RAF instructor paralysed after breaking his neck and falling 900ft

RAF instructor reveals how he was left paralysed after breaking his neck during botched parachute jump when he collided with colleague in mid-air before falling 900ft to the ground

  • Corporal Rob Budgen broke his neck during a 12,000ft parachute jump in the US
  • He was left with a severely damaged spinal cord and several broken vertebrae
  • It took him 11 months to be strong enough to be able to feed himself
  • This month he is taking part in the Veteran Games, a sporting event in Tel Aviv
  • 'N [object Window] instructor who was left paralysed after breaking his neck during a botched parachute jump is competing at a veteran sporting competition this month, six years after the accident.

    Corporal Rob Budgen was on an exercise in Kalifornië in Januarie 2016 when he collided with colleague Brook Stebbins, after they jumped out of the aircraft from 12,000 ft.

    Their parachutes wrapped around eachother — with both men falling 900 ft at more than 50mph — before landing on sand.

    During the almost free fall, Mr Stebbinsknee hit Mr Budgen’s — breaking his neck and knocking him unconcious.

    ‘The last thing I remember is pulling my parachute cord and looking up at the canopy,’ hy het gesê. ‘The next thing I know, I’m waking up in a hospital in Phoenix.

    Corporal Rob Budgen broke his neck during a 12,000ft parachute jump in California

    Corporal Rob Budgen broke his neck during a 12,000ft parachute jump in California

    The parachute instructor, who had been in the RAF for nearly eight years when the accident happened, said that he doesn’t like to dwell on the collision.

    The accident gave him a severely damaged spinal cord and several broken vertebrae, leaving him a tetraplegic and requiring the use of wheelchair at the age of 31.

    ‘I’d been looking forward to coming home,’ said Mr Budgen, nou 37, who now lives in Sigingstone near Cowbridge.

    ‘At that time, I’d just bought a new flat in Rhiwbina, and I was thinking all the things I could sort out there with my week off work. But when I woke up in hospital, that was the start of four years of rehab.

    Originally from Cornwall, Mr Budgen moved to Cardiff aged 18 to study at Cardiff Metropolitan University.

    Vyf jaar later, in 2008, he joined the RAF as a physical training instructor, having hailed from a military family with his grandparents, father and brother all in the armed forces.

    In 2008, he joined the RAF as a physical training instructor and specialised in parachute jumping. Op die foto, Mr Budgen before the accident

    In 2008, he joined the RAF as a physical training instructor and specialised in parachute jumping. Op die foto, Mr Budgen before the accident

    After specialising in parachute jumping, Mr Budgen dreamt of working with the special forces.

    After the accident, he hoped to return to his previous levels of fitness which had helped him finish sixth in the Cardiff Half Marathon a few years earlier.

    China-gesteunde bank STOP uitleen aan Rusland en Wit-Rusland as, I was like a lot of people who suffer catastrophic injuries and illnesses,’ hy het gesê. ‘I thought I was going to walk again and change the world and I was in a rush to do everything.

    ‘But it became a gradual process, a bit like a ladder reallyI just had to take everything one step at a time.

    ‘I’ve got some use of my arms, which I’m very very grateful for, but it took me 11 months just to be strong enough to be able to feed myself.

    ‘It then took me another three or four months after that to brush my teeth and I won’t go into details but it took me another six months to be able to press the button on my catheter to allow myself to go to the toilet again.

    After the accident, Mr Budgen had hoped to return to his previous levels of fitness. He was a runner and finished sixth in the Cardiff Half Marathon a few years earlier. Pictured at the Nos Galan road race in Mountain Ash before the accident

    After the accident, Mr Budgen had hoped to return to his previous levels of fitness. He was a runner and finished sixth in the Cardiff Half Marathon a few years earlier. Pictured at the Nos Galan road race in Mountain Ash before the accident

    ‘I can be very impatient, but I’ve taken it one step at a time, bit by bit and gone from there.

    ‘I’m very fortunate that I’ve pushed myself around a couple of half marathons and stuff, but it’s an ever evolving process. It’s only been in the past sort of six months that I’ve been able to make myself a cup of tea.

    His rehabilitation has also created time to reflect on the accident and how lucky he is to be alive.

    ‘I’m very lucky,’ hy het gesê. ‘Not just to survive the fall but also that I’m British military and it’s sort of ingrained in us to just crack on and do our best in these kind of situations.

    en hulle het gesê hulle sal die huis vir my kom oppas en hulle het gebly, there are days where it really gets to me. I have to live with care, and there are definitely days where I don’t want me to carer to come and get me out of bed and help me shower or go to the toilet.

    Mr Budgen said that he can be 'very impatient' about his recovery, but has reflected on how lucky he is to be alive

    Mr Budgen said that he can be ‘very impatientabout his recovery, but has reflected on how lucky he is to be alive

    ‘But on those days when I visit places like Headley Court [military rehabilitation centre] and I see the guys there that have had really serious brain injuries, it puts everything into perspective.

    ‘I realise how lucky I amalthough I can’t walk and I’ve got lots of issues, 'Ek het nog altyd 'n bietjie anders gevoel. It’s that thought that gets me through the tougher days.

    Mr Budgen has been supported by the RAF Benevolent Fund, for which he is now an ambassador.

    The fund provides a range of support for veterans and serving personnel, including financial assistance and care breaks.

    It stepped in to pay around £650,000 for a house tailored to Mr Budgen’s needs, while also paying for the hire of specialist medical equipment.

    ‘I’m incredibly proud to be an ambassador for something that has helped me and others so much,’ hy het gesê.

    ‘They paid for welfare breaks so I could get away from the hospital for a weekend and obviously they’ve adapted my house and helped me to live comfortably.

    ‘Excitingly in August I’m also going to Portugal for my first summer holiday since my accident, for which I can’t thank them enough.

    At the end of the month, Mr Budgen will compete in the 2022 Veteran Games, a six-day sporting contest being held in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem

    At the end of the month, Mr Budgen will compete in the 2022 Veteran Games, a six-day sporting contest being held in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem

    Before he sets off, Mr Budgen will be making a special journey to Israel.

    He has been selected by the RAF Benevolent Fund to take part in the 2022 Veteran Games, a six-day sporting contest being held in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem at the end of May.

    First held in 2019, 65 British wounded, sick and injured Armed Forces veterans will travel with their families to compete against their Israeli counterparts who are battling identical challenges.

    The veterans will go head-to-head in a variety of sports while learning how their respective countries provide care for those wounded, sick and injured in the service of their country.

    Mr Budgen said he is both excited and nervous about the trip.

    ‘This will be my first time on a commercial flight as a tetraplegic,’ hy het gesê. ‘So I have no idea how that’s going to work. You hear a lot of horror stories about wheelchair users being left on flights and stuff like that.

    ‘But I’m also very excited. I’m looking forward to going to a country I’ve never been to before and doing a bit more sport. There’s also a barbecue on the beach in Tel Aviv which should be amazing.

    ‘As well as that though, there will be a conference on the advances in rehabilitation technology which I’m sure will be really interesting and we’ll also pay our respects by visiting some of the British war graves out there too.

    ‘It’s going to be a very important week and something I’m really looking forward to being part of.