In March 2008, Wayne Burton had need of Devon Air Ambulance when he was just 24 years old. He was a jockey competing in a National Hunt hurdle race at Exeter Race Course when he fell from his horse as it flew over a hurdle. Knocked unconscious at the scene. Wayne has no recollection of anything from the day. His injuries included a broken back, leaving him paraplegic from the chest down and, subsequently, wheelchair bound.

Having since seen the incident on video Wayne is philosophical about his accident. “It was ‘a bit nasty’ but it happened doing something that I loved; I always knew the risks. I’d been racing since I was 14 and seen many accidents, some far worse than mine.  I’ve been very lucky to be supported by my family, great friends and the Injured Jockeys Club.”

Along with his back injuries, Wayne also suffered a head injury, which lead to seizures and affected his speech. He recalls being in hospital with Doctors asking him to identify certain objects – he knew what they were but was unable to communicate verbally. Speech therapy helped, learning from scratch to say one word at a time. Wayne describes it as “a scary time, like being reborn. I had to learn to do everything all over again.”  Finally, although it took two years, Wayne was able to speak ‘normally’ again.

Meanwhile, his determination not to be beaten amazed staff at the hospital and Wayne was allowed home six months after the accident. His spirit remained strong and he remembers feeling grateful to be alive. Inevitably, he had good days and bad days – the bad days punctuated by feelings of regret, not about never being able to ride a horse again, but rather that he could no longer kick a football.

Instead, Wayne took solace in fishing. Having fished regularly since childhood and to stave off boredom as he recovered, Wayne was invited to join friends in their hobby. They quickly recognised that their friend showed real promise and encouraged him to compete.

Despite initial reservations, Wayne was persuaded and in his first charity match he came 2nd; a real boost to his confidence.  Since then Wayne has continued to compete and enjoys fishing competitively all around the Home Counties.

Not content with fishing, however, Wayne has also taken up wheelchair basketball. “I love the fishing – it’s a personal challenge and you win or lose on your own skill and merit. Basketball, on the other hand, is a team sport and I love the team spirit and challenge of working together and all the camaraderie that goes with that. Both sports offer different rewards.”

Keen to return to work, Wayne was aware that having pursued his dream of being a professional jockey since leaving school, he had no formal qualifications. Initially volunteering to help in a local fishing shop, offering his computer and social media skills, his efforts were rewarded and he now works three full afternoons a week for them – and is paid!

“Life is good,” Wayne explained. “I’m fiercely independent and live happily with my dog, Willis. He’s a 5-year old lab-cross and is my absolute world. I still go to the Injured Jockey’s rehabilitation centre once a week – they’ve been fantastic all the way through and continue to offer physiotherapy when I need it. I’ve met loads of amazing and inspiring people since the accident. I don’t know whether I’ll ever walk again but medical science is progressing all the time, so who knows!”

Our patient stories are very important to us as they help supporters to hear our message. However, due to patient confidentiality we only hear from about 15% of patients, so if you do have a story to share, no matter how long after the incident or accident, we would love to hear from you