Tragedy of Nicky Bach
9:22am Monday 8th December 2008
A "fun loving and active" young man killed himself because he could not cope with being wheelchair-bound after an accident left him paralysed, an inquest has heard.
Nick (Nicky Bach) Jones, 34, of Cilgerran, lost the use of his legs after he crashed into a tree while mountain biking in the Brechfa Forest, in February.
The painter and decorator suffered a fractured neck, and was treated at Rookwood Hospital, a specialist rehabilitation unit in Cardiff.
Three days before his death in August, doctors told Mr Jones, who also lost most of the use of his arms, that he would probably be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
The inquest in Cardiff on Friday was told that Mr Jones, of Cilgerran, composed messages on his mobile phone that day, telling friends and family that as an outdoors-loving "adrenaline junkie", he did not want to be immobile.
One read: "I feel sick imagining the rest of my life dependent on others. It’s just not me any more."
Mr Jones was found in a toilet cubicle at the hospital on August 24. He had suffocated himself.
His mother Sandra told the inquest her son was "fun-loving, so active, and hard-working" before the accident, adding: "He just enjoyed life."
Realising he was depressed, she asked her son during a trip home two weeks before his death if he thought of taking his life.
Mrs Jones said: "I asked him: ’Have you ever thought about suicide?’, and he said: "Every day".
"Then he said: ’But I wouldn’t do that to you, Ma.’ "I said: ’If you ever get to that dark place, think about number one.’ "With the little bit of grip he had, he squeezed my hand. I knew at that point.
"I didn’t know how, or when, but I knew he was determined.
"He said: ‘I love you, Ma’."
Cardiff Coroner Mary Hassell said she did not believe anyone else was involved in the death.
Clive Inman, spinal injuries consultant at Rookwood Hospital, said Mr Jones had enough strength to put the plastic bag over his own head.
He told the inquest Mr Jones’ condition had been improving, but said: "Although he had regained some power in his arms and legs, it was not enough to be independent."
Mr Inman said Mr Jones may have been able to walk in the future, but only for short distances, with the help of a frame.
He added: "To help him go longer distances, he would need to use a wheelchair, which he had already been using for some months in the hospital."
Mr Jones was prescribed anti-depressants, but did not tell hospital staff he was feeling suicidal.
Clinical psychologist Claire Davies said: "He said he was pleased with the start of his recovery. But he was also realistic, and informed me he was not expecting miracles."
When told he would permanently need a wheelchair, during a meeting on August 21, Mr Jones "went very quiet", Ms Davies added.
She told the inquest she was "shocked" by his death, and said: "I feel while what we were saying was realistic, for someone who was an outdoors person it must have been extremely difficult to adapt to life in a wheelchair."
Ms Hassell recorded a verdict that Mr Jones took his own life.
She said: "Nick had finally come face to face with the prospect of a wheelchair being present in his life, and being his main mode of transport. For him, clearly this was unacceptable.
"There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Nick intended to take his own life."
Allen Jones, of the Wheelchair Users’ Group charity, said: "In the first year of using a wheelchair, people get very angry and upset, and think ‘Why me?’.
"Some people find the inner strength to go on, but others do not. It is a very difficult issue to deal with, and is extremely sad."