A CHARITY champion who has raised more than £10 million since he was paralysed in a swimming accident was honoured with an MBE last week.
John Fieldus, 69, broke his neck after diving off a breakwater while out for an evening swim with his children at his then-home in Lancing in July 1982.
He was left paralysed from the waist down and spent seven months in hospital in Worthing where he was supported by the Spinal Injuries Association (SIA).
When he came out, and was unable to resume his former job as a wine merchant, he decided to use his professional skills for the good of the SIA.
Since then he has helped the organisation raise millions of pounds, including leading the campaign to raise £2 million for the SIA’s state-of-the-art headquarters in Milton Keynes which were completed just three years after the appeal was launched.
A series of high-profile dinners have also been huge money-spinners and he spent four years with the Racing Welfare Charity between 1997 and 2001.
Mr Fieldus will retire this summer and was bowled over to receive his honour in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
“It only seems like yesterday when I dived off that breakwater but my goodness, gracious me what an adventure it has been,” he said
“These accidents happen in a moment but the effects last a lifetime and it is not just you – the ripple effects for your family are enormous.
“It was hard on my wife Pamela – you really learn what ‘in sickness and in health’ means – and my four children who were all under 14 suddenly saw their active dad in a wheelchair.
“But the whole ethos of the SIA is that life needn’t stop because you’re paralysed.”
Mr Fieldus and his wife moved to East Ascent, St Leonards, in 2004, because their youngest son Dominic works as an osteopath in 1066 Country.
And he has nothing but praise for the Conquest Hospital, which has helped him through various illnesses and a hip replacement as well as supporting his wife.
“The Conquest is an exceptional hospital,” said Mr Fieldus. “The McCartney Ward in particular is one of the real unsung heroes, the care is excellent and the staff are wonderful in quite difficult circumstances.
“I would like to start a new project to raise some money for the Conquest because we are very fortunate in this town and people don’t appreciate the NHS until they need it.”
Mr Fieldus admitted he was ‘very proud’ to have been awarded the honour.
He added: “You never know what is round the corner, but I would not have achieved anything – in my rehabilitation or my fundraising – without the support of my wife, my sister Susie who has helped me out a great deal because of my dyslexia, my children and so many generous people.”
Paul Smith, executive director of the SIA, said he was ‘thrilled’ with the news.
He said: “John has worked in one of the most demanding professions there is – he has not only been an outstanding, selfless fundraiser, he has been a shining example of how to live life to the full with a major disability.”