‘I have to get on with things’ says adrenaline junkie paralysed in skiing accident

  • Dan Wierzbicki was paralysed in a skiing accident in France in March
  • 30-year-old adrenalin junkie was skiing off-piste when accident happed
  • Paralysed from chest down but is determined to get back into sport
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At a towering 6ft 3in, Dan Wierzbicki was an intimidating force on the American football pitch.

The adrenaline junkie readily admits he loved to go fast and lived life on the edge, even spending five years in the Territorial Army.

Dan Wierzbicki

Dan Wierzbicki

But in March a terrible accident while he was skiing off-piste down a mountain at 60mph left him paralysed from the chest down.

But do not think for one moment that months lying on his back in hospital left Dan, 30, feeling sorry for himself.

The remarkable sportsman intends to be back on the slopes again soon, albeit in a toboggan.

Dan, of Sixth Avenue, Cosham, was running a hotel in Les Arcs, France, at the time of the accident.

I crack jokes about my situation. My old flat mate bought me the film Brokeback Mountain on DVD. I thought it was really funny, it was brilliant.

Dan Wierzbicki

He explains what happened: ‘I went off skiing with a couple of guests off-piste.

‘I was going down a ridge line at about 60mph. There were rocks just underneath the snow which I didn’t know about. I lost control and started tumbling. I went backwards, hit my head on a rock and fractured my skull.

‘The force ripped my head forwards so much it broke C7 (vertebra) in my neck. I also broke three ribs and my sternum. I damaged T3 and T4 (vertebra) in my back.

‘It means I’ve got no feeling or muscle control in my armpits down – no abdominal muscles or anything.

‘I also broke the humerus in my right arm.

‘I was awake through it all. After I finished tumbling I tried to get up but nothing was working.

‘My right arm was very broken, tucked away behind my back. I grabbed it and it was all wobbly.

‘My legs had gone. I knew it was serious. But, lying there, I kind of accepted it straight away, which was so weird.’

One of the other skiers was a retired firefighter. Dan says: ‘It would have been so much more traumatic without him there. He alerted Piste Patrol and I was flown to Grenoble hospital by helicopter.

‘I was away with the fairies. All I wanted to do was go to sleep but they kept waking me up.’

Dan was in hospital in France for two weeks where he underwent major surgery – a plate put in his arm and rods in his back.

He was then flown to the Duke of Cornwall Spinal Treatment Centre, in Salisbury, where he had to lay flat for nine weeks.

And from there he was taken to Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham. He has been home and living with his parents for three weeks.

‘Obviously it was hard at times’, adds Dan.

‘There were good days and bad days when I didn’t want to talk to anyone.

‘But I’m really chilled out. I’ve pretty much always been like this.

‘When visitors came to see me they thought I would be a bit different because I’d had a head injury.

‘But I was still the same. I’ve got the same sense of humour and I’m always laughing and joking.

‘I crack jokes about my situation. My old flatmate bought me the film Brokeback Mountain on DVD.

‘I thought it was really funny, it was brilliant.’

Life has changed dramatically, but his attitude towards it has not.

He still fully intends to live it to the full, even if he is a bit more restricted than before.

‘I have to get on with things’ says Dan. There’s no point dwelling on what happened.

‘It was my own fault. Maybe if it had been a car accident I might feel differently, but there is no one to blame. I have to get on with things.

‘It’s hard being out of hospital purely because a house isn’t easy to get around.

‘The wards are big and everything is easy to get to. Trying to get around doorways at home and wheel on the carpet is particularly hard.

‘Bowel care and self-catheterising every day is annoying but it’s got to be done’.

Dan’s mum Sheila describes the moment they received the call to say Dan had been in an accident as ‘every parent’s worst nightmare’.

‘At first we thought it was a mistake,’ she adds.

‘Then we got a second call. It was chaotic from then on.

‘We were so scared about what we were going to find and hoping against hope the paralysis diagnosis was wrong.

‘But I find it absolutely amazing that he’s so calm about everything. Dan being so positive made us feel so much better.’

The next chapter for Dan is to move into his own adapted home.

Meanwhile he is planning to get the adrenaline pumping again.

He says: ‘I’ve skied since I was 18. I like to think I was a good skier – obviously until it all went a bit wrong.

‘I was in the TA for five years until 2012 and went on exercise in Gibraltar and skied for my battalion, 103, in Canada.

‘I loved my time in the TA. It was brilliant. I played American football. I was one of the first members of the Portsmouth Dreadnoughts. I would like to get back to as much sport as I can. I tried archery in hospital and I want to have a go at wheelchair rugby, murder ball.

‘I love adventure and I don’t intend to stop now.’