By day Stuart Gunn works for Network ROI as a technical dispatcher, but Stuart has another passion, fast bikes.
Back on the 12th of March 2002, the day of his accident, Stuart’s life was changed forever.
Stuart was on his way to a hospital appointment, riding his beloved motorbike (a Kawasaki ZX6R) in Edinburgh when a car pulled out in front of him, with no time to react he was catapulted into the air. Despite his feet crashing through the windscreen and his head and shoulders through the sunroof, Stuart tried to get up and walk. Immediately falling down again, he knew something was very wrong. When the hospital examined him, they discovered he had broken his back in three places, broken four ribs, and injured the same shoulder he was going to the hospital for treatment on (from a previous accident).
In the face of undergoing 10 months of arduous rehab, Stuart still tried to hold down his job (whilst still in a wheelchair) as an engineer with IBM. But with a territory covering the length and breadth of Scotland it became clear that he was struggling and in March 2004 Stuart agreed to be made redundant.
Over the next few years, Stuart worked as a contractor and worked for some large corporations, such as Standard Life as a network engineer.
But then Stuart faced yet his biggest challenge, following a seizure, he started losing his sight. Stuart described losing his sight “Everything just went black. It was my worst nightmare, overnight I lost everything, my income, my house, car, and the ability to ride motorbikes”.
Adapting to a new life
Stuart used his IT skills to learn to cope with his new life, using his IT skills to work out angles in his head to create a new level of awareness. He enlisted on a Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) course, using JAWS speech software. Not only did Stuart become highly competent himself, but he also started helping others.
By the start of 2010, Stuart had lost his house and job at Standard Life. Stuart thought his life could not get any worse, until he was attacked at his front door by a knife-wielding thug, who cut Stuart’s face, requiring yet another hospital visit and over thirty stitches.
Stuart described the incident “I could live with losing my money, but I was heartbroken when the mugger stole my chain, it was irreplaceable and was given to me by the band Motley Crue”. “My life was at rock-bottom and I needed something to get my life back”.
Setting a new World Record
Stuart came up with the crazy idea of wanting to get back on his motorbike and ride it at high speed. So, Stuart googled the record for the fastest blind/disabled motorcyclist and discovered it was 140mph. From that day, he was determined to beat it.
Over the next few months, Stuart discovered there were many hurdles to overcome, locating a suitable racetrack, finding a support team, and more importantly trusting them with his life. Hence, there was no better person to support Stuart than his father Geoff, who quite literally became Stuart’s eyes, shouting instructions to Stuart during the many practice runs.
It became all-consuming, when Stuart wasn’t practicing, he was fundraising. Following backing from key sponsors and sheer determination Stuart had improved his speed to the point where he was ready to make an attempt at the world record.
Stuart was interviewed by for Biker FM, by a female journalist known as Noz. She told him about the Straight Liners National Championship, a one-mile track, like at Elvington Air Field, at York Elvington, where each year, bikers attempt to break motorcycling records.
So, on the 17th August 2013 in front of a crowd of thousands, he made an attempt at the world record. Stuart didn’t let the 35MPH crosswinds or rain put him off and on the third attempt, he broke the record, achieving an average of 167.4 mph over the one-mile track, on a Suzuki Hayabusa GSXR 1300, loaned by a friend in Edinburgh at Saltire Suzuki.
Stuart commented at the time “It was a great feeling, with a massive sense of achievement, mixed with relief, satisfaction and an overwhelming release of emotion. When the team went back to our rented cottage and opened a bottle of champagne, it felt great to be alive and achieve the dream I had set out for”.
Stuart was in demand, not only from journalists around the world but Stuart spoke at schools, bike shops, and charity events, even doing promotional work at the world-famous Isle of Man TT.
Regaining his Vision
Following his world record Stuarts, life began to come back to some normality where he had to cope with ongoing leg injuries and blindness. He even volunteered to have electric shock treatment in an attempt to restore his eyesight, but it was all to no avail. It wasn’t until he tripped over his cat, injuring his face and head that something remarkable happened. Following his release from the hospital, he was brushing his teeth when he started to see blurred objects, Stuart dared to dream.
Over time, Stuart’s sight came more and more into focus, but he still has issues with light and has to wear sunglasses on a permanent basis.
Getting Back into the Workforce
Stuart began his job search again in early 2019. Although Stuart had a great deal of experience up his sleeve, finding a role proved difficult. It was hard to explain the gaps in his CV, with one employer even thinking it was wrongly due to Stuart spending time in prison!
After nearly 150 applications he had two interviews and was finally offered a job at each company. Stuart chose Network ROI. He valued the employee-owned culture at Network ROI and the positive attitudes of the staff he met. “Network ROI made me feel at home, they accepted me and my disabilities, I could wear my sunglasses, and lights were adapted for me. I even volunteered for the Employee Ownership Committee in January 2020, representing the Engineers on the service desk, I am proud that people feel I am easy to speak to”.
In February 2020 Stuart got the chance to start a new role as a dispatcher “I really enjoy working with the whole of the UK wide Engineering team, helping find solutions to our client’s challenges.”
In March 2020 Network ROI implemented its business continuity plan and employees all started working from home. Stuart relished the chance to help customers in their time of need “Everything went crazy, I found myself working 12-hour days. But I was learning the job so quickly and having fun doing it”.
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