A MAN who was determined not to let a paralysis diagnosis slow him down has surprised even himself with the rate of his recovery.
A year-and-a-half after Andrew Bell was warned he would be in a wheelchair for life, after suffering multiple injuries in a motorbike crash, he is learning to walk again.
Mr Bell was convinced he could prove medics wrong and last winter travelled to Bangkok for pioneering treatment.
He was the first person in the world to have epidural stimulator surgery and stem cell treatment so soon after injury and quickly made a breakthrough when he stood up to send a video message to supporters who raised funds towards the treatment.
A year later he has returned to Thailand for more treatment provided by Unique Access Medical and made the progress he dreamed of making in four months, in the first six weeks of his visit.
Celebrating his 31st birthday yesterday, he said: “I had huge expectations of myself so wanted to stand up and take steps, but didn’t think it would happen nearly as quickly.
“I was told I’d never walk, but less than 18 months later I’ve just done about 50m holding parallel bars.
“I know I will get stronger, my muscle memory will get better the more I walk and hopefully I’ll move from the parallel bars to a walker so I don’t have to always have a wheelchair.
“That will give me greater independence and change my life dramatically.”
After the accident Mr Bell moved from a house in Spennymoor, County Durham, to a flat in Pity Me to be closer to family.
When at home, Mr Bell has used the stimulator 22 hours a day to exercise and has seen significant changes to his body.
His abdominal muscles are returning giving him greater bladder and bowel function, he can get onto his hands and knees and hold the position, sit and stand repeatedly and stand for a few minutes without his legs crumbling.
He said: “People laugh but my goal is to be on the treadmill every day, getting faster and for longer, faster and longer.
“I did the Great North Run a few times and want to do it again.
“If you tell me I cannot do something, I’ll do everything in my power to do it.
“In a wheelchair the rest of my life? Well I appreciate I’m paralysed and in a wheelchair but won’t see it as lifelong but as a challenge instead, I’ll control my own destiny.”