In May 2015, Andrew Bell was involved in a motorcycle accident which resulted in him being left paralysed from the waist down. Despite being told by doctors in the UK that he would never be able to walk again, he was determined to achieve a different outcome and began researching available treatments for spinal cord injuries. That is when he discovered Epidural Stimulation and decided to travel to Bangkok to receive this breakthrough treatment from Unique Access Medical.
The treatment was a great success – with Andrew regaining control of his legs only a few days after the Epidural Stimulation device was implanted. Throughout his time here in Bangkok, he continued to make fantastic progress through each stage of his rehabilitation.
Andrew is now back in the UK and it’s been eight months since he received Epidural Stimulation surgery. We caught up with him recently to see how he has progressed over the past few months.
Question: It’s been 8 months since you returned back to the UK following your Epidural Stimulation surgery. What progress have you made during this time?
Andrew: Yes it has now been 8 months since I returned back to the UK. During this time I have made progress in several areas. The biggest improvement has been in my core strength and balance, which is paramount to assisting me when free standing and stepping.
I can control my core and pelvic areas much better than I could when I left Bangkok, which was something Beer (Andrew’s Physiotherapist during his treatment) and I were working on a lot before I returned home.
Secondly I have seen good improvements when kicking out, whereby I can now kick out and hold the position stronger for much longer.
This has, as a result, increased the size of my quads and certainly prevented atrophy in that part of my legs.
Question: Have you noticed any other improvements since your treatment, apart from increased functional movement?
Andrew: I have also seen some good improvements in my bladder and bowel control and function ability and have recently just started to have feeling of when my bladder is full.
Great to see Andrew is still making fantastic progress back home. This video is shared from his own page on Facebook (search Andrew Bell – MISSION TO WALK). #epiduralstimulation #SCI #spinalcord #thebigstepforward #spinalcordinjury #breakthroughtreatment #spinalcordinjuryrecovery #spinalcordinjuryawareness #missiontowalk
Question: Can you tell us what kind of exercise routine you follow, now that you are back at home?
Andrew: My exercise routine usually consists of me doing home rehab on my own, along with rehab privately and at my hospital.
For my home rehab I would start with my general exercises on my bed going through the different programs on the stimulator. So I would begin by lifting my right and then left knees to chest, doing 30 lifts each.
I would then go to sitting on the end of my bed and doing 10 kicks with both legs. I now have some parallel bars at home, so I would then either do some sit to stand exercises until my legs get noticeably weak or I would do a free stand and then take one arm off and then the other and then both depending on how strong my legs are that day.
The next day I would usually rest, but I would have a stand in my standing frame for 1 hour in morning and again during the evening.
Every other Wednesday I go to a private pilates and physio session where I work on my core strength, stability and also on my upper body, which has helped considerably and resulted in me noticing a lot of improvements when standing.
I also do sessions at my hospital using their walking frame, where I can do some stepping for one hour.
Question: Remembering back to just before you came to Thailand for your Epidural Stimulation surgery, what hopes did you have and what goals did you set?
Andrew: Before I left for Thailand I was extremely hopeful and had a lot of self belief. I only had two concerns;
1. Would my Epidural Stimulation procedure be safe with no complications?
2. When we turned the stimulator on, would it work?
If both of these were successful, which of course they were, I knew in myself that all that was required was a lot of hard work and dedication; which I have in abundance. I thrive off pushing myself to get the best results possible.
The one goal I set myself before I left was to be able to stand on my own with no support by the date of my 30th birthday (8th December) and send a message home to all my family, loved ones and friends thanking them for all the love and support I have received since my accident.
This was only 21 days after my Epidural Stimulation procedure and I was extremely proud of the fact I was able to send this message home, especially after seeing how much it meant to my mum for her to see her son standing up again, after being told only 6 months before that he would never even wiggle a toe again, never mind stand.
Question: Do you feel as though the device and rehabilitation following the treatment has put you on the right track to achieve your goals?
Andrew: I think that even though I had such high hopes for my treatment, the treatment and especially the rehab working with Beer helped me far exceed mine, and the rest of the Unique Access Medical team’s, expectations.
To be able to lift my knees to my chest on command during my first rehab session only 3 days after my Epidural Stimulation procedure was like a dream come true.
From then quickly moving on to being able to stand and hold my own body weight, free standing and then taking my first steps, to finally taking my first steps outside of the walking frame with only the support of the parallel bars was way beyond anyone’s expectations, including mine.
Question: Going forward, what are your plans in terms of your continued rehabilitation?
Andrew: My plan is to continue to do my home rehab and private physio at home to help improve the strength of my legs and I also hope to be able to do some extra stepping sessions at my hospital.
My big aim is to raise enough funds to be able to return to Bangkok and do some further rehabilitation at with Beer and the Unique Access Medical team out there, where I know I will get the best possible results in terms of me reaching my goals. My goal is to be able to walk with a walker and then crutches, and hopefully one day, be able to walk on my own unaided.
Question: What would you say to anyone thinking about beginning epidural stimulation treatment?
Andrew: To anyone who is considering Epidural Stimulation treatment, I would say that you only have to look at this interview and some of the posts on the Epidural Stimulation website and social media profiles, or my own Mission to Walk page, to see how much this has changed my life.
Whether you are a complete spinal cord injury patient or incomplete, the treatment can hopefully help you get some of your motor functions back again and then you can work on being able to stand and walk again, which like myself, is any SCI patients dream.
Having done the treatment and worked with the Unique Access Medical team over in Bangkok, I can honestly say it was, from a medical stand point, fantastic. From the healthcare, nutrition, physiotherapy, procedure itself and after-care, the whole package far exceeded mine and my families expectations and I couldn’t recommend it highly enough.
Andrew has set up a his own Facebook page to share his ongoing progress – www.facebook.com/missiontowalk
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