Bideford man left paralysed after diving incident is planning a cross-country cycle ride for the charity which helped him.

A Bideford man left paralysed after a diving incident is planning a cross-country cycle to raise money for charity.

Simon Mackie, 41, got the bends after surfacing too quickly from a deep dive, leaving his spinal cord crushed and his legs with little movement.

He can walk while supported on crutches but thanks to the help of the charity Aspire has got himself a hand racing bike.

Simon was working as a diving instructor in the Philippines when one day he was searching for sharks at 120 metres depth.

He said: “On this occasion however, I stayed down too long and didn’t complete a decompression stop on the way up, so I ran out of oxygen.

“As a result, I had to resurface without letting my body adjust to the changing pressure, and when I got out of the sea I immediately knew I was in trouble. I truly thought I was going to die.

“Sure enough, the bends hit me with full force, and I passed out and fell face forward into the incoming sea. It was only thanks to some observant people on the beach that I didn’t drown.”

After being resuscitated, Simon was rushed to hospital to be placed in a dive chamber, and then was flown back to the UK where he stayed in Salisbury Spinal Injury Centre.

When he moved to Bideford, Simon struggled to get around using a wheelchair.

He said: “Aspire helped me purchase a heavy-weight steel hand cycle to help me get out and indulge in cycling again – albeit in a different way from my ultra-fit days.

“They also helped me purchase a light-weight racing hand bike so I can get back into fast cycling and my goal is to travel the whole width of the UK in a coast to coast challenge.

“I will of course be raising money for Aspire who has helped give me my freedom back.”

Aspire runs a fundraising swim each year to help make people’s lives easier following spinal cord injury. Register at: http://aspirechannelswim.co.uk