What would you do if you lost a leg in an accident? Most people would fall into depression at having to spend the rest of their days in a wheelchair.
Not Stephen Raymond Gash, 57, who grew up in Pontypridd. His sunny disposition meant he never let it get him down, and his fierce love for the great outdoors drives him to keep walking.
Born to a coal miner father, in Bishop Middleton, County Durham, Stephen spent his early years wandering the countryside.
At the age of eight he left Durham after the local pit closed, forcing his dad into the the coal mine at Ynysybwl.
Stephen said: “Dad told us we’re all going down to Wales. None of us wanted to, but we had to!” The miner's son started at Cardiff Medical School in 1973.
Stephen, who grew into the great outdoors as he was growing up in the valleys, never gave up his love for nature.
He said: “After medical training, I was in a hospital in Abergavenny. On evenings off, I’d walk three miles up the river Usk and see kingfishers along the way, have a bar meal and enjoy all types of flowers. And I was happy.”
Adventure was always a key part of Stephen’s life. Even while doing his 125 hours per week shift at a hospital, he always found time for some new mystery.
He said: “I’ve always been looking for adventure in my life. Even in south Wales, when I was a hospital doctor, there were caves in Llangattock and I went several hundred metres into one of those caves, armed with just a doctor’s hand torch, because it seemed fun.
“I used to run with the running club, cycle with the cycling club, and swim with the swimming club, all the while doing those hours as a doctor.”
His carefree disposition meant he would take off on a run or cycle for hours without telling anyone. He said: “I wouldn’t tell anybody where I was going. I would go swimming in a reservoir or something, and I would go running places.”
It was on one of those runs he met with his accident. Recalling that terrible day, he said: “It was a Saturday morning, on December 12, 1992. I went to my Saturday morning surgery and then I went sole running. I’ve done a little bit of that before.
“I was in the Pennines and I was running downhill when I tripped and fell. I suffered a head injury and next thing I knew, I woke up in Bishop Auckland Hospital’s intensive care unit. I remember nothing, absolutely nothing from running to waking up in the unit.”
He only found out later he had spent 29 hours lying on his left side, in sub zero conditions. Because no one knew where he had gone, the alert could not be raised till hours later.
His weight fell from 14 stone to five and a half stone, and he spent six months in hospital. Crippled by a frail and paralysed left arm, he was fitted with a prosthesetic leg. He lost his left leg, amputated high above the knee.
Stephen said: “When I got out of hospital I couldn’t do 15 metres without falling over, and I was just as weak as water anyway. After two weeks I could do a little bit more and after six more weeks, I could do up to seven miles.”
He got rid of the artificial leg after the wound was constantly infected, and problems with sitting meant he wanted to get on crutches eagerly.
“As soon as my left arm was strong enough for crutches, I was away. It was like getting a bicycle when I was a young boy! Two weeks after I was out of hospital, I was looking for work again,” Stephen said.
After the accident, he gave up being a doctor to work in psychiatry where he still works with disabled people encouraging them to get fit enough to work again.
Of his injury Stephen said: “I don’t think about it. It’s just normal now for me. I still go for a walk. I go for walks along riversides with beautiful views and such.
“I’m just driven to do it. I do not feel happy if I do not go out and be under the sky for a prolonged period everyday. Wherever I work, I try to find time to walk.”
Since the accident, he’s been up Pen-y-fan countless times and scaled the highest peaks of Snowdon twice with his best friends, Alwyn and Peter. He calls them a constant source of inspiration, and they did the Bupa Great North Run together in 2003, the world’s largest half marathon.
As Stephen’s Pontypridd High School motto says: Ymdrech A Lwydda - success through effort.