Ipswich: Former Ipswich Witches star Lol Hare on hope to walk thanks to spinal surgery breakthrough

Lawrence Hare, former speedway rider who was paralysed after an accident.

Lawrence Hare, former speedway rider who was paralysed after an accident. - Credit: Lucy Taylor

Twelve years ago former Ipswich Witches speedway star Lawrence ‘Lol’ Hare was told he was paralysed after a devastating crash - and today his dream of one day kicking a ball with his newborn son is one step closer to reality.

Lol Hare gets a cuddle from partner Lucy

Lol Hare gets a cuddle from partner Lucy

Thanks to successful pioneering surgery, 38-year-old Bulgarian patient Darek Fidyka, who was paralysed from the waist down after his spinal cord was severed, is able to walk again, and Lol Hare could also benefit from this revolutionary treatment.

It is thought he is the first person in the world to recover from complete severing of the spinal nerves.

The life of former Ipswich Witches ace Lol was turned upside down by a speedway crash in Newport, South Wales, on April 14, 2002, where he was paralysed from the chest down after his spinal cord was squashed

“It’s been 12 years since my accident and the doctors were talking about this kind of treatment back then,” explained Lol, who lives in Ipswich with partner of 10 years, Lucy Westley, and two-month-old son Xavier.

“The consultant said he thought experts were about a decade away from the treatment becoming a reality. And now it’s happened.

“There have been so many false calls paralysis reversal but this is a clear cut example.

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“He had a total loss of feeling because his cord was severed. To go from that to actually weight-bearing and standing on his legs is just incredible.

“It’s not just that he can walk again, it’s everything else that goes with it.

“You are not sat for the whole time just watching. Just to be able to stretch out and to breathe properly would be an amazing thing.”

The pioneering operation saw surgeons use nerve-supporting cells from Mr Fidyka’s nose to provide pathways along with the broken tissue was able to grow.

Despite success in the laboratory, it is the first time the procedure has been shown to work in a human patient.

Lol added: “All of these stories you hear about, they all strive towards the same goal but this is a clear cut example of paralysis to walking. It’s just mind-blowing.”

The breakthrough has given Lol, 44, renewed optimism that one day he will be able to play football with his son or take him to the park.

Lol became a father for the first time, with partner Lucy, 31, on August 14, when Xavier, weighing 8lb 4oz arrived.

“It was the best day of my life,” he described. “I was shellshocked for weeks and couldn’t believe it but now he is starting to smile, make eye contact and is becoming a littler person. He is just incredible. It’s a totally new chapter in our lives.

“But I imagine being able to see him grow up and do the things that normal dads take for granted liking kicking a football

“It’s the simple things I’d like to be able to do - lift Xavier into his car seat and buggy, get him dressed - by Lucy does everything.

“I do help where I can and give him his bottle but it’s frustrating not to be able to help more. I want to help Lucy and take some of the pressure off her. To feel like I’m doing more to help.”

Before his life-changing accident, Lol’s life was cars and bikes. He said: “Going from being a practical man and working with my hands to then not be able to grip or trigger tools was frustrating.

“It also affected my balance because you become top heavy. I have to rely on my arms to hold myself up.

“It’s not just that you lose the ability to feel your limbs, it’s your organs as well.”

As well as riding for the Witches, Lol, who was born in Elmsett, also raced for Oxford, Exeter, Rye House and Edinburgh during his career.

Darek Fidyk

Darek Fidyka was left paralysed from the waist down after his spinal cord was severed in a stabbing attack.

But today he is able to walk with a frame and has been able to resume an independent life. Sensation has returned to his lower limbs.

Surgeons used nerve-supporting cells from his nose to provide pathways along which the broken tissue was able to grow.

Professor Geoffrey Raisman, whose team at University College London’s Institute of Neurology discovered the technique, said: “We believe that this procedure is the breakthrough which, as it is further developed, will result in a historic change in the currently hopeless outlook for people disabled by spinal cord injury.”

The research was funded by the Nicholls Spinal Injury Foundation and the UK Stem Cell Foundation.

A Polish team led by one of the world’s top spinal repair experts, Dr Pawel Tabakow, from Wroclaw Medical University, performed the surgery.

The procedure involved transplanting olfactory ensheathing cells from the nose to the spinal cord to help the repair of damaged nerves. Re-located to the spinal cord, they appear to enable the ends of severed nerve fibres to grow and join together - something previously thought impossible.

While some patients with partial spinal injury have made remarkable recoveries, a complete break is assumed to be irrepairable.

“The patient is now able to move around the hips and on the left side he’s experienced considerable recovery of the leg muscles,” said Prof Raisman. “He can get around with a walker and he’s been able to resume much of his original life, including driving a car.

“If we can raise the funding we hope to see at least three more patients treated in Poland over the next three to five years. The hope is that this will sufficiently convince other neurosurgeons.

NSIF founder David Nicholls, whose son Daniel was paralysed in an accident in 2003, said: “One of the most devastating moments a parent will ever experience is the sight of their son or daughter lying motionless in bed and facing the reality that they may never walk again.

“The scientific information relating to this significant advancement will be made available to other researchers around the world so that together we can fight to finally find a cure for this condition which robs people of their lives.”