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James Heather

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James Heather

James Heather

I vaulted over, oblivious to the 18ft drop onto a marble floor.

When James Heather was seriously injured in a major fall, doctors feared he would die or that if he survived, he'd never be able to walk or talk again.

However, with grit and determination, James has rebuilt his life.

Here he shares some of his remarkable story that's often seen him dubbed a 'walking miracle'.

In December 2002, at the time of his accident, James was a first officer for British Airways and was fully embracing life in the skies.

"The hours weren't brilliant, but I got to go to all these great cities, and I loved it," he recalled. "I was quite charismatic and enjoyed going out with the stewardesses."

James could fly before he could drive, something he said, "was always a good chat up line for the girls".

"However, this gregarious streak would ultimately change my life forever,” said James.

“I was having a stayover in Paris and was not due to return to Heathrow until late the following day and arranged dinner out with two stewardesses and my pilot friend who had flown over with me.

"As we went to leave our hotel for dinner, I, assuming we were on the ground floor, decided to jump over a banister to show off. I vaulted over, oblivious to the 18ft drop onto a marble floor."

Given that he had fallen head-first, James's parents were told he might not make it through the night and that if he survived, he'd likely never walk again.

He underwent surgery to reduce swelling on his brain. This saw some of his skull removed, meaning only skin and hair were between his brain and the open air for three months, and he lay in a coma for six weeks.

Before his fall, James remembers being a charmer with a confessed "eye for the ladies".

However, upon regaining consciousness, James found he "was basically a baby again" and said he had to re-learn to do everything.

He said: "I didn't leave France until my skull was reattached."

At the time of his accident, James was a First Officer at British Airways

At the time of the accident, James was a First Officer with British Airways

Following his discharge from the hospital in Paris, he spent a further three months in Charing Cross Hospital, then almost a year in Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow and the Haberdashers House at the Royal Hospital of Neuro Disability in Putney. He finally returned home in June 2004.

Since then, James has made incredible progress and has been living life to the full.

After undergoing hours of rehabilitation, James defied the odds by learning to walk again and by making progress with his speech.

"While my speech is a bit quiet but understandable, and my memory is slightly erratic, I'm able to hold a good conversation and am almost totally independent," said James.

Remarkably, I have even retaken to the skies in one of the same propeller planes I learned to fly in and controlled the take-off, cruising and landing.

Although James said some aspects of life can still "be tricky", he's determined to live without limits and has "no bitterness or anguish" when he looks back upon his former life.

In fact, he's continuing to keep a busy and exciting diary. He's been heavily involved with the charity Action on Disability and is hoping to share his inspirational story with more people.

"It's my intention to get into motivational speaking at some point. I'm a member of Rosetta Life charity and they have said they will help me with this," said James.

"I have had an excellent screenplay written about my life, training, accident and recovery and a director, Chaz Fatur, has read it, loves it and would like to make a feature film out of it. So, we are just in the early stages of making a film out of it.

I am also a supporting artist and have been in about 360 roles, including about 40 films, Casualty and several episodes of The Crown.

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