Jim Taylor

THE scrum was set. We lost the first two scrums and I was going to do everything I could to make sure we didn’t lose a third. I dropped my right shoulder slightly and shifted to the left to give me the strike advantage…

The next thing I remember was lying on the turf with my legs feeling like balloons behind me. I watched as the ball went through the opposition’s hands but I couldn’t get up to chase the ball. My right arm was under me and wouldn’t move. I wasn’t in pain, but I was struggling to breath.

The game was moved onto another pitch. My pals Charles Berry and Jack Smart weren’t playing due to injury and they kept me going with chat and covered me in blankets. The opposition’s stand-off and winger – Roddy Macleod and Paul Rodgers – were both doctors. They kept me still and reassured me everything would be alright. “Keep with us”, they kept telling me. They knew something was terribly wrong.

Although breathing was becoming increasingly difficult, I was still blissfully unaware of what was happening. My system was closing down and I was now breathing from my diaphragm due to a C5/C6 neck break.

I heard the ambulance arrive, but with recent wet weather, it had no access to a lower pitch due to lack of grip on the grass banking. Eventually, the old rusted metal fence was cut so the ambulance could pull up alongside me. A clip stretcher slipped underneath me from both sides and I was manoeuvred onto it, and into the ambulance. Charles and Jack stayed faithfully alongside me.

I thought back to the start of the day, when I was enjoying my usual pre-match ritual of two rolls and sausage with a hefty dollop of tomato sauce. I was representing my school’s former pupil team, Kelvinside Academicals. It was always one of the highlights of my week - getting to play fast, running rugby with some of my closest friends. I began to think that was something I may never be able to do again.

Jack had had the unenviable task of phoning my parents to tell them what happened. I was rushed into Intensive care where Paul was waiting. The match had finished, Kelvinside lost.

He cut my strip off. I felt helpless, like a new-born baby. My skull was drilled and a weighted halo dropped over the back of the bed to stretch my vertebrae apart. Then, it was a waiting game until inflammation went down and x-rays were assessed. I was turned every two hours very carefully as neck unstable, to avoid sores. Dignity was a thing of the past. I recall the sombre faces – I knew it wasn’t good – nobody had to say anything.

Six weeks later I was told I wouldn’t walk again because of a break and dislocation. There were two options, take the challenge on or give-up. I had been a competitor all my life and wasn’t going to stop now. I gave my everything to rehab. I had to learn to feed, use a wheelchair and brush my teeth. I’m paralysed from the nipple line and my fingers don’t move individually but I make a point not to complain, because I love my life.

My wife Sandra is my angel without wings, and my friends from my rugby days and school days have never been far away. The rugby community really pulled together to help me and that’s why I continue to do ambassador work for Hearts & Balls, a charity which helps rugby help its own. I get to mentor sports people who experience similar injuries and work with them to move on with their life.

Rugby’s still a huge part of my life. I still work with Scottish Rugby as a partnership account manager for Glasgow Warriors and love being part of the rugby community. The sport has given me far more than it has taken.

Jim Taylor M.B.E. is an ambassador for Hearts and Balls. To find out more about how you can support or donate, visit www.heartsandballs.org.uk.