With her morning swim behind her, Claire Danson headed out the door and jumped on her bike. Moments later, she collided with a tractor leaving her paralysed from the waist down and in a desperately critical condition.
“It would be really easy to say, ‘Oh, if only I hadn’t gone out on my bike’ or, ‘If only I’d have had a cup of coffee before I left, I’d have left about 10 minutes later.’ But I never really dwell on that – it’s kind of irrelevant and it doesn’t help my situation,” says Claire.
Speaking to her just days before the second anniversary of her accident, Claire reflects on it with positivity: “I don’t really see it as a day that this terrible thing happened to me. Although it was obviously terrible. I’m fortunate that I’ve got a great life. It isn’t the life I would’ve chosen or that I’d planned, but it’s not a day that I’ll look back on with any sadness.”
Sharing the news
Two months after her accident, Claire detailed her multiple and complex injuries on Instagram:
“I suffered two punctured lungs, broke a finger, both wrists, the head of my humerus and both shoulders. I also fractured all of the bones in my neck, including a break to one, and had multiple fractures and breaks to every one of my ribs.
“Unfortunately, I also suffered a complete sever to my spinal cord at T9. This means that I am paralysed from my belly button downwards.”
As well as the ongoing physical recovery and rehabilitation that comes with such injuries, Claire has called upon her sporting background to offer mental resilience.
“You effectively wake up one day and your body is completely different to how you’ve ever known it,” she says.
“That can make you feel quite differently about yourself. We’ve all had moments of feeling negatively about ourselves , and with a spinal cord injury you can question that quite easily. I think that is what probably gave me the toughest of times. But thanks to my years of training, I was able to just crack on and realise that eventually, it’ll get easier.”
“But I am incredibly lucky with the amazing support I have had – by no means did I go through any of it by myself.”
Returning to the track
Having won her age group at the 2019 European Championships prior to the accident, Claire’s sights were set firmly on becoming a professional triathlete. From the moment she could communicate in her hospital bed, Claire was determined to return to the track. Unable to speak as she lay there surrounded by the medical team and her family, Claire used a board to communicate to her family: ‘Paralympics’ being the second word she spelled out.
In the summer of 2021, Claire lived out that dream by taking part in the world’s longest single-day triathlon: The 255 Triathlon. A 5km swim, 200km cycle and a 50km run/push.
“The idea was to try and complete it all. I did all of the swim, 120km on the bike and 40km of the run, which was more than we thought I was going to do.
“Coming from the background that I do, I was really worried I’d be disappointed if I didn’t finish it all. But there was no way I could be disappointed: it was incredible. All of my friends were there, and the support was just amazing.”
“My brother always says to me, ‘You’re living the exact same life that you did before, you’re just living it sat down.’ I think he’s right.”
Never one to stop pushing the limits of what she’s capable of, Claire is dreaming big for the future. “Ultimately, I’d love to go to the Paralympics. That is the pinnacle. I know it’s really hard and I might not be good enough, but that’s OK because I will love the journey. I’m still doing something I love, and I’ll give it my absolute best. And if I’m good enough, amazing.”
Thanks to donations from people like you, we were able to fly to Claire and treat her for her life-changing injuries. Giving her the chance of being at the Paralympics.
“I had limited knowledge of the Air Ambulance before my accident. But me and my family know that I wouldn’t be alive today without them.”
Donate today and help us be there for patients like Claire.