A fundraising drive has been launched to help support a young man, who suffered life-changing injuries in a downhill mountain bike accident.
On Sunday 12 July, 21-year-old Jake Halling met with a group of his friends – as he did most weekends to enjoy one of their favourite outdoor activities – downhill mountain biking.
However this day was different for Jake. Despite successfully clearing and landing a large and fast downhill jump – something he had done countless times before – on this occasion, when landing the jump, the front suspension forks on his bike snapped off.
This caused the bike to stop immediately, where Jake took the full force and speed of the impact – and as a result, Jake suffered a complete spinal cord injury, leaving him without use and feeling of his body from the chest down.
Jake, who is currently a patient on Gladstone Ward within the Midland Centre for Spinal Injuries (MCSI) at The Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital (RJAH), also suffered from multiple face injuries and a broken neck.
Now as Jake comes to terms with his injuries, his family have set up a fundraising appeal to help them with his future needs, including making the family home accessible to Jake, by building an annexe adjoining their home.
So far, the appeal has raised more than £46,000 – as well as a number of businesses and individuals coming forward with offers of their time and skills to plan, estimate the cost, build, fit out and finish the build to support Jake’s needs.
Jake says he and his family have been “absolutely blown away” by the generosity and support shown by family and friends, especially the Bromyard Cricket Club and local community for recent fundraising events.
He said: “We can’t begin to thank everyone enough for the kindness they’ve shown me and my family during this time. We’ve even had complete strangers get in touch, donate or offer any help they can, it’s been absolutely phenomenal.
“I’ve always been someone who’s been happy to quietly go about my life under the radar but I realise that my family and I can’t do this by ourselves.”
A self-employed builder, Jake has always lived an extremely active lifestyle, as well as biking, he also enjoys fishing and kayaking in his free time.
“My injuries have been a lot to come to terms with, I’m trying to remain positive but some days are hard. I’m so used to being busy and active, so it’s a big adjustment,” he said.
“It’s frustrating because I’ve had bigger crashes than this before, in the past I’ve fallen, I’ve cleared bigger jumps, I’ve even been wrapped around trees, I’ve had some close shaves, so for me it’s dealing with the fact that it was down to the bike and that was out of my own control. It really goes to show that you never know what’s around the corner.
“My focus now is to keep as positive as I can and continue to stay strong and make progress. The team on MCSI have been absolutely incredible, I know I’m in the very best hands right now.”
Jake has been at RJAH for just over nine weeks now – and is making solid progress, having started daily Physiotherapy sessions, which have seen him start to sit up.
Rebecca Ward, MCSI Ward Manager, has praised Jake for his resilience and determined attitude.
She said: “Jake is a truly amazing young man, he’s very headstrong and extremely driven. We’re all incredibly proud of the progress he’s made so far.
“I have seen many patients like Jake that go on and live life to the extreme and the fullest, and with Jake’s passion and determination, I know he will achieve the very best.
“It’s still early days but in the coming months, as Jake gets closer to returning home, our fantastic Resettlement team will have a huge part to play in this. Supporting Jake and his family, the team will plan his discharge from the hospital, as well identify his care and equipment requirements, as well as liaising with health and social services.
“They will play a vital role in determining what Jake will need long-term.”
If you are able to donate towards Jake’s fundraising appeal, you can do so via the JustGiving link here: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/gemma-halling-smith?fbclid=IwAR3pVz917E1MGODh3I3azCe8nAQeROevnIRWw1JpRxfyA4kbBuHgru5yl0c