Man defies odds and straightens spine following ‘own little miracle’

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"In the wake of the Paralympic Games, it makes you realise you don’t give up.
Everybody has got problems but you have just got to get on with it and persevere."

Derek Spencer

A MAN who was left crippled by a nerve problem has defied the odds after being told he had a 10 per cent chance of shifting his spine upright.

Derek Spencer, of Landkey, had to quit his job as a delivery driver two years ago after staggering pain in his back left him unable to stand up properly.

The 58-year-old thought he would never be able to work again but after discovering a swimming pool-based mobility group he battled the agony to achieve his remarkable recovery.

“I was in so much pain I used to lean over to try and alleviate it,” explained Derek.

“My spine ended up bending and I was left constantly leaning slightly forward and over to the right quite considerably.

“It got to the point where the agony was unbearable; it was so intense I was put on morphine to try and cope with it.”

Crippling pain

The pain was caused by a femoral nerve problem, which Derek believes stemmed from a climbing accident in 1978 and was triggered by bending and lifting items as part of his job.

He said: “I wanted to take a more conservative route without any interference or having an operation or a steel rod put up my spine.

“The physiotherapists at North Devon District Hospital were determined we could do it, but told me that 90 per cent of people in my situation would not manage to get upright again.”

Derek persevered with physiotherapy and hydrotherapy, and in January 2011 discovered the Barnstaple Water Mobility Group.

‘My own little miracle’

He said: “I’m so happy at how far I have come; it’s like my own little miracle.

“In the wake of the Paralympic Games, it makes you realise you don’t give up.

“Everybody has got problems but you have just got to get on with it and persevere.”

Jenny Day, chairman of the water mobility group, said Derek was the group’s ‘shining star’.

She said: “When Derek first came to us he could barely stand up, and now because of what he has been doing he’s getting ready to look at going back to work.

“We have around 80 members, from Royal Marines who have lost limbs to our eldest member who is 93 and has had two hip replacements.

“A number of people come to us through the hydrotherapy unit at the hospital but we are always looking for new members. We’re a friendly and welcoming group; we all help each other along.”

The next steps

Having mastered standing upright, Derek, who is married with three children, now longs to be able to go for walks with his family.

“I’m not looking to trek the Pennines or anything like that, but it would be nice to go for a Sunday stroll down the coast path for four or five miles.”

The Barnstaple Water Mobility Association meets every Monday and Thursday morning at the Barnstaple Leisure Centre.

For more information contact Jenny Day on 01271 346222.

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