Suffolk sportsman's vow to walk again

A SPORTSMAN paralysed in an accident on the rugby field has told of his dreams to walk again.Andrew Gaskell, 29, who has been wheelchair-bound for more than four years, is willing to be used as a guinea pig to test revolutionary techniques if experts give him a good chance of regaining the use of his legs.

A SPORTSMAN paralysed in an accident on the rugby field has told of his dreams to walk again.

Andrew Gaskell, 29, who has been wheelchair-bound for more than four years, is willing to be used as a guinea pig to test revolutionary techniques if experts give him a good chance of regaining the use of his legs.

Mr Gaskell, from Beyton, near Bury St Edmunds, said he is willing to be at the forefront of research to get back the full use of his hands.

The rugby player was almost totally paralysed in the scrum accident in 1998 which dislocated vertebrae in his neck, but he astounded doctors with his determination to leave hospital within months. The feeling returned to much of his upper body but he had to face to the fact that he would probably never walk again.


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Now he is hoping the strides being made in the field of spinal injuries and the experimentation going on with stem cells will give him a chance he never believed he would have.

He said the work being backed by paralysed actor Christopher Reeve had been an inspiration to him.

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"I get magazines about spinal injuries and some of the things they are working on are amazing. Regrowing the spine is something they consider to be a real possibility and if they told me I had a good chance of walking again I think I'd probably give it a go – it would be fantastic.

"But even if they couldn't do that to have the full use of my hands back would be a real bonus – to be able to open a bottle without difficulty – so I would be willing to go through with that kind of experimentation. It would be a real bonus.

"If it gets to the stage when they want people like me to be guinea pigs then I would certainly give it a go. I would even do it if there was a chance things could get worse if there was a bigger chance things could get better. It would be wonderful to be walking about in perfect health."

Superman actor Reeve was paralysed in a riding accident in 1995. He believes he will spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair unless scientists continue their research into stem cells. The actor is hoping they will learn how to turn stem cells in to spinal cord tissue, which would enable him to walk again.

But the research is controversial as stem cells are developed in the first days of an embryo's life. They are the body's "master" cells that have the potential to develop into any other type of cell in the body and are obtained either from human embryos or from cloned embryos.

Scientists believe they may be many years away from being able to use their research for the treatment needed by the actor and the Suffolk sportsman, who still enjoys watching rugby.

Mr Gaskell, has been married to his wife Jo for three years and they plan to start a family in a few years time.

He said his main priority at the moment was finding a job. The former central heating engineer and ex-bus driver is looking for something in the sales field to help give his life focus and earn some money.

He appealed for prospective employers to get in touch with him.

"I have some experience with sales and I used to work on a market stall when I was a kid. I've got to the stage where I really need to do something – I go to a disabled workshop twice a week which is fine but it's not a real working environment where you have to do a job.

"And I've always thought of myself as a bit of a car salesman. People say I talk too much and that's always a good starting point for a car salesman so I want to try and give it a go."

Mr Gaskell is appealing for anyone willing to take him on to contact him on 01359 270907.

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