A dad paralysed in a horrific weightlifting accident has set his sights on competing in a half marathon after his two-year-old son inspired him through gruelling rehab.
James Dwyer, 36, was training for a weightlifting competition when he tried to carry out a 65 kilo (143 lb) ‘snatch lift’ above his head.
He had done the manoeuvre thousands of times, but lost his grip and the bar slammed down on his back, instantly paralysing him from the belly button down.
Recalling the horrific incident last October, Jame said: “I fully expected to stand up, but I just couldn’t move.
“I was in excruciating pain.”
Insurance broker James, of Shoreham, West Sussex, was rushed to Brighton General Hospital, where he spent six hours in surgery.
He remained bed-bound in various hospitals for the following four months, losing more than 10 kilos (22 lbs) in weight and he was unsure if he would ever be able to walk again.
Doctors referred him to Neurokinex, which uses innovative methods like electrical stimulation therapy to help paralysed patients.
“That’s when my rehab really kicked in,” James said.
Marilla Cameron, James’ trainer, said: “We knew from the outset that James is a strong and determined man.
“His training mindset from Olympic lifting before his accident remained and we used that to channel his energy and effort.”
Quickly James was ‘wheelbarrow walking’, using his hands and arms to move himself around with his legs suspended behind him.
All the while, it was the thought of being able to lift his son Dexter, who was one at the time of the accident, above his head again that drove and inspired James throughout his recovery.
He said: “When the accident happened, I was worried that my wife was going to have to look after our son single-handedly.
“I wanted to be able to help care for Dexter, and do things like changing a nappy.
“I was in denial for a long time that maybe some feeling [in my legs] would come back.
“But I tried to focus on what I can still do. I still had my arms so I wanted to play with Dexter and wash myself and not be a burden.”
Finally, after many attempts and with the help of a swimming pool, weightlifter James was able to carry out his most-cherished lift of all, holding Dexter above his head just like he used to before he was paralysed.
“It was great to carry my son again. We have both had to adapt – I have to use my biceps a lot more to lift him up now.
“But he’s completely comfortable sitting on my lap now, which is fantastic.”
Now, James – who has been chronicling his recovery journey on Instagram – has set his sights on competing in a half-marathon next year after joining a wheelchair racing club.
He added: “It’s nice to have that goal. After the accident happened, I really knew what was important in my life, and it wasn’t money: it was time with my family and trying to enjoy life.
“It doesn’t last very long so you have to enjoy it while you can. I would not have come to that realisation as quickly had this not happened.”