Paul Fletcher, 47 at the time, was in the process of making a new start when he unfortunately suffered his spinal cord injury. After his two grown-up children left the family house, Paul had decided to leave the UK, and had found his dream house in Portugal.
“In 2016, I was browsing the Internet looking at properties, and fell in love with a cottage in Portugal. I spent the next few years renovating the house, before moving there in 2019. I was looking forward to making Portugal my new home.”
Located in the mountains, the new house however needed some alterations and building work, much of which Paul was taking on himself. It was while making repairs to his roof that Paul unfortunately fell, landing in his neighbour’s garden.
“I had gone to the roof to repair a leak, when my ladder slipped and I came down with it. My memory of the fall itself is blank, I just remember waking up face down, unable to move.”
Fortunately Paul’s neighbour Manuel returned earlier than scheduled and was able to call the emergency services who stabilised Paul at the local hospital. He was then airlifted to a more specialist centre at Coimbra.
Unfortunately, Paul had gone on to fracture his C4 vertebrae, leaving him with little or no movement from the shoulders down and compromising his breathing.
Because of Covid restrictions, Paul’s rehabilitation and importantly his contact with friends and family was limited. Initially, unable to talk because of his tracheostomy, Paul had to breakthrough the language barrier with his Portuguese medical staff simply by blinking.
Eventually, Paul was able to move back to the UK, spending time in Southampton General and the spinal unit at Salisbury. It was here that Paul started to make progress:
“During this time I worked hard to transition away from using the ventilator. It was amazing to eventually be able to breathe independently, start talking again and eating normal food!”
Altogether, Paul spent two years in a hospital setting during Covid restrictions, before moving to a residential facility currently. He remains in close contact with his family and friends who have rallied round to help him adjust to his new circumstances.
His brother James is particularly close and is planning activities to help raise funds for Spinal Research.
Looking forward, Paul is determined to continue living his life to the full and has plans to return to his property in Portugal once adjustments can be made to accommodate.
"I’ve eventually got a powered wheelchair, so looking forward to being more independent. I still struggle with things like managing my temperature control, so it’s great to see that Spinal Research focused on developing treatments to improve these hidden functions as they will make a real difference to my life."