Now and again you come across a story that gladdens the heart and that was the case last Monday when I spoke to former Bath, Doncaster, London Welsh, Wasps and Newport-Gwent Dragons No.8 Ed Jackson about his recovery from a near-fatal swimming accident in April.
Jackson, 28, appeared set for life in a wheelchair after mistakenly diving into the shallow end of a friend’s pool, but happily and incredibly, just six months after the event, he is now walking and driving his car again, as well as looking forward to taking on some major challenges in aid of the charities that have supported him throughout a traumatic period.
Jackson told me: “I’m back on my feet and started driving again last week, but I had no idea what would happen at the start.
“I’ve actually had all my medical notes back now and although they didn’t tell me at the time, the initial prognosis from the surgeons at Southmead Hospital, in Bristol, was that I wouldn’t make it out of the quadriplegic category.
“Reading that now is pretty sobering once you realise how close you came to that, and although there’s still a long way to go before I iron everything out, I’m incredibly lucky now to have the chance to live a normal life.
“I appreciate I’ll never be running around again, but I’m working hard to get back to moving relatively normally and I’ll definitely look to a big challenge like a half-marathon or something that will give others with big injuries some hope.”
try to enjoy professional careers more
Jackson says his recent brush with tragedy has provided a different outlook and made him realise that players, especially younger ones, must try to enjoy their professional careers more.
He explained: “Some players are miserable all the time, whether they’re not getting picked, are injured or have niggles, but they need to remember where they are and if they’re not going to enjoy the rugby journey, what’s the point?
“With all the pressure involved – striving for first-team places, England or Lions recognition or whatever – players tend to live in a bubble. It’s drilled into you that you must strive for the next level, but there’s so much more to life.
“It’s easy for me to say now because I’ve been forced into my current situation, but injury has given me a different perspective and if I’d known what I know now when I played, I definitely would have done different things in my career.”
Jackson is halfway through a degree in real estate and finance that might offer him a route into the City, although coaching may yet appeal as he has a Level Two badge.
“It is something I might look at, but I’ll keep my options open,” he said.
“I’m focusing on my recovery, which still has a fair way to go, and I’m getting married next July so that will be another major milestone.
“I’ll also be looking to help the charities that helped me – the Forever Friends appeal for the therapy centre at the Royal United Hospital in Bath, the Matt Hampson Foundation and the RPA’s Restart Rugby campaign – and raise some money for them.”
As inspiring tales go, Jackson’s is right up there and I wish him all the best.