Imagine being a young, fit and healthy teenager, who has everything going for him. Imagine being a typical 17-year-old on a lads’ holiday. Then imagine having that taken away from you in a split second.

Nearly seven years ago, Henry Fraser went on holiday to Portugal with his mates to celebrate the end of their AS exams when a chance accident left him paralysed from the neck down.

“It was on the fifth day of our holiday,” says the 25-year-old from Chipperfield. “I was surrounded by incredible friends on a hot beautiful beach with a blue sky and laughter all around. I did something that I have done my whole life when by the sea... I ran down the beach and into the sea to a good depth and dived forward.

“I hit my head on the undulating sea bed and dislocated the fourth vertebrae in my neck leaving me unable to move anything from my neck down.”

After being dragged out of the water, Henry was airlifted to a hospital in Lisbon, where he spent three weeks, before being flown to a hospital in England, where he spent a further six months.

“I was fighting everything that was thrown at me,” describes the former rugby player, “from learning to breathe again, to fighting pneumonia to getting as strong and as healthy as possible.

“During this time I had some horrible dark days, I gave up on a lot of things, including my love of art. Then one night I thought to myself, there is no point being sad about what has happened, get on with it and focus on what you can do and life is better.”

Last year Henry, who says he gets his creativity from his mum, rediscovered his love of art.

He says: “In January last year I had an illness that left me bed bound for a few weeks. I was getting rather bored and found an app on my ipad that I could use for drawing by holding a stylus in my mouth and touching the screen. I loved it.

“When my health improved and I was able to get out of bed, I taught myself how draw and paint with actual pencils and paint by attaching utensils to a mouth stick.

“It has opened up a whole new chapter in my life that I absolutely enjoy.”

Since reconnecting with his artistic talent again, something which Henry studied at GCSE and AS Level, he has been commissioned produce work for various friends and organisations, including a Rugby World Cup supplement for The Times.

“I was very honoured and it was a privileged to be asked to do something on the World Cup, which is such a big thing,” Henry tells me. “I really enjoyed it, the piece was going on the front page and that was always in the back of my mind, so I was being extra careful about how I wanted it to be.

“They wanted a painting of Chris Robshaw, who was the England captain. They sent me a few photos and I used one that I thought would work. It took me a week to do the painting, but that was because I had to start it again at one point." 

Speaking about his art work, Henry, who also holds motivational talks to tell his story, says: “Early on I always did sports. These two things have always been my passions really – sport and art. I’d draw sports people who I admired and looked up to when I was growing up - people like Johnny Wilkinson, Thierry Henry, Chris Hoy.

“Johnny Wilkinson is a big hero of mine, just because rugby in our house is the main sport and for me and my brothers he was just one of the best players, someone who dedicated his whole life to rugby, to be the best and worked harder than anyone else to make sure he was at the top of his game. He also had a great attitude.”

Visitors to the exhibition might well say the same of Henry, who is enjoying the renewal of his creativity.

“I think my art is better now than it was before the accident. I think it is because I have more time now to think about it and focus on it and I have my own style, rather than just studying it at school.

“I usually look up images on the internet of what or who I want to draw, then I Photoshop it to get it to how I want it to look before I attempt to draw or paint it.”

Henry is holding his first ever public exhibition entitled Hand to Mouth, which will see roughly 46 pieces of work on display at The Grove Hotel from next month.

Hosting the exhibition Henry adds has been an interesting experience.

“When I was lying in my hospital bed almost seven years ago no one, not even me, expected I’d be here doing anything like this.

“If it wasn’t for the accident then I’d probably be leading a very boring life. Adversity has given me a gift.”

The Grove Hotel in the Cedar Suite, Chandler’s Cross, Watford, Saturday, July 9, 10am-6pm. Details: