I began my career in the workshop of Butler’s Engineering, Portarlington and started my training as a welder / fabricator. Having completed my trade in 1980, I began working on various sites carrying out site repairs, welding / fabrication and steel fabrication and worked at that for two years building up my skills and experience.
Working in ABS Construction
Seeing that there was a niche in this area I decided to form my own company, ABS Construction & Shed Systems. Over the years, I built it up to be a successful construction company with a fabrication shop, a fleet of cranes, and a staff of twenty people and established a good reputation in the construction business which had various contracts in Ireland, England and Wales.
About the Fall
On October 15th 2005 at a galvanising plant in Dublin I was asked to repair a damaged roof. That morning we had completed the first stage of the process successfully and had taken down the safety gear moving it down site to prepare for another day’s work.
Getting back onto the roof to inspect the next day’s work and knowing the roof I was getting up on I was not wearing any safety equipment and in hindsight I know that that was not the right way to do it.
Slipping in the gutter I fell into the roof and twenty six feet to the ground below. That is the day that changed my life forever.
“It took James 3 seconds to fall 26 feet”
A Year in Intensive Care and Rehabilitation
I ended up in intensive care in Tallaght Hospital for three months paralysed, comatose and with brain injuries.
I awoke to the stark extent of my injuries, fourteen broken ribs, lungs half filled with blood and fractured vertebrae which pierced my spine at the T11.
I was transferred to the rehabilitation hospital in Dun Laoghaire with hopes of walking again but despite extensive physiotherapy, occupational and psychological treatment, and after seven months of rehabilitation I realised the true extent of my injuries, I learned and accepted that I would never walk again.
Adjusting to a Different Life
I returned to a home that I could not access, the door openings too narrow and the house entrance, bathrooms and other rooms not at the correct level for someone confined to a wheelchair. This was an extremely tough time not just for me, as my family were also deeply affected by this harsh reality. Not only had I lost my ability to walk and to work, my whole life and that of my family was changed forever.
I had to deal with this situation both physically and mentally and overcoming this painful tragedy and incredible adversity has inspired me to try to pass a message of awareness to others and where possible help to prevent others from being in my situation.