By Aliki Kraterou
A dad miraculously learned how to walk again side by side with his infant daughter – after pneumonia left him mysteriously paralysed.
James Hart, 33, is now walking fine after a year and a half of gruelling physiotherapy and hard work alongside three-year-old daughter Sienna, then five months, who was also learning to walk at the time.
In May 2016, the stay-at-home dad-of-two, from Mansfield, Notts, became seriously ill with pneumonia and pleurisy and spent six weeks in and out of hospital.
When the former team leader was eventually discharged he was relieved and excited to spend time with wife Becky, 29, a teacher, son Joshua, six, and Sienna – until he woke up the next day and couldn’t move.
His pneumonia had caused a rare disease called transverse myelitis, where the immune system attacks the spinal cord.
This led to nerve and muscle damage and James was paralysed from the waist down and completely unable to move.
James said: “It was so weird. After six weeks of being ill on the Friday I was feeling perfect and had been playing football with my son.
“But the next morning I woke up and couldn’t move.
“I was numb all down my left side, apart from the feeling of pins and needles.
“I couldn’t feel changes of temperature and was unable to walk.
“For the next three weeks I was in and out of hospital for tests – at first the doctors thought it was a stroke.
“Then they saw MRIs showing I had transverse myelitis.
“Overnight it led to nerve damage and partial paralysis – and doctors told me I had just a 30 per cent chance of walking again without a wheelchair.”
Doctors told James there were only treatments to manage the condition’s side effects and to try and limit damage.
And they said he had just a three in 10 chance of walking again without walking aids or needing a wheelchair.
But incredibly, he defied the odds to be able to walk again normally after being inspired by watching daughter Sienna learn to walk.
James said: “When doctors told me, I was in shock.
“My first thought was that I don’t want to live in a wheelchair.
“I didn’t want my wife to have to take care of me, I thought there must have been a mistake.
“I have a young family and that is what motivated me – my son was only three and my daughter just one year old at the time.
“But after physiotherapy, I began to walk further and gain muscle.
“My daughter Sienna was learning how to walk at the same time, so we were practicing together.
“Both of my children inspired me but especially with Sienna, because she hadn’t seen me walk so I wanted to get better just so I could walk with her.
“It’s very bizarre, every night I still think something might happen again.
“It’s probably just my mind, but I still think I might wake up one day and not being able to walk.”
James can now walk fine, although he still suffers from nerve damage and leg pain and gets tired.
Next year he is even taking on a 190-mile coast to coast walk over the course of a week to raise money for the charity Transverse Myelitis Society.
For more information or to make a donation: https://uk.gofundme.com/aeh36-transverse-myelitis-awareness