THIS time last year Alex Lewis was fighting for his life as a result of a devastating infection which began as no more than a cold.
One year on, and despite losing all four of his limbs to Strep A Toxic Shock Syndrome, Alex's determination to live life to the full is as steely as ever.
For the first time since he was robbed of the ability to walk, the 34-year-old is standing for himself and taking his first steps unaided, as his long road to recovery continues.
Starting on shorter artificial limbs, Alex is now mastering the art of being upright for himself once again after so far spending his rehabilitation in a wheelchair.
And now he has one more reason to continue his remarkable progress, as his long term goal is to be able to walk down the aisle when he marries his partner Lucy Townsend.
Alex surprised friends and family, and not least Lucy, by unexpectedly proposing to her.
After four years of regularly asking him whether he would ever marry her, Lucy had all but given up hope of becoming Mrs Lewis.
But after a life changing year Alex said he could think of no better reason than to make the mother of his three-year old son Sam, his wife.
“It was because of everything that has happened throughout the year. She has been my constant support, she has raised my son, she has been incredible. I could think of no better reason to ask her,” he said.
Lucy told the Daily Echo how she had put thoughts of a wedding aside whilst supporting Alex on his road to recovery. The couple joke how Alex's constant refusal to tie the knot before his illness struck - even betting his mum £100 he never would - formed the basis of a test by doctors to see whether he was brain damaged as a result of the illness.
Alex with fiance Lucy and three-year-old son Sam
Lucy, 41, explained: “We had to ask Alex a question that we were sure he would know, so I said to ask him whether he would marry me - and his immediate answer was no! We knew straight away then that he was fine!”
She said she was stunned when he asked her and described how their relationship had not changed. Lucy said: “I am not his nurse, I don't think I would make a very good one! He has his nurse, who is fantastic, to help him and he really works a lot of things out for himself. We are here for him as his family.”
The couple plan to make the nuptials official with a ring in the New Year before the wedding which is also planned for next year in France.
By then Alex, 34, is aiming to be up on full-sized prosthetic limbs in order to stand side by side with Lucy when they marry.
“She tells me that she won't marry anyone shorter than her so I have got to be up on prosthetic limbs for that reason alone,” he quips.
He also described how the proposal wasn't overly romantic, adding: “If I had tried to get down on one knee, I wouldn't have got up again!”
It is that sort of humour that has helped the family get through some of the darkest days since Alex became a quadruple amputee.
As previously reported, Alex lost three limbs, part of his nose and his lips when the normally harmless bacterial infection Group A Streptococcus, rapidly developed into multiple organ failure, septicaemia and toxic shock syndrome.
When pioneering surgery to try and save his remaining arm failed, Alex was admitted to hospital in June for an emergency amputation.
Along with undergoing facial reconstruction, which will continue next year with four more operations planned, Alex has been learning to walk again at the specialist rehabilitation centre in Roehampton where he has been re-learning a raft of other day to day tasks.
He said: “Even thing like opening the door has to be approached in a whole new way. When you rely on mechanics you have to approach things in a completely different way. It has been challenging but I don't think there is anything I can't do that I want to now.”
Now he is walking for himself Alex plans to take the family dog Holly and do some Christmas shopping, whilst one day being able to chase Sam around in the garden of their Stockbridge home.
He knows that it will literally be one step at a time but according to Alex it is all about setting goals and reaching them.
“You have to see yourself doing it and get there.
“I had thought about how it would feel when I walked for myself for the first time and when it actually happened it wasn't as emotional as I thought, and had been told it would be. It just felt normal, like this is how it is supposed to be.”
Talking about how he felt on the first anniversary of when his life was irrevocably changed a year ago this month, he said: “It was more Lucy, mum and dad and the rest of my friends and family I felt regret for. I was pretty much out of it. For them, they were living it.”
Alex spent that day working on the Alex Lewis Trust - a charity he and Lucy have set up - and then went out with friends in the evening where they raised a glass of champagne.
“It wasn't in celebration or commiseration, just an acknowledgment really of what happened a year ago. That date will always be significant to me. That is my New Year, that is where it all started again for me.”
Along with the unstinting support of his friends and family, the public's overwhelming response to Alex's story has been a constant source of inspiration.
Since setting up the Alex Lewis Trust which aims to raise money to help pay for Alex's rehabilitation and for the hospital where he was treated, around £180,000 poured in.
Alex said: “I am continually amazed with the public support. It has been incredible. What people are doing to raise money is just amazing, I can't thank them enough.”
Tonight that support continues with an event hoped to bring in a further £15,000.
The Southern Cooperative is launching the bid at a cheese and wine evening at The Greyhound pub in Stockbridge, which is run by Lucy.
They are encouraging shoppers at their Stockbridge store to help raise cash, by pledging that a penny in every pound spent at the branch will be donated to the charity.
Claire Walls, retail business manager, said: “Our customers and colleagues at the store want to help Alex achieve his mission to bring about as many positives as possible from his devastating and life changing illness and provide funding for equipment to promote recovery for others.”
The money raised will be split between the trust which is raising money for Alex's rehabilitation needs and raising awareness about Strep A and also providing rehabilitation equipment such as arm cycles for patients confined to bed for long periods of time in the Laverstock Ward at Salisbury Hospital where Alex was treated.Tonight's event runs from 5.30pm to 8pm The Greyhound On The Test in Stockbridge, where presenter Dickie Davis is also hoping to attend and Alex hopes to greet guests standing on his new legs.
For more information about the trust visit alex-lewis.co.uk.