Damien defies the odds to walk

VIDEO At just 18-year-olds Damien Fung was told he would never walk again.But doctors hadn't banked on the steely determination of the brave young man who pushed himself to the limit and defied the odds.

AT just 18-year-olds Damien Fung was told he would never walk again.

But doctors hadn't banked on the steely determination of the brave young man who pushed himself to the limit and defied the odds.

Now Damien, who was seriously injured in a horrific car crash five years ago which left him brain damaged and needing constant care, is taking his first steps towards a more independent life.

Today, at 23-years-old, he is an inspiration to other young people on how to overcome seemingly huge obstacles and come out on top. He is caring, outgoing, friendly, optimistic and with an infectious love of life.

Damien, who lives in specially adapted accommodation in Chaucer Road, Ipswich, said: “After the accident I felt no good. I felt depressed about myself. I wanted to kill myself.

“Now I can walk! I wanted to prove people wrong and that is one example.

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“I never give up - no pain no gain. But there is no word in the dictionary to describe how hard it was.”

Damien also had problems speaking but has worked with a speech therapist to make sure he can communicate his positive message.

And he knows he has come along way since the crash in the early hours of October 2003 which happened as he was travelling along the A143 between Thetford and Bury St Edmunds in his Mini Cooper.

The car left the road, rolled several times and landed on its bonnet among trees and against the fence of a refuse depot. It was not until 8am that the manager of the depot found him.

The accident left him with a serious brain injury, unable to walk, with double vision and other difficulties.

After receiving care at the Icanho centre in Stowmarket, for people with an acquired brain injury, Damien's life was given a massive boost two years ago when he was recommended for a specialist move-on unit in Ipswich, run by Optua UK, with 24-hour support.

Now, after progressing so well and learning gradually to walk again, he is ready to take another step and will soon be moving to another home in Ipswich where he will only have support for two to three hours a day.

He said: “I'm going to move on. I'm going to miss this place.

“All my support workers are my friends.

“I hope to get even better and one day I want to run a coffee shop and travel the world.”

Another of his ambitions is to appear on the reality television show, Big Brother. He has applied once already and got past the first round. Next time he hopes to go all the way and potentially split the winnings between Oputa UK, a hospital, and animal charity and a children's charity.

Have you overcome all the odds? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

The carer's view

EIGHT carers provide support for Damien, helping him learn to walk again, gain in independence, and be a friend.

One, Sam Gooding, said he loved looking after Damien because of his enthusiasm and fun attitude to life.

Mr Gooding said: “He is great to be with. He is doing so well and is in control of his life now, which is great.

“I think if he carries on working as hard as he is his walking could be improved even more.

“He now does 200 sit ups a day, uses a ball to exercise and also walks around the house three times with his frame every day.

“We had to cut him down actually because he was doing 400 sit ups a day and we thought it was a bit too much!”

Oputa UK

DAMIEN lives in one of three move-on units in Ipswich's Chaucer Road, Whitton, which help people with brain injuries recover and gain a more independent life.

The homes are specially adapted to make them easy to use and there are support workers on site 24-hours a day.

They are run by Optua UK which supports 30 people in total in Suffolk, most of who live in their own homes.

Optua UK helps adults with brain injuries, providing community rehabilitation and empowering people.

The charity provides accommodation in Bridge Street and Takers Lane, Stowmarket, Ansell Close, Hadleigh, and Chaucer Road, Ipswich, which all offer 24-hour specialist support.

It also provides support for people in their own homes and ultimately aims to allow people to get out and about in the community.