Jedburgh man paralysed in mountain bike accident is humbled by support

An outdoor adventurer from Jedburgh paralysed after suffering a freak cycling accident in August last year says he feels blessed at having the chance to rebuild his life.

Niall Harris before his accident.
Niall Harris before his accident.

Niall Harris was the very epitome of an action man.

Working as an outdoor learning professional at Edinburgh’s George Watson’s College he always had a love of nature and was an enthusiastic climber, ski mountaineer, runner, cyclist and walker in the hills of Scotland and beyond.

But his life changed irrevocably in August last year after a terrible mountain bike accident in Innerleithen.

The Old Strollers' 24 hour challenge, Garry Goodfellow, Ali Campbell and Owen Stewart practising for their charity walk from Holy Island to Melrose. (Photo: BILL McBURNIE)

He spent five months on his back at the spinal injuries unit in Glasgow and is now undergoing specialist rehabilitation treatment at the Drummond Grange Care Home outside of Edinburgh.

Despite his ordeal the former pupil at Jedburgh Grammar School is determined to live his life to the full and be as positive as he can.

Niall, who recently turned 40, said he feels lucky that his spinal cord was not completely severed in the accident, which gives him hope for the future.

He’s also grateful to his family, friends and work colleagues for their fundraising efforts to help purchase the adaptive equipment needed when he is eventually able move into his own property.

Niall Harris.

The near-£24,000 already raised will go towards purchasing an all-terrain wheelchair and other equipment to allow him to lead as full a life as possible at home and in an outdoor environment to facilitate his return to work, so he can continue to pass on his wisdom, skills and experience.

Niall has the backing of the Matt Hampson Foundation, which supports young people seriously injured through sport.

He is also bolstered by three Jedburgh lads who have been affectionately dubbed ‘The Old Strollers’.

Garry Goodfellow, Ali Campbell and Owen Stewart have been in training for a 24 hour fundraising charity walk from Holy Island to Melrose.

Niall Harris.

All the support has overwhelmed and inspired Niall, who recalled the day of his tragic accident.

He said: “It was just an unfortunate accident. Somebody tripped over so I had to go a bit faster and I had to go over one of the drops and I nose-dived into a six feet drop and the bike went flying and I landed direct on my head, flipped round and then felt nothing below the neck. It was pretty terrifying.

"The initial diagnosis was complete paralysis from the neck down and ventilation for life maybe and so I feel very lucky because I can push my leg and curl my toe, lift an arm, flicker another arm.

"I was apprehensive about going into a care home but it has been fantastic. It is just a stepping stone before I find my own property. I am very positive, very keen to work hard.

"I have been lucky. There was obviously fractures but the main damage was to the spinal cord, which was heavy bruising and a bleed, which puts pressure on the spinal cord.

"Fortunately for me it did not sever the spinal cord. It basically left it hanging by a thread and 50/50 whether it was going to be complete or incomplete, so that’s why it has been left as an incomplete injury.

"Over time I will see what I can achieve, just small goals, like trying to use a joy stick control, build up strength and maybe get a Campervan again.

"I will just need to do things differently but I will still go to the same places. I won’t go rock climbing but I can go along the beach and spend more time in the pub with friends.

"It’s a very serious, high level injury but I’m lucky to have what I have. If I was here now with a complete spinal cord injury and not aware of my body below my shoulders I don’t know how I’d be feeling.

"I feel almost blessed that I have this chance, if I work really hard I can get enough back to give me a good quality of life.

"The support I have been receiving has been very humbling.”

To support the fundraising go to​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​