Diver on long road to recovery

A LITTLE over two months ago diving instructor Shane Free was the picture of health - a keep-fit enthusiast who was always on the go.

Craig Robinson

A LITTLE over two months ago diving instructor Shane Free was the picture of health - a keep-fit enthusiast who was always on the go.

But a near fatal moped accident in Thailand left him fighting for his life and in a coma for several weeks.

Although the 32-year-old has now been flown back to Suffolk, doctors still do not know if he will make a full recovery.

The former Leiston High School pupil - who left the county to work abroad in 2005 - has now begun tentative physiotherapy but he only started talking again two weeks ago.

Messages of support are stuck to the walls of his private room at Ipswich Hospital along with photographs of family, friends and loved ones in a bid to provide the inspiration he needs to get better.

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His mother Monica Vearer has maintained a 24/7 vigil by his bedside since he was admitted on January 19 - only returning to her home in Leiston for two hours to pick up some belongings.

She flew out to Thailand as soon as she heard about the accident, which happened in Phuket on December 13.

And after only a few days in the hospital she realised just how lucky her son was to be alive.

“When I arrived they were just so pleased, otherwise he would have just been the white man with no name,” she said last night.

“Phuket is so dangerous with mopeds. You would get 10 cases similar to Shane's in a day. I'd never heard anything like it in my life.

“Unfortunately a lot of them don't make it. Shane was incredibly lucky. It was just a relief having a son that was alive.”

Miss Vearer, 57, who has a background in the care industry, said the nurses at the hospital were brilliant but the conditions were poor - with everything from cats and dogs to rats and cockroaches running up and down the corridors.

She was also forced to pay for everything to do with her son's care, right down to a pair of gloves.

It was a huge relief when she was finally able to get him home, but she knows there is an extremely tough road ahead.

“Because Shane is a diving instructor he was a very fit person. He was very active and loved anything to do with sport,” she said.

“Something like this, where he is confined to a bed, will be driving him mad, but I have told him he has to be patient.

“We have got a long, hard road ahead of us but we are making progress. He is slowly getting some mobility back in his legs and he has already been for some physiotherapy. He managed 20 steps yesterday, which was terrific.

“We've also been working on his mental stimulation - watching DVDs and talking about old times. Anything that will trigger stuff off really.”

Mr Free left Suffolk in 2005 when he went to Ibiza to work as a diving instructor before moving to Phuket and setting up his own business www.the phucketdiver.com.

The cause of his accident still remains a mystery and Miss Vearer fears they will never find out what happened.

To help with his recovery his friends Mat Ireland and Sarah Ridgeon started a group on social networking website Facebook, which has been a huge support to the family.

So far they have also raised around �3,000 towards the cost of his care and future rehabilitation.

Miss Vearer said: “The support has been unbelievable, we can't thank people enough. My sister in particular has been a rock, along with my daughter. Shane's friends have been visiting and as soon as he sees them his face lights up. They've been talking to him about past memories and are just able to get him to laugh.”

A number of fundraising events are planned, including a disco at Leiston and District Constitutional Club in Waterloo Avenue, on February 26 at 8pm, tickets available on the door priced �5.

n Anyone who would like to support Mr Free's cause can send a cheque payable to “The Help Shane Free Group” to Barclays Bank, 19 Main Street, Leiston IP16 4ER. Otherwise money can be paid in at any branch quoting the account name, “The Help Shane Free Group”, sort code 20-98-07 and account number 33784754.