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"Thirty-seven is too young to give up" - Stroke survivor astounds doctors and achieves skydiving dream

PUBLISHED: 13:09 12 December 2018

Paul Draper from Hethersett took a flight in a 1936 de Havilland Hornet Moth at Felthorpe Flying Club earlier this year.  Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Paul Draper from Hethersett took a flight in a 1936 de Havilland Hornet Moth at Felthorpe Flying Club earlier this year. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

When a 37-year-old father of two suffered a stroke a month after proposing to his girlfriend, he believed his dream of jumping from a plane would be impossible.

Emily and Paul Draper at their wedding. Photo: SubmittedEmily and Paul Draper at their wedding. Photo: Submitted

But five years later, after a gruelling battle to overcome the physical and emotional challenges presented by the condition, Hethersett father, Paul Draper, is ready to tick skydiving off his bucket-list.

Mr Draper will take to the sky on Saturday morning, completing a tandem parachute jump at Beccles Industrial Estate to raise money for the East Anglian Air Ambulance.

Following a stroke in 2013, Mr Draper spent two months in Addenbrooke’s Hospital, with doctors fearing he would never walk again.

But in the years that followed, the stroke survivor astounded medical staff with his progress.

Paul Draper suffered a stroke in 2013 and is preparing for his first skydive to raise money for the East Anglian Air Ambulance. Photo: James BassPaul Draper suffered a stroke in 2013 and is preparing for his first skydive to raise money for the East Anglian Air Ambulance. Photo: James Bass

Fuelled by a determination to regain his independence, Mr Draper re-learned to drive, walk short distances and trains on exercise machines designed for able bodied gym-goers.

He said: “I wanted to prove I could still be a dad to my kids. Thirty-seven is too young to give that up.

“At times I feel robbed of those years but we’re making up for lost time. I take them roller-skating and swimming and do all the things a dad should.”

He added his wife, Emily Draper, was his rock and that although she was shocked to hear he was jumping out a plane, always supported his decisions.

Having been given the go ahead by his GP to complete the jump, who noted that Mr Draper was in fact “healthier than most 42-year-olds”, he said he felt fearless and ready.

Although the former fork-lift truck driver is unable to work due to the physical impact of the condition, he said was committed to contributing to society and that charity fund raising was his way of giving back.

His JustGiving campaign for East Anglian Air Ambulance has already raised £1,480, smashing the original target of £500.

Mr Draper said: “Every time the air ambulance gets called out it costs the charity £3,500.

“When I had my stroke I was lucky to be in Costessy - the ambulance came from Long Water so it was there quick. I was so close to needing it myself. People have strokes everyday and if I can raise £1,500 that could help save someone’s life.”

To support Paul’s campaign visit his justgiving page.

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