Home Tech ‘I was almost dead’: the great achiever Martha Lane Fox now has a mission to conquer mountains

‘I was almost dead’: the great achiever Martha Lane Fox now has a mission to conquer mountains

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'I was almost dead': the great achiever Martha Lane Fox now has a mission to conquer mountains

myEven for healthy people, climbing Britain’s three highest peaks can seem like a test of determination. But Martha Lane Fox has had 47 operations, struggles with her balance, nerve damage and constant pain, and she needs two canes to walk anywhere – the legacy of a car accident 20 years ago that nearly killed her.

On Saturday he completed the first leg of “Martha Mountain Mission”Upon reaching the summit of Snowdon, or Yr Wyddfa. England’s highest peak, Scafell Pike, will arrive next on May 6, and will take on Ben Nevis on September 7.

“My body is not like other people’s,” he told Observer. “I have enormous pain and continence problems, and I have very serious nerve damage. So all of these things make it a pretty big hurdle to try to walk for a long time, let alone a very long time uphill, and back down again.”

Martha’s Mountain Mission is one way Lane Fox commemorates the 20th anniversary of the car crash in Morocco. She was 31 and had just sold lastminute.com, the travel and gift company she founded with Brent Hoberman seven years earlier, and she was on holiday with her boyfriend of six weeks, Chris Gorrell Barnes.

What seemed like a new chapter in her life was about to end when Lane Fox was thrown from the passenger seat of an open-top car and landed on a rock.

“I was almost dead,” he said quietly. “They score you when you enter a trauma unit on a scale; I think she is up to 39 – 39 she is dead. He was 37 years old. So I don’t think he could have gotten me much closer to death than I managed to get. And I was very, very devastated.

“But I was very lucky to have the ability to first leave Morocco (not that I organized any of this, my family organized it) and then be taken to one of the best hospitals in the country, the John Radcliffe. [in Oxford]to put it back together and then move it to other hospitals over the next few years and then continually put it back together again.


“So all of those things are not available to most people who go through something like that.”

That’s one of the reasons he’s leaving: to raise £300,000 for four charities. First day trauma is for people in the situation that Lane Fox found himself in, helping people rebuild their lives after a catastrophic injury. There are countless decisions to make about medical treatment, finances, and what they need to do to recover. “So if I have a few moments of bad mood, it will be the people at Day One Trauma that I will especially think about.” [to motivate me],” she said.

Lane Fox broke 28 bones, suffered a stroke, and spent just under two years in the hospital, with surgeon after surgeon trying to repair, or simply alleviate, his injuries. For the past two decades she has been in and out of hospitals, an inspiration for another charity she supports, Horace’s garden.

Friends join Martha Lane Fox in Eryri National Park (Snowdonia) on Saturday. Photography: Provided by Martha Lane Fox

“They build beautiful gardens and spaces next to the spinal units for people who, like me, are stuck in the hospital for a very, very long period of time and can’t get out,” he said. “It doesn’t really end when something like that happens to you. That is the life that changed forever. I’m lucky. I mean, honestly, I don’t mean that in a simplistic way. I’m lucky: I have resources and support to help me survive and thrive. So I feel lucky.”

With support, Lane Fox has really managed to thrive, building on its success in the dotcom boom. Three years after the accident, she joined the board of Marks and Spencer, was appointed to the House of Lords and worked with David Cameron’s government to improve computer skills.

Another charity is SkillNetwhich works with developers and technologists to remind older and disabled people that they are often excluded from digital life, and the fourth is I am the codewhich wants to help one million girls and young women become coders by 2030.

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Lane Fox became chancellor of the Open University in 2014 and in 2016 she had twin children via surrogacy with Gorrell Barnes. Seven-year-old boys Milo and Felix were running around with her along the footpath up and down Snowdon yesterday, along with more than 30 friends.

Still, the effects of his injury continue. “I do a lot of physio anyway because otherwise I can’t exist,” she said. “But 2022 was a really bad year for me. I had sepsis and almost lost my leg. “I was very sick, I was in the hospital most of the time.” He turned 50 last year and had only one ambition: not to spend time in the hospital.

“It cleared my mind: I wanted to do something scary enough that it felt like a goal I had achieved, but also scary enough that people would give me some money to do it. That’s why I came up with this idea, now somewhat crazy, of climbing the three peaks.”

After spending Saturday in the cold April sun in Wales, an exhausted Lane Fox looked forward to the next two challenges.

“It was much harder to get down, but I am alive and very euphoric every day,” she said.

“Ben Nevis is the most difficult. But one thing at a time.”

To donate to Martha’s Mountain Challenge, visit darwheel.com

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