A lifelong Sunderland fan was left paralysed when he was flung from a mechanical bull ride in a birthday holiday horror.
Bruce Ford twice had to be resuscitated after he was injured on a lads’ weekend in Albufeira, in Portugal, last year.
He has spent months undergoing rehabilitation in hospital and is looking forward to being released next month.
And a group of his friends are setting out to raise money to help Bruce and fiancee Louise Nicholls by cycling the 160 miles from the couple’s home town of Airdrie, in Scotland, to the Stadium of Light before Sunderland’s home game with Bournemouth on April 29.
“I was in Portugal for a weekend away with my friends to celebrate my 49th birthday,” said Bruce.
“We went out on the Friday night, had a meal and a few drinks and then had a wander up the Strip. We sat outside a pub which had a mechanical bull ride in the middle of an inflated mattress.
I was put on a ventilator as I couldn’t breathe for myself and had to be resuscitated twice.Bruce Ford
“I was helped onto the bull by the bouncers and they then turned it on and I was promptly thrown off it. I landed on my neck and was knocked out.
“The bouncers picked me up and sat me at a table, I fell from the table and ‘face-planted’ - at this point my friends realised that this was serious and got involved.
“An ambulance arrived and I was taken to the local hospital.
“X-rays showed that I had broken my neck at C4 and C5. The neurosurgeon operated on me and inserted a metal fixation which prevented any further damage.”
Bruce, who has a 14-year-old son Jamie, had to fight for his life: “I was put on a ventilator as I couldn’t breathe for myself and had to be resuscitated twice,” he said.
“Louise flew over and was with me for the next two weeks as we argued with our insurers before they flew me back to the UK.
“I was in the High Dependency ward of the Spinal Unit of Glasgow Queen Elizabeth University Hospital for the first two weeks until I was stable enough to move into the rehabilitation ward.
“I have since been receiving physiotherapy treatment and expect to be discharged in April. I am a lot healthier now and I am looking forward to getting back to a normal life, albeit one confined to a wheelchair.”
Bruce has been a Black Cats fan since his childhood in South Shields. He moved to Norwich to work when he was 20, then to Sheffield, where he met the lads who will be taking part in the bike ride, before heading to Scotland 20 years ago - but still follows the side.
“I was brought up in Biddick Hall by my grandmother,” he said.
“She was a lifelong Sunderland fan and passed that down through the whole family, most of whom are season ticket holders.”
The proceeds from next month’s bike ride will be split between Bruce and Louise, to help them with the alterations they will need to make to their home, and Glasgow Spinal Unit where Bruce has been since flying home.
To find out more , visit www.rideforbruce.co.uk/ and to donate go to www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/rideforbruce-afc-to-safc