Inspirational Andrew Renton takes first public steps in 21 years at Suffolk Headway neuro conference

Andrew Renton takes his first public walk at a neuro conference with the help of Headway Physiothera

Andrew Renton takes his first public walk at a neuro conference with the help of Headway Physiotherapist Karen Hardy, left, and Acquired Brain Injury Support Worker Chloe Witton, right. - Credit: Su Anderson

For most of us walking is a luxury too easily taken for granted.

Andrew Renton takes his first public walk at a neuro conference with the help of Headway Physiothera

Andrew Renton takes his first public walk at a neuro conference with the help of Headway Physiotherapist Karen Hardy, left, and Acquired Brain Injury Support Worker Chloe Witton, right. - Credit: Su Anderson

But for one determined Suffolk man it was a life changing moment as he took his first steps in public in 21 years yesterday.

Andrew Renton, of Bramford, near Ipswich, was walking on the snowy mountains of Glen Coe on February 10, 1994, with his friend Peter when he slipped and fell, leaving him unconscious.

Peter made the unconscious Andrew safe before fetching help, but in the hour and a half that Peter was gone, Andrew had slipped and fallen between 50 and 100ft before crashing his head on a rock.

The injury had devastating consequences, leaving Andrew in a coma for more than three months and with limited movement in the right side of his body, which left him wheelchair bound. He was also unable to talk for a long time, and like many who suffered brain trauma, was left with a shorter memory span.

Andrew Renton takes his first public walk at a neuro conference with the help of Headway Physiothera

Andrew Renton takes his first public walk at a neuro conference with the help of Headway Physiotherapist Karen Hardy, left, and Acquired Brain Injury Support Worker Chloe Witton, right. - Credit: Su Anderson


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“I can remember the holiday but I don’t remember the accident,” Andrew, now 48, said. “But when I came round I could only move one finger on my left hand.”

It was a trying time for Andrew’s family – dad Allistair, 74, and mum Maureen, who were left with the agonising decision as to whether to turn off Andrew’s life support at Glasgow Hospital when he did not respond to treatment.

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Allistair said: “Andrew had bleeding on his brain and after it was treated they weren’t getting any response.

“After two or three days we were told by the medical team we had to make a decision – we had this conversation around his bed, and the next day he began breathing by himself.

“We’re both convinced he subconsciously knew, but he has always been a fighter.”

Andrew’s unwavering spirit saw him work hard in his rehabilitation, relearning how to speak and move his limbs.

Since the beginning of the year, he has been working on walking again with the aid of handrails.

Yesterday, Andrew put his months of practice into work, as he took his first steps in public for the first time since his accident.

Flanked on either side by Headway support staff, who have been helping Andrew in his recovery since his accident, and with the aid of a walking frame, the visibly determined Andrew walked to the rousing cheers and thunderous applause of dozens of friends, family, staff and fellow Headway service-users.

“It feels very good,” he said. “It’s always been my goal to walk, and this is the furthest I have walked since my accident.

“Hopefully I will be able to move without the frame in the future – that’s the ultimate goal.”

Beaming dad Allistair added: “I am really proud to see him do that – he is a determined chap!

“Since he has been aware that he is able to do it, it has made such a difference to his own confidence, and started doing more things for himself like dressing and getting himself into bed.”

Andrew’s monumental steps were made at the Suffolk Headway’s first neuro conference at Kesgrave Community Centre yesterday afternoon, which aims to raise awareness of Headway’s services and the challenges facing people with brain injuries.

Chief executive Helen Fairweather, said: “It was wonderful to see him make those steps. It’s something Andrew wanted to do, and it gives hope to others and prove that development and recovery improves throughout people’s lifetimes.”

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