Article of the week: Haydn Davies – Encountering grace
9 October 2021
FEATURE I Stories of transformation
Major Rosemary Dawson continues a series in which she remembers some of the inspirational people she met while working on the War Cry
A SATURDAY night out in 1973 had life-changing consequences for Haydn Davies, a promising footballer on the Wales Under-21 team.
After drinking all night, 19-year-old Haydn and three friends drove at high speeds round country roads. The learner driver lost control, and the car hit a tree and dropped 60 feet down an embankment and onto a railway line.
The driver and front seat passenger were killed. The third had a few cuts and bruises. Haydn woke up in hospital paralysed, with two holes bored into his skull to hold the bolts keeping his broken neck in place.
When I met him he was still suffering the consequences of that night out. But Haydn held no bitterness. He strongly believed that God brought him out of that crash for a reason: to come into a personal knowledge of Jesus Christ.
‘I don’t remember much about the crash, except the driver losing control,’ he said. ‘I tried to take the wheel, but it was too late. The doctor told me almost immediately that I wouldn’t be playing football again. Two of my friends were dead and I was scared, in shock and depressed.’
Haydn spent six months in traction and underwent 17 operations during two years in hospital.
‘The worst was on my neck, when a piece of bone from my hip was fused to my spinal cord,’ he explained. ‘The pain was horrific. But the operation had partial success, starting with movement in my fingers.’
Haydn was allowed home for Christmas Day, but getting into a car again was traumatic. Getting into a wheelchair was equally traumatic.
‘It was awful,’ he said. ‘I was determined to get mobile and got 50 to 60 per cent movement back after very intense physio. It took four years of constant battling to walk, but eventually I could go short distances without sticks.’
A difficult time of readjustment followed his discharge from hospital.
‘I’d been selected for the Wales Under-21 team at 16. I played for the side three times. I dreamt of becoming a professional player – several clubs, including Arsenal, were already interested in me.’
Haydn met Karla – ‘my rock’ – at a disco on Christmas Eve in 1978. They married in 1979, but he confessed to giving Karla a rough time.
‘I felt robbed of my career, and that put a very low value on our marriage,’ he said. ‘I was always out with the lads, drinking all weekend to forget what I’d lost and hungover till Thursday.’
The birth of their daughter, Hayley, seemed a miracle, but her worried reaction the first time she saw Haydn drunk was a real wake-up call. ‘I knew I had to change,’ he said.
Karla had an unexpected solution: going to church.
‘I’d always resisted; I thought church was for cissies,’ he said. ‘But I owed it to Karla to try. It was totally alien to me. I hated it. We sang “Amazing Grace” and I asked Karla who “Grace” was!
‘A church lady invited me to a house fellowship on Saturday – my boys’ night out. I went, not intending to stay long but, when I tried to get up, somehow my legs just wouldn’t move. She said to me, “Haydn, put yourself right with God, because he brought you out of that car crash for a reason.”
‘I talked about it with Karla. She explained about being a Christian and said that God could break the hardest heart. I vowed he’d never get me!
‘But on Sunday I found myself actually listening to the sermon. I could feel my hardness melting away and fought against it. It seemed that Jesus was saying, “Haydn, I want you to follow me,” so I just prayed: “Lord, if you’re there, forgive me.” From that moment, I felt different. I felt clean inside. God made me a new person.
‘Gradually I found less comfort in drinking, and eventually lost the desire altogether. There weren’t many Christians my age at church, but Jeff and Steve helped me grow in my faith.’
Haydn was also encouraged by the books of Joni Eareckson Tada, a young Christian left with quadriplegia after a swimming accident.
‘Steve suggested I should talk about my experience, and to my surprise people were very moved and interested. That led to a speaking ministry at churches and conferences.’
As he got older, Haydn’s physical problems increased.
‘I use the wheelchair a lot more now,’ he said. ‘Pain has been my companion every night for more than 30 years. But God gives me the grace to cope and, if he can use me to tell people about Jesus, that’s special and exciting. I wouldn’t change my life for anything; it’s amazing.’
MAJOR DAWSON LIVES IN RETIREMENT IN ST AUSTELL
Based on an article published in the War Cry, 9 July 2005
Haydn’s story is told in A Night Out With The Boys, available from amazon.co.uk as a paperback or as a Kindle ebook