Life Video

By Becca Husselbee


A keen skier and outdoor enthusiast was left paralysed in his own garden when a fall while playing with his small dog left him with damage to his spine.

Jeff Sykes, 68, was a month into his retirement after an active life, regularly visiting the Alps and mountains in Colorado, as well as playing golf and attending his local gym.

But one evening back in November 2016, the former marketing manager opened the back door of his home in Lepton, Huddersfield, who he shares with his wife Carol, 50, to let out their border terrier, Jess, when he slipped over her, causing life changing damage to his spinal cord.

Doctors told Jeff that he is unlikely to walk again and he has now been left unable to carry out simply everyday tasks, having planned to spend his retirement years in the outdoors with his wife, who is now his carer.

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Jeff said: “I have spent my whole life being active and so to be told that I was unlikely to walk again was very hard for me to cope with.

“It been hard to adjust but because I’m now disabled it doesn’t mean that I’m a different person, I’m still me, I’m just sitting down now.

“Everyone who has helped with my recovery has been amazing and I can’t thank for my wife and network of friends enough for their support.

“The thing I miss most is taking Jess out for walks, we live in a lovely rural area and I miss being outdoors a lot as we would often visited the Lake District together.”

“We could never blame the dog it was just a freak accident. We love her to bits.”

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Back in November the couple had been watching TV before Jeff had let four-year-old dog, Jess, out into the garden and slipped whilst playing with her, causing his vertebrae to push onto nerves in his spine.

Jeff was rushed to Leeds General Infirmary where he underwent two spinal operations and was later transferred to Pinderfield’s General Hospital to start six-months of rehabilitation.

He said: “Jess must have pulled me off balance, causing me to fall and I banged my head on the step.

“I realised straight away that I couldn’t move my arms or legs.

“When I fell, I was in so much pain I couldn’t even shout out for help, I couldn’t get any sound out.

“Carol found me in the garden and called the ambulance.”

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Before his injury, Jeff and his wife Carol, who runs her own cleaning business, often went skiing twice a year after Jeff taught her on the slopes, as well as also playing football well into his 40’s, playing golf at his local club and regular visited a gym to keep fit.

Jeff even spent the day skiing with British Olympic champion, Martin Bell, back in 2003 on the slopes of the Colorado mountains.

Now classed as tetraplegic, Jeff is cared for at home by his loving wife, who he describes as his rock, standing by his side throughout his ordeal, but says he will not give up hope of improving his quality of life.

He said: “I really committed myself to the rehab work and would put the work in, even after my session with my physiotherapist had finished.

“I spent my whole life training so this was just the same.

“My goal was to walk out of the hospital but that just didn’t happen and I felt like I had let people down.

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“But never say never and I keep as positive as I can.”

The couples home has been adapted to allow Jeff more freedom, with the inclusion of a wetroom and ramp leading to his front room, but the couple are now hoping to raise funds for a second ramp into this garden, so Jeff can enjoy the outdoors once again.

He said: “They won’t operate again as it is too much of a risk but I’m never giving up, I won’t be beaten.

“I can’t let the people down who put so much time and effort into trying to help me.”

Any donations can be made to Jeff’s fundraising page: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/grayes-jeffsykes