Derry solicitor Gareth McCay has beaten all the odds by recovering from paralysis in little more than two years to complete a triathlon.
The 29 year-old was celebrating this weekend after finishing Friday’s charity event - and well he may having been told at one stage that he’d never walk again.
Gareth took on the challenge with relish and although it was “tough going”, he was later celebrating with family and friends after successfully completing the course - a 400m walk, 10k arm cycle and 15k cycle at Templemore Sports Complex. And he later partied into the night to raise even more funds for his chosen charity, Spinal Research, at a special fundraising event at the Tower Hotel.
Speaking after his finishing his charity challenge with the help of trainers JP Glenn, Shaun Heaney and wife Colleen, Gareth said he was delighted to have reached his goal.
“The walk was definitely the hardest bit, I had only done 200 metres in the past but I wanted to finish the 400m so I just gritted my teeth and got it done. It was tough and my arms felt it but I got through it and that’s what matters.”
Gareth’s story is one which will no doubt inspire many other to set goals and achieve them. Indeed his trainers branded him “truly inspirational” following his achievement of making an almost complete recovery from injuries sustained in a freak accident in his home in 2010.
But it took a lot of courage, determination and persistence for the young man to achieve such a triumph.
After the unfortunate accident in his home Gareth’s life was changed forever. He was paralysed from the neck down and given no hope of recovery. Specialists insisted the young solicitor would never walk again but the keen sportsman choose to ignore the experts and continued to push himself to a miraculous recovery.
“They told me it was a complete spinal injury and I wouldn’t move again below the neck, so when they told me they’d had to amputate my leg it didn’t really bother me. At that stage I was grateful to be still alive to see my two year-old daughter grow up.”
On the night his world changed in 2010, Gareth had been watching the Champions League final and was in good spirits when as he made his way from the kitchen to the living room in his home. As it was a split level there were four steps to negotiate on his way down to the living room and, as he did every time time before, Gareth instinctively leapt the length of the steps. On that occasion, however, the floor mat was not where it should have been and as his feet made contact the mat moved, instantaneously slipping along the solid marble floor.
“I landed on the mat and I just accelerated, I remember dipping my head to try and save it from the impact with the floor and then the thud. I later found out that I had internal bleeding in my neck which went into my spinal cord so everything swelled up immediately.”
Gareth was paralysed and alone. He wasn’t found until the next day when a neighbour heard his shouts. “I believed I was going to die. I’d resigned myself to dying. All I could think about was my two year-old daughter and how I wouldn’t be there to see her grow up.”
He was then told that his lungs and kidneys had failed during his 15 hour ordeal on the marble floor of his home. Those conditions had led to toxins building up in his body which resulted in the amputation of his left leg at the knee. “Not only did the consultants tell me that I’d never walk again, they told me that I could never even use a power wheelchair as I wouldn’t have enough arm movement and that I’d only be able to operate a power chair with my chin.
His recovery to almost a complete range of movement, except for his left arm - which is still restricted by the injury - was a long hard struggle. However, after completing Friday’s triathalon he can be very proud of all he has achieved.