King’s Lynn firefighter describes two month battle since freak Mallorca accident
- Credit: Archant
King's Lynn firefighter James Thorpe was left paralysed on his stag-do from what looked like a minor fall in the sea. Two months on he speaks about the freak accident and what the future holds.
Since arriving at the specialist spinal injuries centre in Sheffield last month, James Thorpe said he had been inundated with support.
Not a day has passed without a visitor, be it loved ones rallying to be by his side or wellwishers offering words of encouragement, while those touched by his tale have donated in their masses, raising £13,000 to help him.
The 28-year-old, who lives in Boston, says he is at the beginning of a long road, but is focusing on small signs of promise – he is now able to use a wheelchair, has seen slight movement in his legs and has rescheduled his wedding for next summer.
He and fiancée Michaela Watson decided to cancel their original ceremony, planned for the end of June this year, after the accident.
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'We knew there wasn't much point holding it – I wouldn't have been able to go for very long and it wouldn't have been the same,' he said.
'We are going to get married next July, so I have now got the year mark to head for.
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'I'm going to try and be as well as I can – whether I will be walking down the aisle I don't know, but it's up to a bit of luck and my determination.'
It was just three hours into his stag-do in Mallorca when, after a quick drink in a local bar, the group decided to go for a dip in the sea.
He said: 'As I was walking into the water I tripped on something.
'I hit my head so it's a blur, but I was underwater and I couldn't stand up – I couldn't get my head out.
'I was getting pins and needles and knew instantly I had damaged my neck. I started panicking because I just couldn't move.'
Realising he still had movement in his arms, he pulled himself towards a friend and up above the water.
Thanks to his firefighter training, he understood that slow and careful movement was vital – an awareness which he now believes may have saved his life.
He said: 'I've seen my scan since and if my friends hadn't listened and hadn't been as careful as they were then I think it could have been much worse.'
The next few days, Mr Thorpe said, were a 'horrible blur'.
With family allowed to visit for only an hour each day, he was confined to a hospital bed, neck brace on, left to stare at the ceiling and sleep. But after initial surgery – and thanks to the determination of his loved ones – he was flown back home two weeks later to the spinal injuries unit in Sheffield, where he is likely to stay for another few months, building up his strength and working towards recovery.
'They are expecting more recovery from me, but they don't know how much,' he said.
'It's probably unlikely that it will be a full recovery and I will most likely be left with some sort of disability. Some people are able to make a full recovery, some will be able to walk but have problems with balance – it's really hard to tell and the doctors can't make me any promises.'
His story was met with an outpouring of support, which he described as 'overwhelming' and said had kept his spirits high.
'People have been brilliant,' he said. 'I've had continued support since. They've offered me free personal training sessions, help with the house if anything needs adapting. It's been incredible and I am very grateful.'
For now, with his wedding acting as motivation, he said his focus was on moving forward.
This weekend he will enjoy a trip to the pub and a meal with his family.
'There are definitely days when I've been down and there's been tears, but it's normal,' he said. 'It's frustrating not knowing what's going to happen, but moping around isn't going to get me anywhere.
'I don't know what the outcome will be – I've just got to keep fighting.'
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