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Paralysed rugby player overcame his disabilities to win job at top legal firm

02 December 2009

Daily Mail Online
2 December 2009

The boy who never gave up: Inspirational story of how paralysed rugby player overcame his disabilities to win job at top legal firm

It was just 20 seconds into 17-year-old Matt King's first professional rugby match when another player crunched into him.

He suffered terrible damage to his spine that left him permanently paralysed from the neck down and dependent on a ventilator to breathe.

But five years on, the 22-year-old has graduated with a first-class law degree and won a training contract with a top London firm of solicitors - which specialises in personal injury claims.

Mr King's injuries are even more severe than those of Daniel James, 23, who ended his life at the Swiss Dignitas clinic after being paralysed in a rugby training session.

Yesterday he spoke of his initial devastation before deciding to face his nightmare head-on.

'I knew I had broken my neck straight away,' he said. 'The paramedics were asking me to move my toes and I couldn't. It was completely terrifying.

'My first thought was "Let me die" because my vision of what my life would be like was awful.

'But I realised in hospital that I'm still young and if I was going to lead a meaningful life I would need to get an education.'

Mr King's life was turned upside down as he played for the London Broncos Academy under-18s team in April 2004 when another player accidentally kneed him in the neck.

He spent the next nine months in Stoke Mandeville Spinal Unit.

'That was the worst time of my life. I felt and experienced things that I wouldn't wish on any human being,' said Mr King, who lives with his parents Glenda and Chris in Langford, near Biggleswade in Bedfordshire.

'It was such a bleak time that I decided to do as much as I could when I got out of hospital. I had to think what I could do as effectively as before. In law, you only need to use your brain.'

He returned to school in March 2005 and gained A grades in A-level history and AS geography.

He went on to Hertfordshire University, and during his three-year course he completed two weeks work experience with law firm Stewarts in central London.

They have offered him a training contract which he is due to start in 2011, after he finishes a legal practice course at the university.

Mr King has two full-time carers and a 'scribe' who takes notes for him during lectures. At home he uses voice recognition technology to write essays.

In 2007 he became the first quadraplegic to complete the New York Marathon in 2007, using an electric wheelchair controlled by a joystick device that he moved with his chin. He took six and a half hours to complete the course and raised £10,000 for charity.

He also acts as a mentor with the Back Up Trust charity for people who have recently sustained spinal injuries.

His mother said: 'He was very low at first. He just wanted to learn how to live with his condition so he could get out of hospital.

'We never believed he would get this far. We are very proud of him - he never fails to amaze us with what he's going to do next.'

Kevin Rogers, senior lecturer in law at Hertfordshire University, said: 'Matthew has been an outstanding student and I'm confident he will go on to have a great career.'

At Stewarts Law, training principal Julian Chamberlayne said: 'The way he has overcome his disability is incredible and his razor-sharp intellect make him an asset to the firm.

'We represent a lot of people with spinal injuries and we think he will have a great understanding of their needs.'

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