Heading for home

LOL Hare's rapid recovery from paralysis is astonishing the doctors - and he's planning to be home in just five weeks, sooner than anyone believed possible.

By Tracey Sparling

LOL Hare's rapid recovery from paralysis is astonishing the doctors - and he's planning to be home in just five weeks, sooner than anyone believed possible.

In our latest report on his progress, Health and Education Editor Tracey Sparling joins him for a training session in the sports gym at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, where he tests himself to the limit.

This is the place where he has embarked on an urgent quest to learn the skills that are his key to getting home to Ipswich.

AS he rams his wheelchair against the step one more time, Lol slams to an abrupt halt and is thrown forward with the force of his effort.

He has jumped the small front wheels of the lightweight wheelchair a few inches onto the wooden step, but heaving the back ones up, which carry his body weight, is proving impossible.

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Again and again he tries, a physiotherapist watching from behind in case the wheelchair tips over.

Lol gets more tired and struggles, his trembling hands searching for grip on the purple wheel rims.

At times he stops to take a deep breath, but the others in the gym urge him on, shouting from the sidelines, 'go on man.'

It is a humbling scene to witness, as the group of men, some beset by tragedy yet still only in their teens, master balancing manoeuvres in a variety of wheelchairs.

They circle through a slalom of cones backwards, skid to a stop and jump their wheels onto a ramp or crash mat. They take the mickey out of each other's mistakes but learn the best way to fall at the same time.

Lol laughs with them, his easy manner winning new friends wherever he goes in the hospital, where he's been learning rehabilitation skills for the past three months.

His dream is to sit at home in front of the tv, with his dog curled at his feet.

But to do that, he must first learn how the effects of his injury - sustained during a crash while competing in a speedway race at Newport, Gwent, in April – can be coped with and minimised.

The tragedy left the 32-year-old speed demon paralysed from the chest down, wondering what life could ever hold for him again.

But now he's passed a driving test in an adapted car, been given a 'going-home' date of October 25 to work towards, and even this week he regained movement in two more fingers on his right hand.

His house is also being modified to accommodate his needs in a wheelchair, and now builders will be racing against the clock to get it ready in five weeks, instead of in time for the Christmas homecoming which had been predicted.

"At one stage I couldn't believe things would move on for me, but everything's starting to happen now," said Lol.

"It's going well. I feel like I'm over the brow of the hill now, and it's a big sense of relief - I'm cruising now."

He wants to travel home every weekend, now that he has conquered the hurdle of the first trip.

"It was nerve wracking – I was quite worried before I went," he admitted.

"And when I arrived the house looked different, with a ramp up to the front door.

"It was all a bit of a muddle when I got in. There was stuff everywhere, but my family were there and we managed. My dog went beserk for about ten minutes, then finally calmed down."

He's bubbling with plans to convert his Whitton house, and talks of 'smashing up the walls,' to open the kitchen into the next room, and the bedroom into the bathroom to create an en-suite shower room.

For now, he's moved onto a less medical ward in the National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville, where his days are filled with trips to the gym.

Lol's case is being overseen by top expert, Brian Gardner, head consultant at the nation's specialist facility with 30 years' experience.

Mr Gardner is delighted with his star patient's improvement, and said: "It is remarkable progress.

"Lol is a credit to himself.

"He is making the best of things, and making the most of what he's got."

Physiotherapist Anne-Marie Shepherd agreed, as she watched him hook his elbows under his knees, to lift his legs into the shell of an Astra car in the gym.

She summed up the thoughts of many, including nurses at Newport Hospital who still phone to check his progress, as she said: "He is making amazing progress."

Then Lol asked to try again, even trying to lift himself into the driving seat without a wooden board to slide across, ever determined.

At a special racetrack at Bracknell, Lol has already made the most of an adapted Peugeot 307 automatic then a Renault Clio, to pass a driving test.

He quickly mastered the dashboard-mounted controls, and wore a wrist attachment which plugged into the steering wheel.

He was certified competent to drive, and the paperwork is now being processed so he can get his own car in future.

For now, he's counting the days until he will be back on the road to Ipswich.


The fund for Lol's future now stands at £91,000 and donations can be sent to Geraldine Thompson, Editor's Secretary, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN.