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Man who had stroke at 37 celebrates remarkable recovery with flight over Norfolk’s skies

PUBLISHED: 09:29 20 April 2018 | UPDATED: 09:29 20 April 2018

Paul Draper from Hethersett who is recovering from a stroke, ready for his flight in the 1936 de Havilland Hornet Moth at Felthorpe Flying Club.  Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Paul Draper from Hethersett who is recovering from a stroke, ready for his flight in the 1936 de Havilland Hornet Moth at Felthorpe Flying Club. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

A man who was told he would never walk again after a stroke at just 37 has celebrated how far he has come by taking to the Norfolk skies in a vintage plane.

Paul Draper from Hethersett who is recovering from a stroke, ready for his flight in the 1936 de Havilland Hornet Moth with pilot Dave Reid at Felthorpe Flying Club.  Picture: DENISE BRADLEYPaul Draper from Hethersett who is recovering from a stroke, ready for his flight in the 1936 de Havilland Hornet Moth with pilot Dave Reid at Felthorpe Flying Club. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

In 2013, Paul Draper suffered a stroke, a month after he proposed to his now wife Emily.

The former forklift truck driver, from Hethersett, was put in an induced coma and spent two months in Addenbrooke’s Hospital, following a bleed on the brain.

Surgeons feared he would spend his life in a vegetative state - and Mr Draper overheard doctors saying that he would be unlikely to walk again.

But he has since made remarkable progress - he can now drive, walk short distances and volunteer at the MS Therapy Centre, in Norwich, where he has sessions to help his mobility.

Paul Draper from Hethersett who is recovering from a stroke, ready for his flight in the 1936 de Havilland Hornet Moth with pilot Dave Reid at Felthorpe Flying Club.  Picture: DENISE BRADLEYPaul Draper from Hethersett who is recovering from a stroke, ready for his flight in the 1936 de Havilland Hornet Moth with pilot Dave Reid at Felthorpe Flying Club. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

And on Thursday afternoon, Mr Draper, who has a love of flying, marked just how far he has come - by driving to Felthorpe, walking to the plane and enjoying a birds-eye view of Norfolk in a 1930s Hornet Moth plane.

Pilot David Reid was behind the controls, with the pair taking off from Felthorpe Airfield.

Reflecting on his journey, Mr Draper said: “All I wanted was to get some kind of independence back. I didn’t want to be bed bound. I heard two doctors talking and one said they didn’t think I’d make it through rehabilitation and walk again.”

But Mr Draper, who uses a wheelchair, refused to be held back - and he now even volunteers at the MS Therapy Centre, which organised the flight, to “give something back”.

Paul Draper from Hethersett who is recovering from a stroke, ready to take a flight at Felthorpe Flying Club in this 1936 de Havilland Hornet Moth. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYPaul Draper from Hethersett who is recovering from a stroke, ready to take a flight at Felthorpe Flying Club in this 1936 de Havilland Hornet Moth. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

In 2014, driven by a desire to walk his then fiancée down the aisle, he learnt how to walk again in time for the pair, who have three children, to get married.

Mrs Draper said: “He has never given up. He never took that he wouldn’t walk again for an answer.

“I don’t know how he did it, and at the time I didn’t think he’d get this far, but he has been so determined.”

Ahead of the flight, an excited Mr Draper said he felt like a “little school boy”, and couldn’t wait to see the north Norfolk coast in all its glory, on the hottest day of the year so far.

Paul Draper from Hethersett who is recovering from a stroke, ready to take a flight with pilot Dave Reid at Felthorpe Flying Club in the 1936 de Havilland Hornet Moth. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYPaul Draper from Hethersett who is recovering from a stroke, ready to take a flight with pilot Dave Reid at Felthorpe Flying Club in the 1936 de Havilland Hornet Moth. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Mr Draper said taking on a volunteering role at the centre had changed his life.

He said the offer of an interview came about when he was having one of his physiotherapy sessions.

“It’s got me out of the house,” he said. “It’s made me feel important and useful again.

“Before that it felt like I had been housebound for so long.”

He said so far he had fund-raised and managed to help the centre with building costs through some of his contacts.

Paul Ray, the MS Therapy Centre manager, said: “Paul has made remarkable progress since he has been coming to the centre for therapy.

“We are delighted to be able to arrange this for him, as we know he has had a lifetime passion for planes.

“We are immensely grateful to Bobby Gotts and Dave Reid at Felthorpe Flying Group for giving Paul this opportunity.”

The centre provides a range of services, therapies, information and support to people affected by a long term neurological condition

• For more information, click here.

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