A young amputee who lost a leg after being crushed by a lorry while cycling has swum the Channel with the paramedic who saved her life.
Victoria Lebrec almost died when a lorry ran over her at a busy London crossing five years ago.
She barely had a pulse when air ambulance paramedic Bill Leaning arrived and saved her life by stemming further blood loss.
Victoria, now 28, was put into an induced coma in hospital where medics were forced to amputate her leg just below her hip.
After months spent recovering, Victoria attended the sentencing of the lorry driver who almost killed her at Old Street roundabout in central London.
Paul-loan Mihacea pleaded guilty to careless driving, but Victoria hugged him as a sign of forgiveness.
She was so grateful to the air ambulance team for saving her life that she decided to swim the Channel to raise funds to keep the costly service operating.
Now a cycle safety campaigner, Victoria completed the challenge as part of a 12-person strong relay team, raising more than £34,000 for the London Air Ambulance (LAA) charity.
Air ambulance crew members formed the relay team, which included Bill and LAA’s lead clinician Dr Gareth Grier.
Victoria, originally from Brighton, East Sussex, said: “The charity saved my life and it brings me a lot of joy to be in a position where I am fit enough to raise some money.
“I would be dead if it wasn’t for them.”
Nine months after Victoria began training for the crossing, her team finally set off from Dover at midnight on September 14 this year.
Victoria swam her first leg at 5am after a rough night without sleep or much to eat.
She said: “It was freezing and the weather was horrible.
“I really struggled because I started off too quickly.
“I was inhaling sea water because I didn’t have enough energy to lift my head out of the water.”
Paramedic Bill, who Victoria has become friends with since the accident, was watching from the boat as the woman he saved battled the cold sea with her prosthetic leg.
Victoria added: “I got through that first bit by thinking about everything the air ambulance had done for me.
“Bill was great. He was shouting at me to just swim 10 strokes at a time.”
Victoria’s next stint in the water was at 11am, by which time the sun was shining and the temperature was warmer.
She added: “I did much better on my second go.
“I felt like I had contributed to the team, unlike on the first section.”
The team finally touched ground at France, at around 3.30pm.
It took them 14 hours and 36 minutes to swim the 21-mile stretch of sea separating Dover’s Shakespeare Beach from Cap Gris-Nez, in northern France.
Victoria said: “It seemed like an insurmountable challenge at first, so finally arriving in France was a massive achievement.
“Swimming the channel with Bill was a huge milestone for me.
“When I met him I was in the worst health imaginable. Now I have completed a feat many able-bodied people wouldn’t be able to do.”
Victoria, who often attends vigils for cyclists killed in London, wants to carry on working to make roads safer for cyclists.
She said: “There were 1,782 people killed by cars last year. So few causes of death are so readily accepted by society.
“My advice to motorists is to remember that the consequences of driving badly are devastating. There is a huge responsibility of being behind the wheel.
“Everyone on the roads is trying to get somewhere.
“When it comes to cyclists and motorists, it’s not a case of us against them.”
The money raised will help keep the London Air Ambulance charity meet its £2000-a-flight operating costs and train more medics in emergency roadside procedures.