Adrenaline junkie paralysed in a freak accident reveals how his best friend saved his life

Thanks to fundraising by his partner Alex Brown, 30, Bristol professional Will Taylor, 32, has £46K towards the £50K needed for intensive treatment

Miyo Padi
Friday 20 May 2022 07:00
Will surfing before his accident (Collect/PA Real Life)
Will surfing before his accident (Collect/PA Real Life)

An adrenaline junkie with a passion for everything from skiing to surfing who has even cycled across Europe had never broken a bone until a freak mountain bike accident in a local park earlier this year left him paralysed from the chest down.

His devoted partner-of-eight years Alex Brown, 30, has now helped raise £46K towards the £50K needed for the intensive specialist physiotherapy the professional Bristol couple hope will give Will Taylor, 32, the best chance of regaining movement.

Alex, who has enjoyed trips with Will in the couple’s campervan to Devon, Cornwall, Wales and the south of France, is committed to helping her partner, who fractured his spine when he went over the handlebars riding over a muddy mound, to regain as much independence and mobility as possible.

She said: “We just don’t know what the future holds.”

Alex and Will before his accident (Collect/PA Real Life)

She added: “With spinal cord injuries, there is so much that is uncertain.

“But for someone like Will, someone who was always so active, this is devastating.

“For him, surfing and cycling were more than just hobbies. They were what got him up in the morning – often at ridiculous times.

“We are only hoping that intensive specialist physio will give him the best shot of regaining as much feeling and movement as he can.”

Alex on his bike (Collect/PA Real Life)

A lover of rollerblading, boxing, gymnastics and callisthenics – a form of strength training – before his accident, Will went out on his mountain bike almost daily and surfed three times a week, but was always careful and until the catastrophic accident earlier this year, avoided serious injury.

Alex said: “Will is a very careful person. He looks after his body and understands the risks associated with the sports he does. He knows his limits. He analyses every move and every turn.

“This was just a freak accident.”

Alex will never forget February 11, when Will headed off for a short ride with a friend on a trail he had visited many times, only to go straight over the handlebars as he rode over a muddy mound.

Will surfing (Collect/PA Real Life)

Arriving within 20 minutes of his fall, as emergency crews were still trying to access the site, she said: “Will’s head hit the ground before his hands. Thanks to his helmet, his head was completely protected.

“All he had was a tiny mark on his temple, but he knew it was bad. As soon as he fell, he’d reached down and realised he couldn’t feel his legs.

“When I arrived, he was just lying there looking grey but conscious. He knew exactly what he’d done.”

Will was rushed to Bristol’s Southmead Hospital in the ambulance, where it was discovered he had fractured and dislocated his C6 and C7 vertebrae and suffered major spinal cord trauma.

Will in his hospital bed (Collect/PA Real Life)

Rushed in for six hours of emergency surgery to relieve the pressure on his spinal cord, as medics had to go in through the front of Will’s neck, the operation left him initially unable to eat and struggling to speak.

But, as he had some sensation in his toes and movement in his arms, his spinal injury was categorised as ‘incomplete,’ meaning that the ability of the spinal cord to convey messages from the brain is not completely lost.

Alex said: “Will’s injury being incomplete means there’s hope that things may renavigate and reconnect.

“After three weeks he learned to sit up in a supported chair. First he couldn’t do more than 15 minutes. But within 10 days he was managing seven hours.”

Alex holding Will’s hand in hospital (Collect/PA Real Life)

She added: “He is now working on using his hands, transferring himself independently to a wheelchair and self care.

“On day one he couldn’t even hold a cup. Now he can hold full bottles of water.

“He has been working so hard.”

Will was moved from hospital to the Duke of Cornwall Spinal Treatment Centre in Salisbury, Wiltshire, last month and hopes he will soon be home with Alex, who currently visits him on five days a week.

Will learning to sit up again in hospital (Collect/PA Real Life)

She said: “Will’s attitude has been utterly remarkable. All of the doctors have commented on how focussed, calm, accepting and driven he has been.”

Will’s dedication to his treatment plan has seen him increase the sensation in his feet – which he describes as feeling ‘like static on a TV.’

He can now wiggle one knee and has developed some involuntary movement in his abdominal muscles.

And while doctors are unable to say how much further feeling or movement he will recover, if any, Will and Alex know he needs to do all he can at this vital time.

Will in hospital (Collect/PA Real Life)

She said: “Will is doing everything he can and we are trying to make our home safe for him to come back.

“The first six months with a spinal cord injury are critical and are typically where the majority of the recovery happens.

“We don’t know how Will will end up. But we do know that the human body is incredible. We also know that being young, fit and motivated are three of the most important factors in increasing chances of recovery.

“Will has all three in abundance.”

Will before his accident (Collect/PA Real Life)

The couple have received support from the Spinal Injuries Association and Back Up, both leading charities in the area.

But, the more sufferers the couple have spoken to, the clearer it has become that the road ahead will be costly if they are to access the best treatment as soon as possible, so they are fundraising for specialist physiotherapy, technologies, home alterations and tailored support.

With the additional support largely unavailable on the NHS and intensive neurophysio sessions – using a specialist walking machine – alone costing £70-£100 an hour, they have set their fundraising goal at £50k and have nearly reached it in just a few weeks.

Alex said: “Will is just 32 and being active is everything to him. Even so, he was apprehensive about the fundraiser.”

I landed directly on my head and instantly knew something was wrong.

She added: “But if it’s the difference between a stronger recovery or not then we know we have to do it.

“The support has been incredible. I don’t know how to articulate how amazing it is and how shocked Will is at how much people care.”

Alex also wants to help raise awareness of spinal cord injuries, which spinal cord charity Aspire says are diagnosed in 2,500 people in the UK each year.

Will said: “I landed directly on my head and instantly knew something was wrong. I couldn’t move or feel anything. I put my hands under my t-shirt to try and feel my body and couldn’t feel anything from the chest down.”

Will on the beach before his accident (Collect/PA Real Life)

He added: “I was with one of my best friends, who I now know saved my life.

“He did all the right things, didn’t move me, called Alex and the emergency services and got the help to me as quickly as possible.

“The next bit was a blur.  Alex came in the ambulance with me to hospital. I was rushed in for MRI’s and CT’s which took an hour. The doctors then came and explained I had suffered a major trauma.

“I woke up from six hours of surgery in the Intensive Care Unit with no sensation from the chest down. My arms worked well but my fingers were weak.”

Will performing a trick on his bike before his accident (Collect/PA Real Life)

“Spinal cord injuries are incredibly complicated and there is a lot we don’t know about my injury. Every injury is unique and the body’s ability to heal is completely individual.

“I am just grateful for the support of everyone so far.”

Anyone who wants to donate to Will’s fundraiser can do so at https://www.gofundme.com/f/will-taylor-spinal-chord-injury-c6-c7

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