Friends raise money for Exeter fourth year after life-changing accident

From Devon to Saudi Arabia, people are rallying around Exeter’s much loved Gerard Murphy

If you mention Gerard Murphy's name on Exeter University's campus, the chances are, someone will know him. He is a Geography and Arabic student who, this September, was meant to return to Exeter to complete his four-year degree after a year abroad in Canada. However, yesterday, he turned 22 years old in hospital.

After a tragic accident this summer, this much-loved student from Hertfordshire is now facing life with C5 tetraplegia, leaving him unable to use his hands and legs.

He and his friends, however, are determined to fight it. With a thriving JustGiving page and a series of massive fundraising events in the pipeline, Gerard and those that love him will not be beaten.

Following his third year of studying at the University of Waterloo in Canada (2016/2017), Gerard spent his summer in Sweden where he taught students how to gain the highest grades in the International Baccalaureate.

Taking time off from his tutorial role, he decided to go for a swim with friends. As a result of misjudging the depth of the lake, Gerard hit his head, broke his neck and fractured his spine. He woke up in Karolinska Hospital after being pulled from the water by his friends.

After emergency spinal surgery and two weeks of treatment in Sweden, he was airlifted to the UK where he has been in recovery since. He has been in two different specialist hospitals in Stevenage and Cambridge and was yesterday moved to Stoke Mandeville, Buckinghamshire where his rehabilitation will continue.

Despite the trauma and the life-changing nature of his accident, Gerard's positive disposition and determination has been infectious throughout. Inspired, his best friends have set up a JustGiving page to raise £50,000 to get him the help he needs. His best friend, Alex, told us: “Despite the horror of the accident, Gerard remains his positive, upbeat self, and is determined to make as much progress as possible.”

“He is the most amazing guy. He has the ability to capture a room with his jokes – he is extremely intelligent and so positive. When Gerard left the Lister hospital the nurses cried, which is testament to how well-liked and warm he is.”

After speaking to the massive group of friends behind Gerard, the one thing that is evident is that this accident will not get the better of him. “Gerard has a lust for life. He loves sports, Liverpool FC, and ultimate Frisbee," they said, "He still has one year remaining of his degree – which he intends to finish when the time is right.”

Since setting up the page, it's raised over £23,000, with the sum continuing to rise by the hour. “Gerard is incredibly grateful to those who have donated to the JustGiving page," said Alex, "It has given him the motivation to put in the hard work required during rehab.”

Just a quick glance at the JustGiving page is enough to show you how popular and treasured Gerard is. One anonymous donator wrote: "Hey, sadly I never have met you but my girlfriend knows you and says you are an absolutely amazing guy…Praying for you and your family!" Another wrote: "Keep up that positive spirit!" With people donating from as far as Canada and Saudi Arabia, the target is getting more achievable by the day.

Despite his absence on campus this year, Gerard Murphy's name continues to be uttered on a daily basis. With the Ultimate Frisbee society planning fundraising events and the campaign going from strength to strength, there is no doubt that he will be back on campus and singlehandedly funding the local coffee shops in no time at all.

Read more about Gerard's story and make a donation here.