How did Bear Grylls break his back?

14 Mar

Bear Grylls is no more. Actually wait, that sounds a bit too dramatic. What I mean is, Man vs Wild is no more. At least not for the foreseeable future.

I was very sad to learn today the Discovery Channel had fired the action man over a contract dispute. I mean I know the show drew a lot of criticism for its staged elements, but I always found him an amazing role model. He certainly encouraged plenty of kids I know to spend a bit more time outdoors and a bit less time glued to a TV or video game screen.

Anyway, the news got me thinking about what an interesting life Bear has led, with feats including scaling Mt Everest. And it’s all the more remarkable when you consider he fought back from a broken back in 1996 when he was just 22.

Now, I knew he suffered this injury in a skydiving accident. And I was even in the audience at a live show where he shared the story. But somehow I missed it. Probably because I was out getting a drink. For the record not my own urine.

Fortunately, it wasn’t too hard to track down this excerpt from his book Mud, Sweat and Tears

“I was in the SAS Reserves, and though I was years away from my TV career, life was perfect. I was fit and doing a job I adored. What young man wouldn’t love being trained in blowing stuff up, climbing cliffs and high-speed driving?

“That summer, I was helping out on a game farm in South Africa and decided to head to Zimbabwe for some down time before going home to the UK. Fun, for me, meant skydiving with good friends. Little did I know how much I was going to rely on the qualities that first got me a place in the SAS.

“One evening, as the brilliance of the African sun was being replaced by the glow of dusk, my friends and I huddled together in a small plane as we climbed to nearly 16,000 feet. The plane levelled out. Someone reached for the door. One by one, the guys dropped from the door and fell away. Soon I was alone. I looked down, took that familiar deep breath, then slid off the step.

“Three thousand feet. Time to pull. I reached to my right hip and gripped the ripcord. I pulled it strongly. Initially, it responded as normal.

“The canopy opened with a crack that interrupted the noise of the 130mph free fall. My descent rate slowed to 25mph. Then I looked up and saw something was wrong. Instead of a smooth rectangular shape, I had a very deformed looking tangle of chute, which meant it would be a nightmare to control.

“I pulled hard on both steering toggles to see if that would help. I started to panic. The desert floor was coming closer. My descent was far too fast. I was too low to use my reserve chute. I was getting close to the ground, coming in at speed – and then I smashed into the desert floor.

“I bounced like a rag doll and landed directly on my back, right on top of the tightly packed reserve chute. It felt as if something had driven clean through the centre of my spine. I could only roll over, crying in agony. In the pit of my stomach I feared that my life would never be the same again.”

Of course, as we know, Bear’s life never was the same again as it took off in ways he couldn’t have imagined. He climbed Everest, became a global TV star and in the meantime managed to eat any animal not quick enough to get away.

So what I want to know is this. Who will now fill the void of TV presenters willing to give themselves an enema while floating on a raft at sea? RIP Man vs Wild.

BTW you can read the full extract with the story of his accident and recovery here. And here’s another interview I liked in which he revealed the answer to a question I’m dying to know. Here it is.

Question: What is the worst food you’ve eaten in a survival situation?
Answer: Raw frozen yak eyeballs; camel intestine juice; raw goat testicles; live snake; maggots as big as a hand, pulsating with yellow pus; and giant live spiders.

 Ick.

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