A BORDERS man paralysed after a university rugby match is cycling across Scotland this weekend to help raise vital funds for spinal research.

Connor Hughes, of Kelso, was just 19 when he suffered a severe spinal cord injury playing for Stirling University. 

Ten years on and he is cycling from Blair Athol to John O’Groats on a specially adapted hand bike. He will be joined by family members and friends – three of whom will have cycled from Land’s End.

Their 1,100 mile ride and Connor’s Scottish challenge aims to raise £15,000 for Spinal Research, the UK’s leading charity with the goal of curing paralysis.

Connor’s own life changed in an instant on the rugby field in 2014 but, although paralysed from the chest down, the inspiring Scot has rebuilt a new life with the help of his close-knit family and friends. 

He has travelled to America and Thailand for pioneering stem cell treatment and spinal cord stimulation therapy which has helped restore some sensation and Connor is hopeful for the future.

“Although it was very difficult at first after the accident, you do become focused on building a different life, not a terrible life,” said Connor, 29.

“My family have been amazing and their love and support has been crucial to me. I can’t thank them enough.

“I do think there has been a lot of scientific progress in recent years and now it’s about getting that into clinical trials and accessible treatments which will make such a difference to people living with spinal cord injuries like me. 

“There is hope and that’s why it’s really important to raise money for Spinal Research and why it’s great to see people getting behind the cycle challenge.”

He is also studying with the Open University for a degree in astronomy and maths and is about to move into a purpose-designed home in Roxburgh built by brother-in-law David Manuel.

David, from St Boswells, set off from Land’s End on June 29 with friends Drew Gill from Selkirk and Andy Wagget. 

They were joined on Friday for the last three days of the challenge to John O’Groats by Connor. He is also hoping to complete a bungee jump at the Highland Fling Centre, Pitlochry.

Proud oldest sister Sarah, 37, said: “Since Connor’s accident we have been by his side as he has battled his life-changing injury and have endeavoured to support him in whatever way we can. Words simply cannot express our admiration and pride in him.

“We want to celebrate the vitality and resilience of Connor over the last 10 years, and our survival as his support network. It’s going to be really emotional.”

Spinal Research chief executive Louisa McGinn said: “We exist to cure paralysis and believe in a future where it is no longer a life sentence. 

“The science is moving forward, and alongside our incredible supporters like Connor and his family, we’re committed to raising the money that’s needed to ensure that curing paralysis will be the medical breakthrough of the 21st century.”

To support the Land’s End to John O’Groats Challenge for Spinal Research go to: www.justgiving.com/page/david-andy-drew-lejog-connorsjourney

The fundraiser has surpassed half of its £15,000 target.