Aspire Grant gives Simon his thrill of exercise back

Aug 17, 2016

Blog 07 Simon Mackie On His Lightweight Hand Bike

Simon, 41, loved all exercise, whether windsurfing, weight-training, or cycling and used to be that guy who ran 10 miles every day. In his own words he was stupidly fit; one of those people who couldn’t sit still. However, his whole life changed when a deep dive went wrong.

After resurfacing too quickly, Simon got the bends and his spinal cord was crushed leaving his legs with little movement. Now, thanks to a grant provided by fundraising from the Aspire Channel Swim, he’s been able to purchase two hand bikes to get him out of the house again. 

“I’d been working as a diving instructor in the Philippines and on a day off, I went in search of sharks at 120 metres depth,” Says Simon. “Going that low also brought on the effects of nitrogen narcosis, which makes you feel like you’re drunk because of breathing air under pressure. It was novel and some of my colleagues would do it. On this occasion however, I stayed down too long and didn’t complete a decompression stop on the way up, so I ran out of oxygen.

“As a result, I had to resurface without letting my body adjust to the changing pressure, and when I got out of the sea I immediately knew I was in trouble.

“Sure enough, the bends hit me with full force, and I passed out and fell face forward into the incoming sea. It was only thanks to some observant people on the beach that I didn’t drown.”

After being resuscitated, Simon was rushed to hospital to be placed in a dive chamber, and then was flown back to the UK where he stayed in Salisbury Spinal Injury Centre for five months to continue his recovery. The damage from the decompression sickness however was irreversible. Following the incorrect ascent, dissolved gases in Simon’s blood had turned into bubbles and they crushed his spinal cord.

Now living in Bideford, Simon walks supported with crutches, and uses a wheelchair to get around easily at home, but living in rural Devon has proved a problem for wider travel. This is where Aspire came to the rescue.

“There’s no tarmac around my house,” Simon explains. “Normal wheelchairs aren’t designed for the heavy and hilly north Devon terrain! Aspire helped me purchase a heavy weight steel hand cycle to help me get out and indulge in cycling again – albeit in a different way from my ultra-fit days.

“Aspire also helped me purchase a light weight racing hand bike so I can get back into fast cycling and my goal is to travel the whole width of the UK in a coast to coast challenge.  I will of course be raising money for Aspire who has helped give me my freedom back.”

Sign up for this year’s Aspire Channel Swim and help other people like Simon who need help in getting around after Spinal Cord Injury.

Blog 07 Simon Mackie On His Robust Hand Bike