‘It feels like for two years I’ve been trapped indoors,’ says Hethersett forklift truck driver who suffered stroke at 37
- Credit: James Bass
His dream of getting married helped him learn to walk again.
Paul Draper was just 37 when he suffered a massive stroke, the month after he had proposed to his girlfriend Emily.
The Hethersett forklift truck driver was put in an induced coma and spent two months in Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, following a bleed on the brain.
His surgeon feared he would be bed-bound for the rest of his life in a vegetative state.
But when Mr Draper regained consciousness, his girlfriend was there by his side.
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'She said she still wanted to get married, so that gave me the incentive,' he said. 'If it wasn't for Emily, the motivation wouldn't be there.'
Spurred on by a desire to walk Emily down the aisle, Mr Draper made incredible progress and the pair tied the knot in 2014 – less than a year after his stroke.
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The couple are now raising funds for a £3,000 synthetic turf garden so Mr Draper can enjoy the space independently with his family, including his wife's son Dylan, six, and his two children, Jessica, nine, and Niamh, seven, when they visit.
He currently has a ramp to his lawn, but cannot move round in his wheelchair.
'It would give me so much freedom,' he said. 'It feels like for two years I've been trapped indoors. It will help improve my fitness.'
He can now walk short distances and communicate freely, but has no function in his left arm and hand and is a wheelchair user.
'People think you get discharged and you're better, but it's ongoing,' he said. 'I would love to get back to work.
'I've had a very good support network. My wife and our friends and family have been fantastic. If I don't try my best to get better, I'm failing them. I can't just sit here and give up.'
Mrs Draper was with Mr Draper when he suffered the stroke.
'He said he wasn't feeling very well and asked me to get him some painkillers,' she said. 'He slurred his words a bit and when he took a sip of water and it poured out of the side of his mouth.
'I instantly knew something was wrong and called an ambulance.'
The couple moved into a bungalow in Hethersett together, fitted with ramps for Mr Draper's wheelchair, and he underwent rehabilitation at the Colman Hospital in Norwich.
When they got married they donated half of their wedding presents in cash to the neuro-critical care unit at Addenbrooke's.
•To donate, see www.gofundme.com/paulsgarden
•Mr Draper thanked his former employers, Clays printers in Bungay, and all the NHS staff for their support