LIFE was looking very good for Will Clark when, one sunny summer’s morning, he set out with a group of friends to complete a charity bike ride around Thirlmere.
Only two days ealier, the 27-year-old had been promoted from trainee to an assistant manager at the Rothay Garden Hotel in Grasmere.
He was also feeling exhilarated on that fateful July 7 morning because he and a group of friends had just completed a marathon swim on Grasmere to raise cash for a cystic fibrosis charity, inspired by his 14-year-old cousin Lucy Baxter who has the illness.
Afterwards, Will and his friends decided to extend the challenge to include a bike ride around Thirlmere.
“I was probably the fittest out of the four of us and got out in front,” Will recalled.
“It was a lovely summer’s day and I remember stopping to admire the beautiful views around the lake. I was particularly struck by the brightness of the sun and the perfect stillness of the landscape.”
After the brief pause, Will — who was wearing a helmet — cycled off again to keep his lead, but in a split second his world was to be changed forever.
“It happened so quickly,” he said. “A little stick got caught in my wheel and it stopped me dead. I was thrown forward and landed on my neck.
“I should have known to stay still, just to lie on my back but I didn’t realise what kind of injury I might have; that it would be spinal. I sat up and felt my arms and legs just lock up and that was it.”
What Will didn’t realise was that his injuries were not just disabling, but potentially life-threatening.
That’s when he had his first stroke of luck. The first person to stop and help him was a nurse who realised the seriousness of his situation and tended him as best she could.
An air ambulance was called and quickly on the scene and within half an hour Will was at Newcastle General Infirmary where he was put on a ventilator and underwent emergency surgery, during which a small piece of metal was placed in the side of his neck to support the top of his spinal column.
He was then transferred to the Golden Jubilee Regional Spinal Cord Unit in Middlesbrough.
Will is now off his ventilator and able to use a chin-contolled wheelchair and a computer via a nose-operated ‘mouse’.
Mum Angela said : “Will is doing OK — just desperate to be home; desperate to be out on the fells.
“He’s doing really well with his chair and computing skills. Last week he had his first experience of the hydro pool which he enjoyed.”
Action man around the world
WILL Clark has always loved the active outdoor life.
He was toddling on the fells from an early age and began fell running competitively from the age of eight.
The 27-year-old also developed into a keen skier, mountain biker, swimmer and footballer.
So when it came to deciding how to help a family fundraising campaign, it was no surprise that Will chose to do his bit by taking on a major physical challenge.
With his friends, he decided a marathon swim of his local lake, the Grasmere Channel Swim, would be a great way to raise cash for The Cystic Fibrosis Trust - inspired by Will’s 14-year-old cousin Lucy Baxter, who has the life-threatening condition.
The aim was for a team of swimmers to between them complete the equivalent distance of a double English channel crossing.
Last year, the first Grasmere swim raised £18,000. This year Will and his friends hoped to raise a further £20,000 - but it is believed this has already been exceeded, with an estimated £22,000 raised.
It is not the first time Will used his physical prowess to help a charitable cause. In 2006, Will was part of a team which pulled a disabled friend up to the summit of Helvellyn in a modified wheelchair.
His mother Angela Clark told the Gazette: “It seems slightly ironic now that Will himself will need support to get back on the hills - help that Gazette readers can give him by donating to the Wheels for Will Appeal.”
How you can help
- Send your donation (cheques only) made payable to The Will Clark Fund, along with your name, address, contact telephone number and email address to: Wheels for Will, c/o Allan Tunningley, The Westmorland Gazette, 1 Wainwright’s Yard, Kendal, Cumbria, LA9 4DP. Cheques should be marked on the back ‘Wheels for Will’.
- Alternatively, you can donate via online banking or at a bank branch to the following account: Santander, P O Box 383, 21 Prescot Street, London, E1 8RP. Sort code: 09-01-28; Account number: 34788191; Account Name: The Will Clark Fund; Quote as reference: Wheels for Will.