Never give up on your dreams, says Paralympic footballer

  |  Published: Aug 25th 2016
Alistair

A Paralympic footballer, who overcame horrific injuries after a crash that killed his best friend, says he is living proof you should never give up on your dreams.

Alistair Patrick-Heselton, 33, a former Wycombe Wanderers schoolboy star, spoke as he urged people to be part of the event on 2 September in Aylesbury’s Vale Park, celebrating the Heritage Flame Lighting at Stoke Mandeville Stadium.

Alistair, who also played for QPR and Oldham, was so seriously hurt in the 2006 accident that doctors warned his family to expect the worst.  He was in a coma for several weeks and was later warned he may never walk again.

But he recovered sufficiently to play and score for the GB team against Argentina at London 2012.

And, although he still suffers from cerebral palsy symptoms which slow down co-ordination, he is happily married with a young son, has run his own businesses and is an accomplished public speaker.

Alistair told his story almost ten years to the day of the accident - as he urged people to join the celebrations.  While the Heritage Flame will be lit at Stoke Mandeville Stadium in front of an audience of 1400 VIPs and ticket ballot winners, thousands more will celebrate the occasion from 6pm in Vale Park.

Alistair missed out being selected this time for the Paralympics but is looking forward to the celebrations.

“Stoke Mandeville is the birthplace of the Paralympic movement and celebrating that is a tradition that we should always hang onto. The flame symbolises that inspiration – it can never be stopped and is a reminder of what can be achieved when you keep believing and keep trying.”     

Tragedy struck on September 10 2006 when Alistair and lifelong friend Simon Patterson were travelling home from a night out in London.

Simon, 24, a former Watford and Wycombe Wanderers player, died at the scene after his BMW crashed into barriers on the A40 at Shepherd’s Bush. Alistair was thrown through the windscreen, while another passenger was also seriously injured.

“All I can remember is waking up and being told that I had come out of a coma and that Simon had died at the scene. I have retrograde amnesia and lost most parts of a year going back from the accident, so I don’t have a memory of what happened that night,” he said.

Injuries included a compound depressed fracture of the skull which led to two brain haemorrhages, and he contracted pneumonia in his lungs.

“It was touch and go. The very first thing my parents were told after the accident is ‘You may have to identify a body if you come in the morning’.”

He credits his age and fitness as an athlete for helping him recover to the extent he was playing football for fun again the following April.

Alistair is now an athlete mentor, visiting schools around the country to inspire interest in sport. He also works with Sky Sports on its Living For Sport initiative.

He added: “I am trying to hold the light and shine the torch for anyone who had their dreams taken away from them. I am living proof that if you keep believing and keep trying, you can always get to your dreams.”

Alistair, who was on Wycombe Wanderers’ books when he was aged 12 to 15, insists he is not bitter about his injuries because he says new experiences were opened up for him in the world of sport.

“When some people ask me would I change things, I am torn. If I changed it, I wouldn’t be in the position I am now – but if I could change something, I would bring my best friend back. We were the very best of friends since we were five-years-old – we were just best mates. I still keep in touch with his family.”

Just after London 2012, Alistair married Joanne, from Hazelmere in High Wycombe, and they have a two year-old-son, Joshua. They now live in Milton Keynes.

"I am happier than I could ever be – and there’s not a day goes by that I wake up and feel hard done by,” he said.

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