In 1992 his eyesight started to deteriorate and despite 30 sessions of laser treatment to save his sight, he was eventually officially registered as blind (with 80% of his visibility impaired). Paul also experienced kidney failure and was forced to commence renal dialysis in 2005 – a procedure he would have to endure several times a week for over six years whilst the search for a suitable donor kidney for transplant became available. Throughout this time Paul was made aware that he would have to try to remain as fit as possible, since demand for transplant kidneys is such, that patients with the best chances of survival are prioritised.
Paul’s dialysis treatment was complicated because after 30 years of insulin injections and routine blood tests, his veins had become extremely porous, and the medical team were forced to attach a vein to an artery in his arm to achieve the blood flow rate required for effective dialysis.
Despite this Paul took every opportunity to maintain his body strength – such as repeating body raising exercises in his wheelchair or hospital bed. Many life threatening conditions can arise due to the constant surgical interventions and lack of mobility (eg gangrene, DVT, blood pressure problems and weight gain) and Paul realised that maintaining body strength was something within his control that would give his body an increased chance of staying as fit as possible and fighting off any potential additional complications.
During the dialysis treatment, Paul was given “Necklines” a process requiring the insertion of dialysis lines into an artery close to his heart via his neck and under his collar bone. Despite best efforts by hospital staff to protect him against infection, the repeated open wounds meant that in December 2005, Paul contracted MRSA which attacked his spinal cord, and ultimately left him paralysed from the armpits down.
At this time, Paul was told by medical staff that he would never be able to get out of bed again, but he was determined to prove them wrong and made a £100 bet with his doctor that he would get strong enough, not only to have the transplant, but to walk again.
Two years followed as an-inpatient in neuro-rehab at Canterbury hospital, where Paul continued to perform whatever exercises he could to try to recover from the paralysis– starting with regularly raising his upper body using his arms whilst in bed, and gradually basic strength and movement returned to his lower body and legs. As a result he became strong enough to be released from hospital, though he continued the physio-therapy sessions. Further twice weekly visits to a specialist physio clinic in Dover for a year, meant that Paul was finally able to leave hospital walking on crutches. With basic mobility restored he was referred to Ashford Leisure Trust’s Exercise on Referral programme to provide the ongoing specialist exercise support – in particular building the strength back into his legs since he hadn’t been able to walk for several years.
But the worst of Paul’s challenges still weren’t behind him. The long term reliance on phosphate binders in his medication to prevent calcium build up in his body – since his kidneys were unable to remove it naturally meant Paul began to suffer from osteoporosis. He was advised to take a break from exercising in order to give his body time to recover from the ongoing dialysis and spinal injuries.
Conscious of the risks to his chances of securing a kidney transplant from too long a period of inactivity, Paul went back to his GP after nine months and asked to be re-referred to the specialist physiotherapy sessions. He was referred to the William Harvey hospital in a wheelchair and once again was able to leave after the course supported only by crutches. Further help was provided by the NHS’ team of occupational therapists who helped Paul regain the strength and confidence required for basic life skills, such as getting on and off buses and using escalators again.
Eventually in April 2011, and after two false alarms, Paul was able to have a simultaneous kidney and pancreas transplant which proved extremely successful. Despite the operation meaning Paul no longer suffers from diabetes, Paul has chosen stayed on the same diet as he was on before with only very small volumes of sugar and fatty foods in order to maintain his BMI.
For over four years now, Paul has received support from John and Becky in the Trust’s exercise on referral team which has helped him regain his balance and further restore strength to his whole body – though his right side remains slightly weaker than his left.
As a result of this ongoing imbalance in his leg strength however, Paul slipped on frosty ground two years ago, and broke and shattered the upper thigh bone in his right leg. The severity of the injury was exacerbated by his osteoporosis. Because the break was close to his knee, the surgeons couldn’t use an external brace and had to insert internal pins instead. Despite believing the fracture set him back two years, Paul was out of the hospital on crutches after only 5 days, and back working out at the Stour Centre after only two weeks!
As of summer 2013, Paul is able to walk - albeit still reliant on crutches, has maintained his body fat levels at a remarkable 14%, and is back exercising an average four times a week. The exercise on referral team have helped developed a full body workout programme which takes into account his ongoing mobility limitations and is reviewed with him on a monthly basis. One of the pins in his legs has unfortunately moved out of position and Paul awaits a further follow up operation to either remove or re-set it.
Paul is extremely appreciative of the medical care he has had, and continues to receive from all of the medical specialists carers he has needed along the way. His remarkable perseverance he says is down to seeing all the obstacles as a challenge, admitting that he sees himself as stubborn and refusing to be beaten. Above all, had he not made the conscious lifestyle decisions that he has, and given himself the best possible chances to survive, he is certain that he his future would have been a lot grimmer - and a lot shorter due to the multiple secondary conditions arising as a result of type 1 diabetes.