Rob Bugden update

Fundraiser launched after Rob Bugden of Penryn (and Minety RFC) left paralysed in parachute accident

We’ve unashamedly lifted this article from “CornwallLive” to bring everyone up to date with Minety’s RFC’s Rob Bugden, one of the nicest people you could ever wish to meet and someone who redefines the meaning of “inspirational”.

As you will gather from this interview with his mother, Rob had a dreadful parachuting accident in January 2016.  All of his friends at Minety were devastated to hear the news and were delighted when he made an appearance at Minety for the 7’s tournament in May 2016.

A “JustGiving” campaign has been set up – details follow beneath.

Rob’s first outing was to Minety RFC for the 2016 7’s tournament.


“The mother of a Cornish Royal Air Force parachute instructor who was paralysed as the result of a mid-air collision has told of the harrowing moment she found out her son had life-changing injuries.

Debbie Bugden, of Penryn, said she was only now able to speak about her son Rob’s accident, which happened in January 2016, after what she described as an “extremely stressful and worrying year with many tears”.

It comes as a JustGiving campaign gets underway to raise funds to pay for a specialist bus that helps get injured servicemen and women to be taken out by their families and has aided Rob’s recovery.

The 31 year old broke his neck after his parachute got tangled with another jumper and he plummeted 800ft to the ground at more than 50mph during an exercise in California. He had very quick first aid and was taken to hospital where the seriousness was quickly realised.

Mrs Bugden was called in the early hours about the accident and asked to give consent for the surgery: “To be told that your youngest son has life changing injuries, when you are so far away, is horrendous.”

Travel arrangements were made for her and her older son Adam, to fly to Phoenix to see Rob.

“The wait was awful, many tears and total disbelief. Everyone who knows Rob, friends & family alike were all so shocked and everyone has who knows him has been affected by the accident.”

“I didn’t know what I was going to find, so the flight seemed even longer than it actually was. I was told by the medics in Phoenix that Rob was paralysed from the chest down and that he has a high level injury.

“It was difficult to grasp that my beautiful, fun loving, sports mad son was lying there attached to a ventilator & many other pieces of equipment.”

Rob had surgery to remove bone fragments from his neck and a plate inserted to stabilise it and was on a ventilator.

“There were concerns about an eye, and damage to a cheek bone and swelling on brain, so concerns for brain damage, but thankfully in time this was proved not to be the case,” said Mrs Bugden.

Mrs Bugden added: “Everyone he has come into contact with since his accident, in America and home have been so impressed by his determination, positivity and gratitude. He has never really appeared to be angry, but in the beginning he was very frightened and many tears.”

After three weeks in critical care in Phoenix he was brought back to the UK.

Rob Bugden and friend Corporal Adam Bennett pictured graduating from their parachute instructor course in 2015.


Mrs Bugden said: “To begin with he was unable to swallow and couldn’t speak, unable to cough, so because of that and unable to bring anything up himself, he had to have what we called the cough therapist very regularly to suck out the secretions.

“The equipment used was like a Henry vacuum cleaner and was horrible to watch as poor Rob just gagged, and he dreaded it, but was very necessary to avoid chest infection.”

In September he was moved to Headley Court, the Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre for armed forces, where he has had ongoing rehab Rob grew up in Penryn and went to Penair School and Truro College. He played rugby for Penryn RFC, was a successful international cross country runner for Penair, Cornwall AC and Cornwall and England Schools with Helen Glover and Mo Farah.

He moved from Cornwall when he was 18 and went to UWIC in Cardiff and joined the RAF as a physical training Instructor in September 2008, and became a parachute jump instructor, in 2015.

Mrs Bugden said: “It has been an extremely stressful, worrying year for everyone, many tears, and I have spent many hours commuting to various hospitals. I have got through the last year as I have just fantastic support from family, friends, colleagues at work, SSAFA, Robs RAF friends have just been amazing and good support.”

The fundraising campaign is aiming for £32,000 for a Barbara Bus, which will be based at Hedley Court and enables injured servicemen and women to be taken out by their families.

The Barbara Bus Fund provides wheelchair accessible vehicles which currently cost around £450 to hire per week.

“We have used one many times in the past year which has been so important for Robs mental wellbeing,” said Mrs Bugden.

“Without Barbara Bus we couldn’t have taken Rob out on excursions, which was and is vitally important for a taste of normality with friends and family, to escape the hospital environment, and is such a massive part of his rehab. He couldn’t have come home to Cornwall for Christmas without it.”

Throughout this month teams from across the Royal Air Force will be aiming to complete a 210.116km row – the distance signifies the date of Rob’s accident.

Mrs Bugden added: “Rob’s future is uncertain as he has many decisions to make, but he has talked of opening a gym for the disabled, with a café and is trying to get himself fit to apply for the Invictus games in Sydney 2018.

“At the moment he is just concentrating on his rehab, in order to get himself as fit & strong, & improve his hand functions as best he can. Everyone is just so impressed with his attitude & we are so proud of him, coping as he does with humour, he is truly inspirational.”

To donate visit the Justgiving page

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