IN August 2016 26 year-old Shrewsbury man Darren Edwards fell whilst climbing at the World's End Quarry near Llangollen, an incident which would paralyse him from the chest down and change his life for ever.
Guest speaker at a recent Rotary Club of Oswestry meeting, Darren described the critical moments: "I was rock climbing with my friend Matt, something we had done many times before, when my rope gave way and I plummeted to the ground. As soon as I landed I knew that I was in a bad way, breaking my back in the process of landing on the cliff edge. Somehow Matt was there to throw himself on top of me and stop me falling even further.
"I remember being airlifted by a Coastguard rescue helicopter to take me to hospital in Stoke whilst all the time worrying about the rotors being close to the cliffs, convinced that it would crash down on top of me!"
Darren accompanied this intensely personal talk with photos of each part of the incident including the last photo taken of him walking upright and the helicopter hovering above the site of the fall to pick him up.
Describing it as being the start of his journey, Darren shared his outstandingly positive approach to his rehabilitation as, though he will never walk again, he had worked through a 5 month stay at the Midlands Centre for Spinal Injuries in Oswestry. Darren explained: "You go from not even being able to sit as your body has forgotten to balance and you keep flopping over to going down a flight of stairs in a chair and being able to lift yourself off the floor - climbing was a great way to prepare for all the lifting!"
As part of his long road to rehabilitation, and not wanting to give up the outdoor life he had enjoyed before the accident, Darren bought a kayak and qualified for the GB Paracanoe squad in the following year.
"There are always challenges in life, some which we choose to take on and some which are dealt to us." he said. His story "Strength Through Adversity" has also become a charity which tries to improve the opportunities for people to take part in sport in Shropshire.
Rotary President Ian Glenister thanked Darren for his talk: "Everyone here today is hugely impressed with your positive attitude. I can imagine how others in a similar situation would be inspired by it and we look forward to hearing more about your achievements in a kayak or on a surfboard and possibly news from the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics."
Darren Edwards addresses a recent Oswestry Rotary meeting
Darren and Professor Wagih El Masri, former director of the Midlands Centre for Spinal Injuries in Oswestry and member of Oswestry Rotary Club