Thursday 14 November 2019

'I felt a click and heat in my neck and my body went limp immediately' - Irish student reveals moment he was paralysed in freak accident on holiday

Jack Kavanagh
Jack Kavanagh Newsdesk Newsdesk

A 22-year-old Irish student has spoken about the moment his life changed forever following a diving accident in Portugal.

Dubliner Jack Kavanagh had been studying Pharmacy at Trinity College and working as a lifeguard and windsurfing instructor when he went on holiday with friends in 2012.

On the first day of the trip they went to the beach and Jack dived into the water, something he had been doing all day.  However, on his last dive he hit a sandbank hidden behind the wave and broke his neck.

Speaking to Ryan Tubridy on 2FM, he said, "I was very calm.  I knew immediately what had happened.  I was so used to being in the water so I didn't panic at all.

"It was very simple, very straightforward.  All I felt was a little click and a bit of heat in my neck and my body just went limp immediately.

"As a lifeguard I had done training, I knew all the signs and symptoms.  I suppose I was the only one out of all my friends who really knew how to deal with the situation on the beach, which is kind of ironic."

Jack is quadriplegic and had to learn everything from scratch again.  He currently has control of his shoulders and biceps and wrists although he doesn't have control of his fingers and hands.

Although the language barrier in Portugal meant that Jack wasn't initially aware of his prognosis, he found out two months later when he was in rehab in Dublin and was told he would need two people to help him to do anything he wanted to do.

"From the outset I just said, no, that's not going to be the way it is going to be.  We're going to do everything in our power to defy that and I'm doing a pretty good job so far," said Jack.

Jack had been due to start his second year in Trinity and vowed to return to college just one year later to continue his studies.

"Somehow I managed to find myself back in college, living away from my family, only three months after leaving rehab and 12 months after the accident, and the first couple of months were a real struggle," he said.

However, he added, "But it gave me my life back again.  I had my friends around me, I was back studying, I could go to the gym, and that assisted in all other aspects of my life and allowed me to appreciate that I'm still the exact same guy that I was beforehand."

Before his accident, Jack had planned to go travelling with his best friend and found it difficult to then watch his friends taking the requisite student trips abroad while he remained at home.

However, he finally decided to make it happen for himself and has planned a trip to the west coast of the United States with several friends.

They depart on Monday and Jack is seeking funding from the public for a filmmaker friend to make a documentary about his journey.

"I have a slightly different set of circumstances to my mates but people in my situation have travelled the world before and I really want to document it to show to the broader public that fundamentally limitations are only perceived limitations and if you want something badly enough and put your mind to it you can achieve it."

If you would like to donate to fund the documentary click here

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