Former England rugby star, Andy Blyth, a center, has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro despite 11 years of worrying he might be paralyzed for life.
Blyth took part in the AXAWealth Climb alongside Rugby Players’ Association chairman David Barnes and former England hooker Mark Regan to raise £100,000 for injured players and wounded warriors.
‘What Andy has done is inspiring and nothing short of miraculous,’ said Damian Hopley, RPA chief executive.
Blyth began his career as a hard-hitting centre for Newcastle before going on to Northampton and then Sale, each move aimed at improving his chances of earning a Test cap to go along with his six England A appearances.
On March 12, 2000, those dreams were dashed. Blyth tackled Thierry Lacroix less than a minute into a game against Saracens before getting wiped out by the opposition pack as he sought to battle for the ball.
It’s a scenario that occurs frequently throughout each game, but Blyth’s third disc in his back was displaced on this occasion. It nicked his spinal cord as it moved.
Anything below Blyth’s shoulders was out of his control. He was a tetraplegic at the time.
Blyth had come within a hair’s breadth of severing his spinal chord.
‘It’s time to turn off the lights.’ Blyth once quipped, “That’s a Christopher Reeve job.”
Blyth made his first movements 12 weeks later. He was hesitantly taking several steps with crutches a year later.
Blyth’s balance is still shaky, but he’s up for the challenge of climbing Kilimanjaro. He tripped a lot on the way up, but he made it to the top despite all odds.
Help for Heroes, the Rugby Football Union’s Injured Players Foundation, and the RPA Benevolent Fund are all beneficiaries of the AXA Wealth Climb.