Homecoming is a dream come true for Lol

OWNING a sports bar, running a Cadillac hire firm and travelling to Australia – Lol Hare may be paralysed from the chest down but he’s brimming with plans.It is a triumph of the NHS, as well as his own courage, that we can tell the remarkable story of his homecoming today – and send a copy to Prime Minister Tony Blair to prove the press doesn’t always slate the NHS.

By Tracey Sparling

HE dreamed of this day for so long – and now Lol Hare is finally living it.

Months of lying in a hospital bed and fighting his way back to fitness have given him ample time to work out a future away from his speedway career.

Today he is at his home in Ipswich, poised to turn adversity to triumph. After recovering from a massive homecoming party which lasted all weekend, Lol is seizing the chance to start carving out a

new life.

Charly, the faithful chow-chow dog he longed to cuddle on long wakeful nights at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, watched at his side, waiting for a titbit of cheese from his delighted master.

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Lol, 32, was paralysed from the chest down in a speedway crash in Newport, Wales, in April and has been told he will never walk again. Each new week has brought a slight improvement, be it a tremor in hands that might never grasp again, or managing another household task.

His progress all added up and doctors discharged him two months early.

"It's great to be home," he admitted. "I used to be so tired after being in the wheelchair and just wanted to go to bed, but now I'd rather be up and about.

"It is nice that I will be able to see people more

regularly, especially my family and close friends who have had so much travelling to do to come and visit me in hospital. It's wonderful to see Charly again. He's great company. I can't walk him yet because he's so powerful that he'd pull me along.

"I am determined to try to live as normal a life as possible."

Lol's brother, Stewart, said: "It seems a long haul but I never doubted my brother would make the best of his situation.

"The first few months were the hardest but I think he will now go on and live a pretty good life. It is nice to have him about again. The nearer home he is, the less worry the family has."

Life at home is still far from easy. There is a ramp to his front door but it is too steep, and the builders move in soon to knock walls and doorways out and replace carpets with smooth wood-flooring to ease his wheelchair progress.

Lol said: "It was terrifying coming home at first, and wondering what I'd do if anything happened. In hospital they are always checking, checking and now I have to remember to think about things myself.

"Every day is hard. Things are so time-consuming, and it takes me ages to get dressed or pick stuff up off the floor.

"I still have fears about the whole thing, being paralysed and all that and only if there is some real breakthrough in technology will I ever walk again – I know that."

He watches Christopher Reeve's progress in America with interest, because the Superman actor suffered a similar injury. Lol said: "He's trying everything out. You never know what technology might bring."

For now, being wheelchair-bound does not limit Lol's business ambitions.

He said: "I'd like to open a bar, perhaps with one of my bikes all polished-up and hung on the wall, or encased in the bar counter – I've got enough friends to be customers!

"We just need to find the right premises. Or maybe I'll buy an American Cadillac and hire it out. That's another thing I'd like to do.

"I'd also like to get round to every speedway track in the next couple of seasons to thank everyone for their support. That might take a while."

His friend Dean Woods, who was in Stoke Mandeville at the same time, after suffering a crash while travelling the world, has visited Lol from Bristol.

He has invited Lol to join him in wheelchair-friendly Australia, where the beaches have ramp-access and he could be lifted into the water. "I'd love to go," said Lol.

Remembering their time as ward-mates, Dean said: "While I was in hospital, and walking but still having bad days, Lol was always the one who would spur us all on. Seeing how determined he was made us try harder."

Now Lol sits in his new reclining chair in his own

living room which lifts him to almost standing position to take the weight off his joints and improve circulation to his legs.

"Pat Doncaster, wife of former Witches rider Jeremy, bought me this lazy-boy chair. I'm told it's very comfortable, but I can't feel it," he laughed.

"I'm determined not to get lazy and just sit around at home.

"I have to be careful because I knock into things and then can't feel pain. I still say ouch, though and I think, that must have hurt!

He only has to return to Stoke Mandeville for check-ups, and has a community physiotherapist visiting his home as well up to four carers every day.

He also thanked his brother, parents, and relatives for their unstinting help.

Gratitude also goes to the NHS, which has pulled him through the dark days by teaching him what is still possible.

He said: "The nurses on the orthopaedic ward at Newport Hospital were really good, and once I got over a water infection at Stoke Mandeville the spinal experts taught me all sorts of techniques. I had to take things on from there."

The Lawrence Hare Support Fund, set up by his family and The Evening Star

immediately after the crash, has raised more than £125,000 so far.

Money is due to be spent on adapting his bungalow, and his parents' home, for him to stay.

He said: "It is totally amazing, and I really can't believe it, but the money is there for my future and I can't and won't just go and blow it."

Famous sports stars like Richard Wright and David Beckham have also pledged their support, and now former Blues star Kieron Dyer has sent him the shirt he played in during the World Cup game against Denmark in Japan on June 15.

Kieron said: "I have known about Lol since the time I heard the news many months ago.

"He is an Ipswich lad and so am I. It was awful to hear of his injuries but I'm so glad he is making such good progress and I am more than happy to give him one of my England shirts. I hope he enjoys it."

The growing collection of sporting memorabilia, which includes Lol's own speedway jackets, could make a fine display to adorn that bar of his dreams.

Donations, with cheques made payable to Evening Star Lol Hare Appeal, can be sent to Geraldine Thompson, Editor's Secretary, Lol Hare Appeal, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN.

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