A heartbroken wife has spoken out about the bicycle ride that left her husband in a wheelchair, after his path was blocked by two logs deliberately left by ‘trail saboteurs.’
Simon Jones has been an avid cyclist since childhood, but he really found his passion for cycling after a heart attack in August 2017 triggered a health kick.
On August 13, 2018 the 57-year-old went for a bike ride on one of his regular trails in Surrey.
He went hurtling downhill at 20mph, unable to avoid two logs that had been deliberately placed on the path.
Simon suffered catastrophic injuries including a brain bleed so severe that he lost all control of his left side and has been unable to walk properly again.
A year after he was discharged, Simon and his wife Sarah are speaking out to raise awareness of the scourge of trail saboteurs and the havoc they wreak.
Sarah recalled the day he was injured, saying: “It was around one hour after Simon left that he called me and said, ‘Sarah, I’ve crashed’.
“At first, I didn’t think anything of it, after all he was able to phone me. I rolled my eyes and thought, ‘Now I’ve got to go and find him’.
“On my way to the trail I drove past Sainsbury’s and thought ‘Shall I buy some plasters?’ and then thought ‘No, he’ll be fine’.”
But Simon had fallen foul of trail saboteurs – whose vandalism elsewhere in the country has included placing chicken wire across trails to unseat cyclists, as well as scattering nails across the path to puncture tyres.
He recalled: “I was cycling at about 20mph, which is standard speed for the downhill part of an off-road trail.
“Suddenly, I saw two logs that had been purposely placed across the path. It was too late for me to brake, so my only option was to try and jump the bike over them.”
He added: “But the bike frame got caught and the bike went tumbling down the side of the hill, taking me with it and as I fell, I bashed my head.
“After that my life has never been the same again.”
Sarah recalled how she found Simon limping along with his bike, blood spattered all over him and barely able to speak.
She said: “I found him walking down the trail with his bike and rucksack and blood everywhere – all over his face and clothes.
“He didn’t look like my husband. I was so shocked, I remember managing to mutter, ‘Simon is that you?’”
Driving him straight to nearby East Surrey Hospital, Simon was rushed into theatre, but passed out on the operating table.
“All I could do was plead with the Almighty that I wouldn’t become a widow,” said Sarah.
Simon had suffered a devastating brain bleed- it took around an hour for the brain bleed to properly take hold, and once it did, he lost all feeling in his left side.
“He’d been able to walk when I found him at the trail, because the brain bleed hadn’t properly set in,” said Sarah. “As soon as it did, he became left side negligent, which is basically paralysed on the left side. He couldn’t move his left arm or leg, let alone sit up.
“He’d also suffered a soft break to the neck and back and couldn’t see properly out of the left side of both eyes, because of the brain bleed.
“But even knowing that, we had no idea of what lay ahead of us.”
For the next five days, Simon’s brain continued to bleed and his condition deteriorated.
His first physio session three days after the incident revealed the true extent of his injuries.
Sarah said: “He couldn’t even sit up. His whole body was like a sack of potatoes, which he had no control over.
“He could speak, but most of the time he was just out of it, refusing to talk about what had happened. It was like there was an elephant in the room – and he wasn’t crying, he was just numb.”
She added: “The real torture was not knowing if or when he’d be able to get the feeling back in his left side.”
Ironically, cycling had been Simon’s saviour after he suffered a heart attack in August 2017.
Recalling the heart attack, Sarah explained: “One night he woke up saying he’d had extreme pain in both arms, I just thought he’d slept on it a bit funny. But actually he’d had a heart attack.
“We were oblivious to it. Then, a week later, we went on holiday to France and Simon was huffing and puffing.
“It wasn’t like the Simon I knew and loved so, when we got home, he went to the doctor’s and had an ECG.”
To the couple’s horror it was confirmed that Simon had suffered a heart attack two weeks earlier and he was fitted with three stents – wire mesh with a balloon catheter to reopen the blood vessel – inserted into his clogged artery at East Surrey Hospital.
Simon resolved to get fit after the incident and cycling was a hobby the couple both enjoyed to do.
Sarah said: “He’d been into cycling since a teenager. He’d cycle to work, cycle in his spare time and then he got into off-road cycling.
“And we’d go on cycling holidays together across the UK, to places like Wales or Somerset. It used to be an exhilarating hobby that we both shared, but not anymore.”
Simon required specialist help after the crash- he was transferred to he was transferred to Queen Elizabeth Foundation (QEF) for Disabled People’s Neuro Rehab service in Surrey.
For Sarah, this was when she realised just how bad things truly were.
She added: “I was mortified, I’d always thought Simon would come home, but he was actually going to a brain injury rehab centre.”
Luckily, thanks to the excellent care he received, Simon’s condition started to improve.
“When we went to the centre Simon couldn’t even sit up,” said Sarah. “But by the time he left, they’d worked so much on his core strength that he was able to sit up by himself.”
“Everyone from the cook to the cleaner – every single member of staff we came into contact with – was so professional and capable and supported us as a couple.”
Simon added: “They were amazing. No other place compares or was in the same league.”
Simon was finally allowed home after seven months in hospital, but he remains in a wheelchair and needs constant support.
“He still has weekly physio sessions,” said Sarah. “In the most recent one he was able to walk 25 metres with the aid of a quad stick – which is a huge achievement for him.”
She continued: “But our lives have changed forever. Simon has to sleep in a hospital bed downstairs and our entire house has been kitted out with specialist equipment to help him.
“Whereas we both had great jobs, I’m now his full-time carer because he needs constant support.
“And he still hasn’t accepted what’s happened and that he’ll never be the man he once was.”
Sarah added: “Whoever the vandal was that put those logs across that trail pathway has stolen our lives from us.
“They’re walking around free, while we are left grieving for our old life.
“It’s been soul destroying for both of us and Simon will have a disability for the rest of his life because of this one stupid, inhuman act.”
Despite the gravity of what has happened, Simon wants nothing more than to get back on his bike.
“Without Sarah I might not be here, she’s been so motivational, she’s given me a purpose and a reason to live and take each day as it comes,” he said.
“If I hadn’t been wearing a helmet that day, I wouldn’t be here now, so I’d urge any cyclist anywhere to always wear a helmet, be aware and expect the unexpected.
Simon concluded: “All I want to do now is to get better, but more than anything, I want to get fit and well enough so that one day I can get back on my bike.”
Karen Deacon, Chief Executive for QEF, which is fundraising for a new rehabilitation centre in Leatherhead, Surrey, said: “QEF’s new Care and Rehabilitation Centre is a £15 million development which represents the largest ever investment in the charity’s facilities.
“We are creating a modern and comfortable centre that will be a hub of disability expertise, focused on helping people, like Simon, with complex disabilities to achieve their potential.”
She continued: “The Edward Guinness Appeal launched in November 2019 at a fundraiser, which both Simon and Sarah attended to share their own story in order to help raise funds for the new centre.
“The Appeal is committed to raising the £2.7 million needed for this fantastic new centre and we hope everyone will support us so we can achieve this. ”
To find out more about the appeal, visit this website.