Paraplegic veteran defies the odds after life-changing parachute plunge
- Credit: Kate Wolstenholme
Doctors feared Ben Halms would never walk again after a terrifying parachute accident that caused him to plunge 1,000ft to the ground in just 12 seconds - but now the former soldier is climbing mountains.
Despite the unimaginable trauma of his 75mph fall, the paraplegic veteran from Norwich has defied the odds and made it into the record books after successfully climbing 6,000 metres in the Himalayas.
Mr Halms’ world was turned upside down after he sustained life-changing injuries that day in 2018 but now he hopes to inspire others with his feats of recovery.
A former pupil of Northgate High School in Dereham, he was taking part in a routine jump while serving in the British Army’s Parachute Regiment.
It was the first of two jumps organised for that day but Mr Halms never made it back up into the air for the second.
Instead, he ended up being rushed to hospital by air ambulance after his parachute failed to deploy properly.
Mr Halms, of North Walsham Road, described recalling the event “quite well” even after enduring a significant trauma.
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The 33-year-old recalled: “From the angle I was at, it looked as if the parachute had opened correctly so I continued with my checks as usual.
“But I had no idea that I was falling and I hit the ground at 75mph.
“I was unconscious for a few seconds and remember laying on the floor feeling winded and thinking about what I needed to do to improve for the next jump.
“As I went to sit up, the pain shot through my back. The next thing I knew, I was being rushed to the hospital.”
He suffered an L2 burst fracture and spinal cord damage. With no initial feeling from the waist down, he was told by surgeons that he was unlikely to walk again.
“I had served in the Army for 13 years and I was only halfway through my military career," Mr Halms continued.
“As the news started to sink in, I quickly realised how much more of a struggle everything would be; even simple things like going to the toilet.
“But through the Army, I learned determination. And I was determined that I wouldn’t rule anything out, no matter what happened.”
Doctors were stunned by his recovery and he was discharged from hospital within two weeks.
Now, as a paraplegic, he has paralysis affecting the lower half of his body and has no sensation in his right leg and foot.
Which makes his recent achievement even sweeter.
He has become the first person with a spinal cord injury to climb over 6000m during an expedition to Nepal and shares the world record with friend and incomplete quadriplegic, Ed Jackson, also 33, of Bath.
They were joined by friend and trainer Arron Collins-Thomas and videographer Beetle Campbell, with a view to summit Himlung Himal, a 7126m Himalayan mountain peak.
Due to complications during the summit attempt, Mr Halms - using specialist equipment including a leg support - had to retreat at 6000m and Mr Jackson at 6800m. Regardless, their trip remains a world-record expedition.
The pair took on the mammoth 21-day expedition to raise funds for a spinal unit in Kathmandu with Mr Jackson’s charity, The Millimetres 2 Mountains Foundation.
Mr Halms was enlisted as a beneficiary of the charity in 2021 and has raised over £3,000 for the charity so far.
He added: "This was more than just an expedition for me, it has given me something to focus on and to work towards during a difficult time. It has given me hope.
"The expedition itself has been mind-blowing, allowing me the time and freedom to get in my own head and think about my future.
"Not only have I exceeded other people’s expectations, but I have also exceeded my own. More than that, I’ve made friends and memories for life."
Mr Halms, who lives with his long-term partner Evie Fane de Salis, has also previously climbed Ben Nevis in Scotland at 1345m and Scafell Pike in England at 978m.