I was involved in a car accident in September 2011; I broke my back, damaged my neck and crushed my spinal cord, leaving me paralysed from the neck down. It was a lonely place lying on the hospital bed unable to walk and no mobility in my hands, reliant on both the hospital staff and family for the most basic needs. The hardest part was my two children Morgan and Ella visiting me as I was helpless in bed. With determination, three months after the crash I had began gradually walking; at the beginning I was continually supported, this being the first step in a long rehabilitation programme but I knew that with belief I could walk again. My consultant, was astounded by my “remarkable recovery as my injury was potentially devastating.”
Although my initial recovery was miraculous, the consultant told me that I would only have limited mobility, and my passions of skiing and rally driving I would simply never be able to do again.
Looking at the MRI scans of the damage, I understood the challenge I faced, but I was determined that my body had the capability to heal itself, and if something is not working it can find ways to solve the problem. At hospital with a new circle of friends some of whom had similar injuries, I knew the only way I could recover was to achieve a goal. I told myself that one day I would be skiing in the Winter Paralympic Games.
I reinvented myself, taught myself meditation, self hypnosis and positive visualisation. I was relentless in pushing my body to recover itself and gradually the feeling in my hands recovered, and I began to independently walk a short distance. Even today I still cannot feel hot and cold, having limited feeling, but I got my hands working to initially 40% of their original use.
Although my body has been able to recover itself, I only have 40% power in my right leg and 50 % power in my left, so it takes 3 or 4 times more energy and concentration to be able to ski a course. Once fatigue sets in, I become tired and my legs give up and I struggle to stand up. Recovery may take 2-3 days depending on conditions. This has made training and racing harder, but I simply will not give up on my goal.
12 months after the accident, I had been pushing my body to heal every day, determined to stay positive, pushing my muscles to start working. I knew that the body had an amazing self-healing power if you have the determination to push yourself above expectations. I put on a pair skis in an indoor ski dome in Tamworth and the sensation of putting those skis on was amazing; the words of the consultant that I would not ski echoed in my mind. In October 2012 I attended a ski session with the Disability Snowsport charity and after a detailed review of my skiing I was told it would take 4-5 years to develop the skills to become a ski racer. With the World Championships in February 2015 I knew I had to push myself even harder to be ready for 2015. Since that day, I was relentless in training, skiing and racing at every opportunity.
I entered my first international race in December 2012 which was so poor I didn’t even finish, I raced again a few weeks later, and improved. This was a tough time for me and a reality check, it seemed like an impossible dream as I only had 24 months to achieve a World Class standard and my body was a shadow of its former self. I was entering races at every opportunity I could get across to Europe, and finally my resilience paid off as in August 2013 I was invited to become a member of the development squad with the British Disabled Ski Team.
I was also invited to Sochi with the UK Paralympics, and was continuously pushing myself to improve my performance and be picked for the squad...with goal to secure a place in the team to compete at the Winter Paralympic Games in PyeongChang in 2018.
In January 2018, I received a call to say I had been selected to compete for my country in South Korea and in March raced on the World's biggest stage in the Men's Downhill and Super G events, finishing 20th and 25th respectively. Just being at the games was a dream come true and I hope my journey will help to inspire others to achieve their own dreams. No matter how hard things may seem, if you have a goal and work hard to achieve it - you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.