Fermanagh motorcycle racer Lee Johnston has said he remembers nothing of the crash that nearly took his life during the qualifying stages of the North West 200 on May 10.

The crash resulted in him receiving a blood transfusion on a golf course before he was air-lifted to hospital.

The 34-year-old father of one from Maguiresbridge, who is now based near Leeds in England, spoke about his time in hospital, the mental trauma of his accident and the long road to recovery in an exclusive interview with The Impartial Reporter.

Speaking about the moments leading up to crash, he said: “I don’t remember anything – the last memory I have is pulling out of the pit and waving at one of my friends, Conor Cummins. That's the last memory I have.

“I can remember coming around and them [medical staff] switching the ventilator off, I think. I can remember coming out of the coma after four or five days."

Lee recalled how when he first woke up, he thought it was the day after the North West 200, but in fact almost a week had gone by.

He said: “The weird part was I didn’t know I had crashed or anything. I automatically thought I had been in there a day and had crashed the day before, but probably a week had gone by.

"You’ve got a lot of drugs in the body, there is a lot of confusion, worry and trauma."

Speaking about the extent of his injuries which left him wheelchair-bound for several months, Lee said: “On my right side I had my foot wired, I broke my femur, I had screws inserted and the joint was broken at the top too.

"My shoulder has a plate and 12 screws. On the left-hand side, I broke my ribs, my arm and I had a collapsed lung.

“I was in surgery for about eight or nine hours the day after the crash. The biggest problem is my shoulder, they wanted to give me a prosthetic shoulder because of how bad it was, but Christie [Lee's wife] and my boss, they asked them to try to fix it first, and if that didn’t work, to then go to the prosthetic route.

“I can walk; I still have a limp, but I can get around. I got out of the wheelchair about three weeks ago. I couldn’t use crutches because I broke my arm on one side, and my shoulder on the other side.”

Lee remembers feeling a sense of frustration in the immediate aftermath. He said: “The biggest thing was [a feeling of] let-down. Because of the amount of work we do, everyone just sees what happens at the race track, but not all the work by the team and sponsors and development.

"I started the British Championship the best I ever had. We were winning; leading the British Championship and then we go there, and the s*** hits the fan.

“It was a week before the TT, which is the biggest part of my year – my whole year was f***ed in one split second."

However, he said his perspective changed when he met one of the Air Ambulance Northern Ireland (AANI) personnel who helped save his life, in what was a tearful reunion, and she informed him of the effort made to save his life.

“I didn’t realise at the time what had happened. The AANI lady who saved my life on the air ambulance came in to see me in hospital and she told me minute by minute what happened, and how they kept me alive.

"That sort of squared me up more than anything, so I went from being really frustrated to thinking I’m actually really lucky to be alive.

"It didn’t take away the disappointment, but it took away the frustration," he said.

Grateful for the help of the AANI service, Lee hopes to raise funds for charity in the future.

One element of the crash that he has battled with constantly since the accident is the mental trauma.

Lee said: “In hospital, I said to Christie, 'Something is wrong with my head'. I kept saying that someone else had gone to sleep in the hospital and this person woke up.

“Since then, I've spoken to trauma specialists and they have explained it all – it was to do with the trauma of the accident and what my body went through, and what my brain has gone through.”

Speaking about how mentally difficult his recovery was, Lee said: “There was a month and a half where I couldn’t do anything.

"I couldn't even go to the toilet without someone, and I couldn't drink without someone, and I couldn't eat without someone.

"I couldn't do anything. You’ve got nothing of your own person left; what you class as being 'normal' has left you."

Before the crash, Lee led a busy life between his training schedule and business. “Mentally, for someone who is used to being competitive, that is a hard thing to deal with," said Lee.

Lee expressed his gratitude to his family, including to his new wife, Christie – the happy couple married on July 17, in an intimate ceremony with just themselves and two witnesses.

The pair have a son, Jesse, who “thought it was hilarious that mummy now has the same name as me and him”, added Lee.

He hasn’t been on a racing bike since his accident due to the extent of his shoulder injury, which leaves him unable to lift his shoulder, but he has been on an electric scooter used in racing paddocks.

When asked if he plans to return to racing, Lee said: “I don’t know now. It depends on being physically fit; the shoulder is the major thing, if it can’t be 100 per cent [that will be an issue].

“My main focus is to get physically fit and back into shape, and to do what I can, and then go see what it feels like to ride a bike.”

He added with a laugh: “I might be no good, but the plan is to get physically and mentally fit and then make a decision based on what I feel like.”

Lee has been documenting his road to recovery on his YouTube channel, including in a video where he reacted to his crash footage and believes it is important to document his recovery.

He said: “I wanted to show everyone the truth and how hard getting over these things is, that was why we did blogs about it, and I suppose we will continue to until I get better.

"Everyone looks on Instagram, and everyone has this 'amazing life', and it would be easy for me to do the same thing, but life’s f***ing hard and it is for everyone, but with social media it looks like everything is sunshine and roses.”

When asked by this newspaper if he ever thinks of death and his mortality when he prepares to race, Lee said: “The easiest way for me to understand it is what your brain perceives as being normal.

“I had Carl Frampton on the back of my bike one time, and he was absolutely wrecked in four minutes.

"He is a world title boxer, but his brain panicked because it was a different scenario, but my brain would panic being in his scenario – my brain sees that job as normal.”

The near-death experience has not had an impact in how Lee conducts his job. He said: “The best thing that could have happened was having no memory [of the accident], I have no idea how it happened.

"A couple of years ago I had an accident at the TT and it was exactly the same. I don’t go round that corner any differently or look at it any differently.

“If you were in a car crash driving to work, you wouldn’t stop driving to work, you drive to work again.

"It’s the same thing, but my job is a little bit different to most people’s," he added.