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 mountain bike accident at a local park earlier this year leaves him paralyzed from the chest down.
Her devoted partner of eight years, Alex Brown, 30, has now helped raise £46,000 for the £50,000 needed for intensive specialist physiotherapy which the professional couple from Bristol hope to give Will Taylor, 32, the best possible chance to regain movement.
Alex, who has enjoyed traveling with Will in the couple’s camper van in Devon, Cornwall, Wales and the South of France, has pledged to help his partner, who has fractured his spine spine by passing the handlebars over a muddy mound, to regain as much independence and mobility as possible.
She said, “We just don’t know what the future holds.”
She added: “With spinal cord injuries, there are so many things that are uncertain.
“But for someone like Will, someone who has always been so active, it’s devastating.
“For him, surfing and biking were more than just hobbies. It was what got him up in the morning – often at ridiculous hours.
“We just hope intensive specialist physiotherapy will give him the best chance of regaining as much feeling and movement as possible.”
A lover of in-line skating, boxing, gymnastics and calisthenics – 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 cautious and until the catastrophic accident earlier this year avoided serious injuries.
Alex said: “Will is a very cautious person. He takes care of his body and understands the risks associated with the sports he practices. He knows his limits. It analyzes every movement and every turn.
“It was just a freak accident.”
Alex will never forget February 11, when Will went for a short jaunt with a friend on a trail he had visited many times, only to go straight over the handlebars as he rolled over a muddy mound.
Arriving within 20 minutes of her fall, as emergency crews were still trying to gain access to the site, she said: ‘Will’s head hit the ground in front of his hands. Thanks to his helmet, his head was completely protected.
“All he had was a little mark on his temple, but he knew it was bad. As soon as he fell he bent down and realized he couldn’t feel his legs anymore. .
“When I arrived he was just lying there, gray but conscious. He knew exactly what he had done.
Will was rushed to Southmead Hospital in Bristol in the ambulance, where it was discovered he had fractured and dislocated his C6 and C7 vertebrae and suffered major spinal trauma.
Rushed for six hours of emergency surgery to relieve pressure on his spinal cord, as doctors had to go through the front of Will’s neck, the operation initially left him unable to eat and had trouble speaking.
But, because he had sensation in his toes and movement in his arms, his spinal injury was classified as “incomplete”, which means that the ability of the spinal cord to transmit messages from the brain is not not completely lost.
Alex said: “With Will’s injury incomplete, there is hope that things can re-navigate and reconnect.
“After three weeks he learned to sit in a supported chair. First, he couldn’t do more than 15 minutes. But in 10 days, he managed seven hours.
She added: “He is now working on using his hands, independently transferring to a wheelchair and taking care of himself.
“The first day, he couldn’t even hold a cup. Now it can hold full water bottles.
“He worked so hard.”
Will was transferred from hospital to the Duke of Cornwall’s spine treatment center in Salisbury, Wiltshire, last month and hopes he will soon be home with Alex, who is currently visiting him for five days per week.
She said: “Will’s attitude has been absolutely outstanding. All the doctors commented on how focused, calm, accepting and motivated he was.
Will’s dedication to his treatment plan has seen him increase sensation in his feet – which he describes as feeling “like static on a TV”.
He can now move one knee and has developed involuntary movements in his abdominal muscles.
And while doctors are unable to say how many sensations or movements he will recover, if any, Will and Alex know he must do all he can at this vital time.
She said: “Will is doing everything he can and we are trying to make our house safe for him to come back.
“The first six months with a spinal cord injury are critical and are usually when the majority of recovery occurs.
“We don’t know how Will will end up. But we know the human body is amazing. We also know that being young, fit and motivated are three of the most important factors in increasing the chances of recovery.
“Will has all three in abundance.”
The couple have received support from the Spinal Injuries Association and Back Up, two leading charities in the region.
But, the more the couple spoke about sufferers, the clearer it became that the road ahead will be costly if they want to access the best treatment as soon as possible, so they are raising funds for specialist physiotherapy, technologies, modifications at home and Support.
With the extra support largely unavailable on the NHS and the intensive neurophysio sessions – using a specialist walking machine – alone costing £70-100 an hour, they set their fundraising target at £50,000 and almost achieved it in just a few weeks.
Alex said: “Will is only 32 and being active is everything to him. Even so, he had some apprehensions about fundraising.
She added: “But if that’s the difference between a stronger recovery or not, we know we have to do it.
“The support has been incredible. I don’t know how to express how amazing this is and how shocked Will is at how much people care.
Alex also wants to help raise awareness of spinal cord injury, which Aspire says is diagnosed in 2,500 people in the UK each year.
Will said: “I landed directly on my head and immediately knew something was wrong. I couldn’t move or feel anything. I put my hands under my t shirt trying to feel my body and I didn’t feel anything from the chest down.
He added: “I was with one of my best friends, who I now know saved my life.
“He did everything right, didn’t move me, called Alex and the emergency services and got me there as quickly as possible.
“The next bit was a blur. Alex came in the ambulance with me to the hospital. I was rushed for MRIs and CT scans which took an hour. The doctors then came and explained to me that I had suffered a major trauma.
“I woke up after six hours of surgery in the intensive care unit with no chest down feeling. My arms were working fine but my fingers were weak.
“Spinal cord injuries are incredibly complicated and there’s a lot we don’t know about my injury. Each injury is unique and the body’s ability to heal is completely individual.
“I’m just grateful for everyone’s support so far.”
Anyone wishing to donate to Will’s fundraiser can do so at https://www.gofundme.com/f/will-taylor-spinal-chord-injury-c6-c7