FOUR years ago, paralysed Sonny Wells felt all he had to look forward to was a bleak future.
The self-confessed ‘Jack the Lad’ was left paralysed from the chest down after jumping off South Parade Pier into the choppy sea below in a ‘tombstoning’ stunt.
He went from being an active young man who enjoyed football, golf and boxing to facing up to the new reality of being confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. It was extremely tough for Sonny, then 20, to face up to his new life.
He said: ‘I used to be housebound. I didn’t like going anywhere or seeing anyone. But even in the last few weeks I’ve got a lot of confidence back.’
That confidence has come because Sonny, now 25, was taken to the Paralympics in the summer and the experience was so powerful it gave him a new lease of life. He was inspired to join a wheelchair rugby team and is aiming to compete in the 2016 Paralympics in Brazil.
‘Until I watched wheelchair rugby at the Paralympics I never thought of doing anything like that,’ said Sonny.
‘But it was right up my street. I’m totally into it now. In two years I want to be good enough to be picked for the 2016 Paralympics in Rio.’
Sonny admits he found it difficult to accept he couldn’t take part in his favourite sports any more but his attitude has changed.
He said: ‘There’s obviously a lot I can’t do but there’s a lot I can. Four years ago I didn’t think I’d be doing anything like this. It’s taken four years to be able to accept I’m in a wheelchair. It’s taken a long time for me to get to grips with it and now I’ve found this sport I’m up for it all the time. You either laugh about it or cry about it. There is a lot more out there for me than sitting around.
‘For my level of disability what I can do is quite astounding.’
Sonny describes wheelchair rugby as ‘brutal’ and high impact. The wheelchairs needed cost in the region of £6,000 and although Sonny and his team mates at The Solent Sharks, in Southampton, are hiring them at the moment eventually he wants one of his own.
His mother Jacqui Unal is holding a charity event on November 8, from 6pm, at her shop, Havant Weight Loss and Beauty, in West Street. Charities will benefit and now Sonny’s wheelchair fund will too. She said: ‘Taking Sonny to the Paralympics is probably one of the best things we have ever done.’
Sonny’s accident in May 2008 happened when he jumped 30ft into just three feet of water in a practice known as tombstoning.
For what he calls ‘five minutes of madness’ he broke his neck in three places, leaving him paralysed from the chest down.
In 2010, he teamed up with the RNLI to make a film about his experiences to warn others not to make the same mistake and it has been watched almost 17,000 times on YouTube.
He said: ‘I can understand people my age doing it but when you hear of people in their 50s and 60s doing it you realise they’re never going to stop.’
To watch the video go to bitly.com/Vegcx3.