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E114 | Overcoming Adversity And Learning To Think Differently with Alex Lewis

In November 2013, Alex Lewis was rushed to hospital with just 30 minutes to live. He was 33 years old. Leading up to his hospital admittance, he’d been suffering with a cold and a sore throat. 

Within hours of being admitted to hospital he was on full life support and was given less than 3% chance of survival. What had brought this otherwise healthy man to his knees? Strep A, Toxic Shock Syndrome, Septicaemia and Necrotising Fasciitis. 

In order to survive, Alex needed a quadruple amputation, extensive skin grafts and facial reconstruction surgery. 

With his life turned upside down, it was time for Alex to start living.  

“Everything that’s gone on with losing my limbs and legs and arms, everything else, I think the biggest driving force is having the ability to help people like me, in a similar condition.”

Alex is the ultimate motivational speaker because he hasn’t had an epiphany that he wants to share with the world, he’s had a near death experience. On top of that he’s had to overcome adversity in order to take on new challenges such as living day to day life, becoming an entrepreneur and hand cycling up mountains. 

In this extraordinary episode, Alex shares what it takes to go through something like this, what resilience really looks like and what we can learn from his experience. 

On today’s podcast:

  • Alex Lewis Trust
  • Strep A, Toxic Shock Syndrome, Septicaemia and Necrotising Fasciitis
  • Rebuilding his life
  • Becoming director of a number of startups 
  • Working with Imperial College London
  • Hand cycles


Being Inspired with Alex Lewis

Falling ill gave Alex Lewis the most incredible spectrum of opportunity. It’s only since becoming a quadruple amputee has he truly discovered his purpose in life – to help other people, who are in a similar situation, to make their lives better.

Let’s back this up. 

Alex Lewis

In November 2013, Alex Lewis thought he had man flu. He was blue lighted to hospital with 30 minutes to live. Within hours of being admitted Alex was on full life support with a 3% chance of survival. His partner was told to come in and say goodbye to him, but Alex wasn’t ready to have the plug pulled. 

Alex is a fighter. 

Having caught Strep A, Toxic Shock Syndrome, Septicaemia and Necrotising Fasciitis, the immediate life saving action required a quadruple amputation, extensive skin grafts and facial reconstructive surgery as the infection had not only destroyed his limbs, but ravaged his face and mouth. 

7 years later, Alex is still a work in progress, but a radically different body has enabled him to live a radically different life. 

“Everything that’s gone on with losing my limbs and legs and arms, everything else, I think the biggest driving force is having the ability to help people like me, in a similar condition.”

Finding purpose

Before he fell ill he says he was so bone idle, now he’s realised the incredible opportunities he’s been given and he’s relishing the challenges that life throws at him. 

This makes Alex the ultimate motivational speaker. Because really, how motivated can you be by the person who got lucky in business, or the person who developed some tech. What is more motivational than an ordinary guy who was extraordinarily unlucky. What happened to Alex could have happened to any of us. 

Alex manages to make people see life differently. He encourages people to live life to the full because you never know what’s around the corner. 

Instead of spiralling into despair, as understandably he could have done, Alex chose to come back fighting. 

Besides discovering his endless resilience, Alex has also realised his life’s purpose is to help others in a similar situation. 

Alex is now the director of two startups with people from Imperial College London. He’s on a mission to make wheelchairs affordable. He’s working with setting up wheelchair manufacturing facilities in remote parts of the world. In 2019 he became the first quadruple amputee to hand cycle 15,000 feet up the highest mountain range in Ethiopia in a solar assisted four wheeled vehicle designed by Engineering students at The University of Southampton. He’s now road testing a new off road handcycle with a view to doing an expedition to Mongolia next year. 

Alex Lewis Trust

When people found out what he’d been through they were keen to donate money and so they set up the Alex Lewis Trust because, quite simply, living life as a quadruple amputee isn’t cheap. 

“We knew that my rehab and wheelchairs and prosthetics and everything else that I would require in my life were hellishly expensive, you know, millions and millions of pounds. So the trust was set up.”

As well as raising funds for his rehab, Alex also takes part in University research projects to help develop new technology to make lives like his, better. For example the muscle whispering devices that the American Navy are designing. He’s also set up an interior design agency to take on projects that make living easier for people with severe disabilities. 

To find out more, check out his website and be inspired. 

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