One year and six months on from his terrifying 160mph crash at the Isle of Man TT, the cumbersome external fixator on Jamie Hamilton’s right leg remains a constant reminder of his brush with death.
The Ballyclare man came off John Burrows’ Suzuki on the second lap of the Senior TT in June 2015 on the approach to the 11th Milestone, which follows a high-speed blast along the famous Cronk-y-Voddy straight.
Rarely is a TT race red-flagged, but the devastation caused by 25-year-old Hamilton’s crash was such that Clerk of the Course Gary Thompson called a halt to the Senior showpiece, which was later re-started over a reduced distance of four laps.
The stricken Ulster rider was airlifted to Nobles Hospital in Douglas before being transferred to Aintree Hospital in Liverpool.
Hamilton, whose condition was initially described as critical but stable, sustained serious leg and arm fractures and a head injury.
He hasn’t raced since, although he refuses to rule out the possibility of making a return to the sport he loves in the future.
“I’m not too bad, I’m in good enough form but I still have this cage on my leg. We were working it out and it’s been on my leg a year and six months now. I had it off briefly for a few days in July, but apart from that it’s been on ever since my crash,” he told the News Letter in an exclusive interview.
“The bone has knitted but the problem is that it’s taking a long time to get stronger. The bone actually came out through the skin on my leg and it got dirty, so that has caused problems and slowed the whole process up.
“At the bottom of your leg you’ve got two bones, your tibia and fibia, but my fibia will never join again.
“In normal circumstances, the fibia would support the tibia, and I could have had the cage off in July. But I can’t do that because the fibia’s not there, so all the stress is going onto the tibia,” he added.
“Don’t mistake me though, I’m in great form and I’ve been kept busy. I’m probably on my feet more than some people are and recently a friend asked me if I’d be interested in doing a conversion from a van to a motorhome.
“I decided to give it a go to keep me busy and I’ve loved every minute of it.
“Don’t get me wrong, there were times when I got tired, but I was able to work at it when I wanted to and if I needed to go home and rest for a bit, that’s what I did. It was great for me and I really enjoyed it.”
Former British Superstock 600 champion Hamilton has taken heart from the successful completion of the project for his friend, which has given him hope of returning to manual labour in the future – if a racing comeback proves to be an unviable alternative.
“I realised that maybe there are possibilities out there for me because I had it in my head that I wouldn’t be able to do manual work again.
“Since my crash, I don’t have any feeling in my fingers on my right hand – and I’m not sure if it will ever come back – plus I can’t fully straighten my arm,” he explained.
“I was an engineer by trade and I just felt that it was something I’d never be able to fall back on, but after working on that van, now I’m beginning to think that maybe I will be able to work again in the future.
“As for racing, I don’t want to rule it out and say I’ll never race a motorbike again. I want to get this cage off my leg, get myself fit again and then see if I can ride a motorbike again before the end of next year.
“I’ll have a ride around and see, but if I really believe that at some time in the future I’d have a chance of winning a TT, then I will go racing again.
“If I think that it’s out of the question, then I won’t have any interest because I don’t want to go back racing and just make up the numbers,” Hamilton added.
“I actually thought the cage would have been off earlier this month but I had an infection a few weeks ago and they’ve told me to come back on January 3. It doesn’t mean the cage will come off then, but we will wait and see.
“I’ve won a British championship and finished on the podium at the North West 200 and Ulster Grand Prix.
“I’ve had podiums at all the road races bar the TT and I’ve won Irish and Ulster championships, so I’ve no reason to go back unless I can win a TT.”
Hamilton still has some issues with his memory as a result of the head injury he suffered, but he remains upbeat that his powers of recollection will one day completely return.
“As far as the head injury is concerned, it seems to be going well. I got the result back from the latest CT scan and it shows that there is no more bruising on my brain – there are now no tell-tale signs on my brain that there was any damage at all.
“With regards to my memory, I’m still don’t have it all back yet. The doctors have said that depending on the person, it will either fully come back or there is a chance that it will always be poor,” he says matter-of-factly.
“I find that I can always remember where I’ve parked my car in the car park, but sometimes I struggle to remember why I was there in the first place.
“In general though it is good and it’s not really that much worse than what it was before.”
Hamilton, a former podium finisher in the Supertwins class at the North West 200 and Ulster Grand Prix, still has little feeling in the fingers on his right hand and admits he has reservations over whether or not they will ever return to normal.
“It’s possible the feeling will never come back in the fingers on my right hand but I’m staying hopeful.
“I’ve been able to move one of them a little bit,” he said.
“If the feeling doesn’t come back, it’s not the end of the world because I can still ride a motorbike the way they are at the moment.”
The ‘Hammer’ has certainly lived up to his moniker and proven his toughness over the past year-and-a-half as he makes a patient recovery from the horror accident that thwarted a promising career.
However, only time will tell whether or not he will recover sufficiently to the point where he feels capable of fulfilling his dream of winning a race at the hallowed Isle of Man TT.