A former British Airways pilot who suffered catastrophic injuries when he fell 18ft from a Paris hotel balcony has a new outlook on life after surviving the accident.
James Heather, of Lillie Road, Fulham, should have died when he plunged head-first onto the marble reception floor in 2002. The injuries he suffered put an end to his career as a commercial pilot and left him needing round-the-clock care and treatment.
Now, after learning the basics in life again - such walking, talking and eating - he is aiming for a career as an actor and model.
The 39-year-old has appeared in a string of adverts and appeared as an extra in films including The Imitation Game and TV shows such as The Royals.
Despite the injuries affecting his speech, Mr Heather is determined to give acting his best shot.
He said: “It is an ambition of mine to get better at acting and I’m registered with about 12 agencies.
“I was actually speaking on the silver screen as a dissertation short film by a student at Roehampton university - I was a patient talking to a doctor.”
He was also the subject of a short film, available on Youtube, telling his amazing story.
Over recent years, Mr Heather has continued to make improvements as he slowly recovers from his injuries. He is slowly getting more and more active, having recently been rock climbing, sailing and skiing, and says the “pace” of his life is increasing - though a fall and fractured shoulder has temporarily stalled him.
A first draft of a screenplay, based on Mr Heather’s accident and recovery, has also been written.
He said: “My coordination, like tying shoe laces and doing up buttons, is much better and my humour has returned as well - but this is still difficult for me since I need to be with just one other person and timing is tricky.
“I can carry things with my right hand now and drink on the move and I’m generally quite relaxed and chilled about life.”
Not surprisingly, the episode has changed his outlook on life.
He said: “I came so close to losing life and I’ve had to learn to do everything again - eating, walking, talking, buttering toast, tying shoe laces, stirring a cup of coffee.
“But in a bizarre way I’m kind of grateful for this accident because I’m a much happier person now.
“Because I nearly lost life I just love life now. I take notice of things that other people don’t notice.”