Ottery man’s battle from the brink of suicide

A BRAVE Ottery man has spoken of his battle back from the brink of suicide after a tragic car crash killed his baby sister and left him badly disabled.

James Gardner was just five when the horror smash left him fighting for his life in a coma with severe brain damage.

Doctors feared he would never recover and considered turning off his life support machine.

He woke weeks later completely paralysed down his left side.

Now 30, West Hill resident James has struggled to overcome severe disability and bouts of crushing depression on his way to making a remarkable recovery.


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He has penned a book of his two-decade journey in the hope it will raise cash for the specialist school that first helped him after the accident.

James and his family were returning from a skiing holiday in 1986 when they were involved in a catastrophic car crash.

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His parents were badly injured. Little sister Katie, just two, was killed instantly. James remained on a life support machine for weeks and also suffered a crushed pelvis.

“I wasn’t expected to survive, and if I did doctors feared I would be a cabbage in a wheelchair for the rest of my life,” he told the Herald.

After waking from a coma James was paralysed down the left side of his body and remained in hospital for four months.

“In the blink of an eye I had been transformed from a gregarious, bright little boy into a physical and mental shadow of my earlier self,” he said.

James had to re-learn the most basic motor skills from scratch in a gruelling rehabilitation regime that lasted for years. The strain of the fight began to show as he reached adulthood. He admits trying to take his own life on several occasions.

“I felt devastated that I wasn’t able to reach the level of normality I yearned for and was working so hard to achieve,” he said.

“I spiralled into depression and came dangerously close to ending it all on a number of occasions. I felt that there was no longer any point to life, and I had nothing to live for.

“I had pushed and pushed myself to get back to normal and wondered why I was bothering.

“When I asked my doctor for help the reality of my situation suddenly dawned on me, to give up would mean my lengthy fight would have been in vain.”

Eastfield resident James is now a picture of good health. He still suffers from a slight limp. He has travelled the world, taught English abroad, and helped youngsters come to terms with their disabilities.

All proceeds from his book, On the Edge: Stepping Back form the Brink of Suicide, will go to Vranch House in Exeter, which cares for children with physical difficulties and helped him.

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