A firefighter given just a 1 to 3% chance of ever walking again has amazed doctors by his recovery.
Ashley Mooney, 31, was left tetraplegic following a tackle during a rugby match on October 2 last year.
The dad-of-one was warned he would likely ‘never walk’ but one year on, he has defied the odds to be able to walk and drive – though he won’t be playing rugby again.
Shocking X-ray pictures show how Ashley’s spine was left completely bent out of shape after the injury while playing for Redditch Rugby Club.
His spinal column was ‘forced into’ his spinal cord, crushing both the C5 and C6 vertebrae nerves in his back leaving him with an injury most people never recovery from.
He was rushed to hospital with the devastating injuries which left him paralysed from the chest down.
But determined Ashley defied the odds and is not only walking but also now exercising, driving and hopeful he can return to work as a firefighter soon.
His first breakthrough came within just three weeks of the accident when he realised he could wiggle his toes at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
Incredibly, by December he was able to stand for the first time after he was transferred to a special spinal unit in Oswestry, Shropshire, where he spent his 30th birthday.
The former on-call firefighter was back behind the wheel driving the following month and now hopes to return to work saving lives following his extraordinary recovery.
Ashley, who lives with wife Victoria, 36, and their 16-year-old son, in Redditch, Worcestershire, said: ‘I feel extremely lucky. I thought my active life was over.
‘But when I first started to get that movement within after a couple of weeks that’s when the flip switched.
‘Even when I was moving my legs a consultant said I’d never walk – but I just said I’d prove him wrong.’
Ashley suffered the severe injury during a ruck clear out while playing against Cannock Rugby Club.
He added: ‘It was just a normal Saturday and it was traditional British weather, all rain.
‘Around 10-15 minutes later I got injured. It was during a clear out. I’m not sure how it happened exactly but obviously contact was made with my head.
‘I was carted off an hour later over the rugby pitch to an ambulance which took me off to the QE in Birmingham.
‘They did an X-ray but already I sort of understood this wasn’t going to be a quick patch up and back out tomorrow.’
Ashley, who also runs a landscaping and roofing company, was able to move his toes on October 28 and within five days was able to move his legs.
‘By December 4, I could lift my arms and grip,’ he said. ‘I started doing my own exercises in my room, I had a 1kg dumbbell which I used.
‘It was December 21 when I first actually stood. The physio said I had good leg strength. Playing rugby my legs were always my best asset.
‘They were able to get me to stand, not completely on my own but I was standing again and knew I had to then literally take the next steps.’
Ashley was forced to return home earlier than planned on January 17 after his father died.
But he even used as inspiration, as he became determined to carry his dad’s coffin so ditched his wheelchair for a zimmer frame.
Following this, he spent weeks at rehabilitation units thanks to help from the Injured Players Foundation and The Firefighters Charity.
He added: ‘I was adamant that I could carry dad. I carried him along with my brothers and uncle.
‘Then the Injured Players Foundation helped me – they even paid the wife’s fuel to see me and helped with the house bills for six months at the start.
‘I went to their recovery centre and spent three weeks there and after that I didn’t need my zimmer anymore.
‘I started driving May 9. I had to go and have an assessment day to asses my driving, which was fine.
‘In January I was still in a wheelchair, I remember feeling angry, but by May I was driving.
‘My hands still don’t fully work and I have a long list of medication. I also walk with a limp so I won’t ever be back to 100% physically.
‘But I want to go back to firefighting and pass the physical test again. I want to go back to work full time.
‘I wouldn’t return to playing rugby though – my playing days are over.
‘It is difficult to take why I have recovered and lots of people who have had the same injury don’t.
‘I suppose I have defied the odds.’
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