine.
“After the crash I realised how lucky I was to be alive. I vowed to always be grateful and never feel sorry for myself about my disability,” he says. He was determined to get back into sport, which had always been a big part of his life. “I started playing wheelchair tennis, but it didn’t give me the speed I was looking for,” Aaron notes.
He had always been interested in car racing and when a family friend gave him the opportunity to start racing, he didn’t think twice. The cars are specially adapted so that he can use hand controls to drive and compete on an even playing field with his able-bodied competitors – something no other sport can offer.
Indeed, he’s been accumulating achievements since Day 1, when he became the youngest ever person to achieve a National B racing license before making his debut on the Production BMW Championship grid in 2011 and being awarded Driver of the Year that season. He started racing for Team Brit in 2020 and in his most recent British GT Championship season this year, the team finished 2nd overall in the GT4 Pro Am category with Bobby Trundley, his autistic teammate.
A key piece of medtech in Aaron’s daily life is a silicone spinal brace that’s custom-made from a cast of his torso. “In the early days, I had a horrible brace that was made with a material that had metal bits sticking out. This silicone one is so much more comfortable, especially when I’m racing because the cars have very tight seatbelts,” he explains. “It supports my spine well and stops it from curving.”
Medtech will always play an important supporting role in Aaron’s life. He has regular tests to monitor his organ function and x-rays that use special technology to calculate the curvature of his spine, but for him it’s no biggie. Being able to adapt has served him well and he’s living his best life.
Aaron strongly encourages people with spinal injuries to try new things and have an open mind, saying: “The way you did things before will change. Embrace that change.”