A “down-to-earth” dad involved in a freak paddling pool accident has been left paralysed from the neck down for the rest of his life.
The 41-year-old lost consciousness before being pulled out and rushed to hospital.
It was then doctors discovered he had broken his neck and severed his spinal cord.
Now Simon’s devastated family are coming to terms with the fact the British Army veteran – he served for 20 years – will be paralysed for the rest of his life.
“He’s such an active guy and he’s done a lot in the military, serving in Afghanistan, Iraq and Bosnia,” said his brother Mile Cooper, 43, who lives in Wales.
“He’s also spent most of his life as an active body builder where he competed in strongman competitions.
“So for something like this to happen – a freak accident – it’s tough to take.”
Dad-of-two Simon was taken to Southampton General Hospital where he was found to have broken his C4 vertebrae near the base of his neck. He had also fractured his skull.
He was placed on a ventilator to help him breathe and at one point needed a life support machine.
“That first weekend was terrible for all the family,” recalled Mike.
“When we found out he was put on life support we all just broke down. We didn’t know if he was going to survive.”
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, only Simon’s wife Leanne Cooper and his two children, aged 16 and 18, have been able to visit.
“We have been able to do Zoom and Facetime with him, which is something,” added big brother Mike, also a dad-of-two who has served in the Navy for many years.
“Luckily we have been told that there is no brain damage, but he’s still only able to groan and mumble as he has a tube down his throat.
“He’s able to move his head and shoulders – and give us a smile.”
The family, who have a strong military background, say they are determined to look at the positives from this awful accident.
“We are a military-orientated family and we like challenges, so we’re well up for it,” added Mike, who said Simon had reached the rank of warrant officer level one and was two years away from retirement.
Simon, who lives in Wiltshire, but was in Hampshire at the time of the accident, can now breathe independently for short periods off the ventilator. But it is thought he will never have movement in the top or lower half of his body again.
He will now need significant adaptations to his home once he is discharged from hospital.
A GoFundMe campaign set up by Mike five days ago has already raised just shy of £15,000.
“It’s unbelievable how quickly this has been raised. No-one has even started on organising fundraising events yet,” said Mike.
“He has so many friends in the military from across the country.
“He has this big body builder look to him and all these tattoos, but he’s the kindest, loveliest guy – and the most down-to-earth man you will ever meet.”
It is hoped Simon will be transferred to a military recovery unit in Leicester as he continues to make improvements.
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