‘I’M HAPPIER NOW THAN I WAS BEFORE MY ACCIDENT’
Former Dragons forward on getting back on his feet after breaking his neck
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.”
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