There was a time when Simon Wood thought he may not survive after a devastating accident which left his back broken, let alone rebuild his life and return to work.

The 59-year-old, of Jubilee Green, Papworth Everard, had been driving lorries for 35 years when he pulled into a recycling yard in St Albans and stepped out of the cab. It was July 2011 and little did he know that his life was about to change forever.

He said: “I came round the back of my lorry and bosh, a heavy load of waste cardboard from a fork-lift, about a third of a ton, came down on top of me. I was trapped underneath.

“I remember thinking 'this is where I'm going to die – in St Albans in a recycling yard' – it was pretty traumatic and then there was a lot of pain.”

Mr Wood was taken to hospital in Welwyn Garden City but needed specialist treatment and was transferred to Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge a day later. There, they said he had a compression fracture to three vertebrae in his back and a broken sternum.

He said: “I was hit on the front of my chest – I broke my sternum and the shockwave went through my body, through my spine, and three vertebrae were all damaged.

“After about three weeks, it was then decided not to do any invasive surgery but to put me in a body brace.

“I didn't have any feeling in my legs because my spinal column was damaged, but it wasn't damaged to the extent that it could have been.

“It was extremely worrying. Slowly, very slowly, over this first three weeks the feeling came back in my legs.”

As the swelling went down, the pressure on his nerves and spinal column reduced, bringing the feeling back. He had to wear a body brace for four months and suffered from post-traumatic stress. He also lost about three quarters of an inch in height.

He said: “I thought I was going to die in St Albans, then I didn't think I was going to walk. I thought 'This is it, I'm going to be a wheelchair user now'.

“I was a lorry driver for 35 years and, from the start, they said 'You are never going to drive a lorry again'. But I thought, 'What can I do?'

“After about a year I decided I would go for rehabilitation – physical, mental, and vocational – that's when I got involved with the Papworth Trust.”

The trust's award-winning team of rehab experts gave him assistance including counselling, physiotherapy and help with learning IT skills.

“They helped me a great deal, I was a bit of a mess mentally at the time because I thought my life was done and dusted,” he said.

He began volunteering for the trust, helping with administration and on the reception at the charity's headquarters in the village, when a paid position became available.

“I applied for it and much to my surprise they offered me the job. I was absolutely made up – I really couldn't believe it,” Mr Wood said.

He now works as a receptionist two days a week after being offered the job in April this year, and spends the remainder of his time gardening and with his wife, Susan. He is still able to drive, but not large vehicles.

He added: “It gave me an opportunity and it still is giving me an opportunity to pay back. Without the trust, I would still be a wreck at home staring at the walls.”

For more on the trust's rehab services, call 01480 357231 or visit www.papworthtrust.org.uk/rehabilitation.