Over at Helping Hands, we’ve been humbled and inspired by one of our incredible customers, Jerry Ward from Cheshire. Affectionately known as “Fatty” to his family, Jerry sustained a serious spinal injury in 2007, which brought an end to a rewarding career within aviation. After several months of surgery and recovery, Jerry is passionate about showing others that there is life after a spinal injury.
Determined not to let his injury hold him back, Jerry has been taking part in the Great Manchester Run (or Fatty’s Big Push) with the support of his loyal friends, family, and health care professionals for nine years. This has given him some of the most fantastic memories, as well as the chance to give something back to those who have helped him through a difficult period in his life.
One life-changing moment
In November 2007, Jerry had just taken a swim in the sea off the coast of Mexico. As he left the water, a wave struck him from behind, which caused him to fall into the sand, breaking his neck and damaging his spinal cord. He was rushed to the hospital in Cancun, before being flown back to Manchester for surgery.
Fortunately Jerry’s operation was successful, but then followed a lengthy road to recovery. It was as he started this road that he came up with a goal – to complete the 2008 Great Manchester Run.
Getting back the “spark”
Much to the surprise and disbelief of everyone, Jerry was determined to take to the streets of Manchester just a few months after his injury. He describes the moment that he found that ‘spark’ as he recovered in hospital.
“In the first few days and weeks after my accident, I had some very dark moments,” Jerry says. “Then you realise, it is for sure worth carrying on. You have to find a way to overcome the obstacles and get that spark if you will. For me that came in hospital – I was in intensive care and couldn’t sit up in bed. The staff turned my bed around so that I could look out the only window that was in intensive care. After looking outside for a while, they asked if I was ready to be turned back around and I told them ‘no, thank you.’
“Outside is the future,” he explains. “It was a start of putting my accident behind me. Just being able to look out the window gave me a chance to see the future that was out there.”
In 2008, Jerry achieved his goal. Thanks to the wonderful support around him, Jerry completed the 10-kilometre Great Manchester Run, even finishing ahead of his wife! His story had captured the hearts of the media, with interviews all part of the fun.
Over the years, Jerry has had the opportunity to meet various celebrities and indulge in what he calls “shameless photobombing”, all in aid of raising money for charity and to spread the message that there is life after a spinal injury. Some of the many famous names that he has met along the way include Olympian Greg Rutherford and football legends Sir Bobby Charlton and Dennis Wise.
Fundraising is something that Jerry has done throughout his life, before and after his accident. In the nineties, during his time as a pilot, Jerry flew a supersonic Tornado aircraft to raise funds for Children in Need, and actively fundraises for Diabetes UK.
The Great Manchester Run 2017 – show Jerry your support
At this year’s Great Manchester Run held this Sunday on 28th May, Jerry is excited to be back at the start line again. This year he’s raising money for two charities close to his heart: Aspire and The Joshua Tree. He has also paid tribute to the wonderful organisers of the run for enabling him to fulfil his ambitions.
“I wanted to give the system something back,” Jerry explains. “Nobody expects to have a serious spinal cord injury. You have to make the most of every opportunity.”
Show your support for Jerry’s incredible journey and determination – donate to Jerry’s Big Push.
Good luck, Jerry – we’ll be cheering you on all the way!