Reading about former stuntman and actor David Holmes in the newspaper today, it struck me how immensely brave he is. Of course to do the job he done and all the sports he was trained in, trampolining, kick boxing, horse riding, swimming and high diving he would have to have a massive sense of bravery but Holmes was also brave when he faced the biggest challenge of his young life when he became paralysed while filming a dangerous stunt on the final Harry Potter film.
While he was rehearsing a flying scene as Daniel Radcliffe’s double, he was thrust into a wall causing his neck to break and leaving Holmes paralysed for life at Warner Bros Studios in Leavesden, Herts, in January 2009. However after the accident his first thoughts were not of himself like so many peoples’ would be including myself if anything like that happened. Instead he thought of his parents and said,
“My first thought was, ‘Don’t ring Mum and Dad, I don’t want to worry them.”
David knows the accident has changed his life for always but he refuses to let his disability define him.
“I took control of the situation quite early on. I wanted to tell my doctor where I thought I was at – my exact words were that ‘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. 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. Sometimes I do get flashbacks from the accident – I re-live it sometimes when I’m drifting off to sleep – but it’s something I’ve learned to live with and manage.”
David, from Leigh-on-Sea, Essex is now in a wheelchair and the 30-year-old says of the accident:
“I hit the wall and then landed on the crash mat underneath. 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. I remember slipping in and out of consciousness because of the pain levels. I’d broken a bone before, so recognising that weird feeling across my whole body from my fingertips right down to my toes, I knew I had really done some damage.”
He was rushed to the local Watford General Hospital but then was transferred to the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore, North West London. Here doctors told him he would be paralysed from the chest down, with only limited movement in his arms and hands. David says,
“My first thoughts weren’t about not being able to walk again. It was all the other stuff, like not being able to dance again or have sex.”
He was six months here and as his muscles had nearly wasted away. He wasn’t able to sit up for weeks. He says,
“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. I have gone from being able to stand on my hands for half an hour at a time and then all of a sudden I can’t sit up in bed. At the first physio lesson they sit you up, put a foam cushion behind you and you are just struggling to find your balance. I thought, ‘oh my God, I can’t even sit up straight’.”
Here he was visited by Daniel Radcliffe and Tom Felton. Radcliffe also hosted a celebrity charity auction and dinner to make funds for David’s medical bills and they are both still close friends.
“I’ve got a relationship that goes back many, many years with Dave. And I would hate for people to just see me and Dave and go, ‘oh, there’s Daniel Radcliffe with a person in a wheelchair’ – because I would never, even for a moment, want them to assume that Dave was anything except for an incredibly important person in my life.”
Holmes began his stunt career as a competitive gymnast at six and by fourteen he was asked to be the body-double in the film Lost in Space. David said,
“That’s where it began.”
He was seen as a possible Radcliffe double by stunt co-ordinator Greg Powell who he met with just before the series began and was asked to do a broomstick test.
“I found myself in this wonderful studio strapped to the back of a truck, getting towed down the runway, dragging my feet along the floor in front of Chris Columbus, the director. So that’s how I got my job.”
David was in every one of the Harry Potter films up to his accident and says,
“It was an amazing experience. I loved it and Dan was an absolute pleasure to work with. The cast and crew were like a second family and I remain in touch with a lot of them to this day.”
David, who was 25 at the time of his accident, now rush drives a specially-modified car around race tracks at speeds of up to 150mph using a ‘push-pull’ hand control system to accelerate and brake.
Holmes has now launched a new production company, Ripple Productions, with two friends who are also tetrapelgic and the three released a series of podcasts to help people who have suffered similar injuries to them. David says,
“I haven’t let my accident affect my outlook on life and I am still very determined and positive. I also haven’t let it hold me back in life and I still enjoy track days racing my car, going on holidays with my friends and am now looking forward to starting a new career.”
He has also become an Appeal Ambassador for RNOH and is helping the hospital which helped him to raise £15 million in order to buy additional facilities and equipment and says,
“Every eight hours someone in the UK is told they will never walk again. Without places like the RNOH things would look much bleaker for those people. The support they gave me was incredible. Everybody at the hospital took great care of me and I met some amazing staff and patients along my road to recovery. It’s a massive project but once complete it will really change lives. So if anyone out there has a spare few quid please go on to the RNOH website and donate whatever you can for this fantastic cause.”
I think he is incredibly brave and inspiring and his positive way is a way we should all follow. He’s also incredibly cute too! 🙂