David Holmes, 30, suffered a life changing accident when a flying stunt went terribly wrong during rehearsals for a scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows at Warner Brothers Studios in Leavensden in January 2009.
Holmes was rehearsing a ‘jerk back’ stunt, which mimics the effects of an explosion, when he was thrown into a wall and broke his neck, instantly paralyzing him, reports The Mirror.
“I hit the wall and then landed on the crash mat underneath,” he said.
“My stunt co-ordinator grabbed my hand and said ‘Squeeze my fingers’. I could move my arm to grab his hand but I couldn’t squeeze his fingers. I looked into his eyes and that’s when I realised what happened was major.”
“My first thoughts weren’t about not being able to walk again,” he remembers.
“It was all the other stuff, like not being able to dance again or have sex.”
Holmes spent six months in the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore, London, where he was told he would be paralysed from the chest down, with limited movement in his hands and arms, for the rest of his life.
It was a huge shock to the former gymnast-turned-stuntman, who was also trained in trampolining, high diving, kick boxing, horse riding and swimming.
He decided to tackle his condition head-on, telling his doctor: “I think I’m completely screwed.”
“It was hard for my parents to hear but it was important to me to have that control. I wanted to be wrong, but I wasn’t,” he says.
“There was definitely a sense of tragedy for me, but also a sense of sheer determination to beat it and better it. Having a positive mental attitude means everything. I also think that if you’re positive about your disability then it can help you live with it.”
Holmes underwent months of painful rehab, and was at first unable even to sit up because his muscles had wasted away.
“As soon as they sat me up and I took the weight of my head into my shoulders it was just horrendous. The patience you have to learn is unbelievable,” he said.
Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe visited Holmes in hospital and later hosted a charity auction dinner to help pay Holmes’ medical bills. The pair, who filmed all the Harry Potter movies between 2001 and 2009, remain good friends.
Holmes now runs a new production company, Ripple Productions, with two friends who are also paralysed, and has released a series of podcasts on what it’s like to become paralysed.