You might think that Chris Toon is just your average music teacher. The 32-year-old musician has spent his career teaching saxophone, clarinet, and flute to hundreds of students at Nottingham High School in England’s North Hamilton Township. But Chris Toon is so much more than a music teacher. And he proved that last month when he put his own survival on the line in a horrific crash.
It happened on June 11. Chris’s actions on that fateful Sunday not only changed his life, but quite possibly saved the lives of other. Chris was riding his motorbike down a familiar road on his way to Melton Mowbray. As he approached a blind bend, he began to slow up as he had so many times before. But this time was different. His back wheel began to skid as his bike slowed and it started to fish tail underneath him.
Travelling in the other direction was a group of 12 cyclists. As Chris rounded the corner, he found himself heading straight for the unwitting group. And in that second, Chris made the decision to steer into a ditch. While his actions spared the lives of the cyclists, they led to a devastating situation for Chris.
“I flung myself into the ditch and my bike actually went over the hedge,” Chris said when recounting the event from his hospital bed. Chris was catapulted down a 30-foot drop, hitting branches and rocks as he fell. When he finally landed, he realized he couldn’t feel his legs. As he lay there paralyzed, the cyclists called emergency services and made their way down to comfort Chris. He was quickly airlifted to Coventry Hospital for major spinal surgery. He had broken more than 30 bones and punctured both of his lungs in the crash. Further operations at other hospitals still left Chris paralyzed from the chest down.
Even so, Chris says he couldn’t have lived with himself if he had hurt someone else. His positive attitude in the face of devastation has been an inspiration to his music students. In return, they send cards and countless videos of practice sessions to let him know they can’t wait for him to return to Nottingham High. “It has been such a help to my psyche to have friends, pupils and colleagues giving me this support,” said Chris.
Rachel Richardson is one of Chris’s closest friends. She set up a crowd funding page to help purchase the specialized wheelchair Chris will need when he returns to his life. She also shared with a local news team just why her friend is so special. “He is so inspirational,” she said. “As a teacher he is inspirational. And the kids he teaches miss him massively. And everyone who has him as a teacher doesn’t ever want to have anyone else.”