‘I’M HAP­PIER NOW THAN I WAS BE­FORE MY AC­CI­DENT’

Former Dragons forward on get­ting back on his feet af­ter break­ing his neck

Wales On Sunday - - NEWS - ALEX BYWATER news­desk@waleson­line.co.uk

W HEN Ed Jack­son dived into a swim­ming pool in April 2017 and broke his neck, he was told there would be a very real chance he might never be able to walk again.

The ac­ci­dent ended the former Dragons forward’s ca­reer and left him with an im­me­di­ate se­ries of gi­ant ob­sta­cles to over­come.

Fewer than 18 months later, Jack­son has walked down the aisle to marry his now-wife Lois, com­pleted his first dance in a pair of swim­ming trunks, and climbed Mount Snow­don.

Now he is tak­ing things up a notch. Jack­son – who also played for Lon­don Welsh and Wasps – is con­tin­u­ing his in­spi­ra­tional char­ity work by at­tempt­ing to sum­mit Mont Buet in France. He will then em­bark on a sim­i­larly gru­elling trek in Nepal.

“I got mar­ried this sum­mer, which was a chal­lenge in it­self, but a great one. We got mar­ried in Italy and it was 35 de­grees on the day,” Jack­son said.

“My tem­per­a­ture reg­u­la­tion is a bit funny now af­ter my ac­ci­dent, so I man­aged to sweat through about three dif­fer­ent out­fits and my wed­ding suit in the first hour.

“I ac­tu­ally did my first dance in a pair of swim­ming shorts, which was quite amus­ing, and the song we danced to was LOVE by Frank Si­na­tra.

“Restart Rugby are the char­ity who have been sup­port­ing me through my re­cov­ery and I’m try­ing to raise money for them with all the moun­tain chal­lenges I’m do­ing.

“We want to see how high we can go. Snow­don was the first one, now we’re go­ing to Buet, which is three times higher.

“Af­ter that I’m off to Nepal in Oc­to­ber to do some work with a char­ity called Never­est who, in con­junc­tion with Restart, are look­ing to build a spinal unit in Nepal.

“It’s ex­cit­ing, I’m keep­ing my­self out of trou­ble, and I’m do­ing a bit of pub­lic speak­ing at clubs and hos­pi­tals, too.

“I’ve been lucky to make a pretty un­prece­dented re­cov­ery, so they’ve been in­ter­ested in what I’ve been up to. I’m prob­a­bly busier now than when I was play­ing!”

Jack­son’s re­cov­ery has been re­mark­able and he re­mains de­ter­mined to pay back ev­ery penny Restart gave to him in sup­port through his fundrais­ing.

He has raised more than £34,000 to date.

Jack­son’s achieve­ments saw him hon­oured with the chair­man’s award at the launch of the new Guin­ness PRO14 sea­son in Glas­gow, and his at­ti­tude re­mains of huge in­spi­ra­tion to the rugby world.

So, apart from climb­ing moun­tains, what’s next?

“It’s amaz­ing for me to col­lect awards, but they aren’t for me. There are so many other peo­ple who were in­volved in me get­ting bet­ter and I col­lect it on their be­half,” said Jack­son, who now lives in Bath but re­tains close ties to Wales and the Dragons by vis­it­ing friends and own­ing a prop­erty in Cardiff.

“Peo­ple see me do­ing things, but the peo­ple be­hind me are the rea- son I am where I am. It’s nice for them to get recog­nised as well.

“I spend a lot of time speak­ing to peo­ple who have gone through a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion to the one I did. The spinal units around the United King­dom know they can tell peo­ple to get in con­tact with me. I speak to them ei­ther on­line or go and see them.

“I find that un­be­liev­ably re­ward­ing. When you start a con­ver­sa­tion with some­one they think what’s hap­pened to them is the worst thing in the world and they won­der how they’re ever go­ing to get over it.

“I’ve had in­stances where 20 min­utes later they are telling me they’re look­ing forward to things and will tackle their sit­u­a­tion head on. That 20 min­utes is the most valu­able thing I can do.

“It’s price­less to them and me. It’s a two-way thing and I’ve made a lot of friends do­ing it, so I will al­ways con­tinue.

“Writ­ing is also some­thing I’ve been do­ing. I’ve been en­joy­ing it, but it’s been about spinal in­juries so far.

“It’s just a hobby at the mo­ment and my English teacher from school ac­tu­ally got in touch and said ‘I didn’t know you were lis­ten­ing in class!’

“It started off as an es­cape for me in hos­pi­tal be­cause when peo­ple would go home I would write about my day.

“I’d post it on­line and for­get I’d done it, but all of a sud­den peo­ple started get­ting in con­tact to tell me it would help them. “

Speak­ing to Jack­son you can’t help but be in­spired by his at­ti­tude and his fi­nal mes­sage is equally mo­ti­va­tional.

“Ev­ery­one has their own chal­lenges in life and you have to try to deal with them. They can be big or small, but what re­ally mat­ters is how big they are in your head,” he said.

“You can’t change what hap­pens to you, you just have to adapt, and that’s what I’ve tried to do. I’d go as far to say I’m hap­pier now than I was be­fore my ac­ci­dent.

“I wasn’t un­happy then, but now I feel like I’m do­ing some­thing tan­gi­ble which is mak­ing a dif­fer­ence to other peo­ple.”

BEN EVANS/HUW EVANS AGENCY

Ex-Dragons rugby star Ed Jack­son in hos­pi­tal af­ter break­ing his neck Ed on top of Snow­don Ed in ac­tion for New­port Gwent Dragons in 2016 Ed with his wife Lois

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