A medical student left paralysed from the waist down after falling 30ft from a climbing wall has vowed to finish his studies and become a doctor.
Ross Smith, 20, was at his weekly Newcastle University mountaineering club meeting on November 1 last year when he plunged to the floor.
‘I had done a bit of climbing, but I was far from an expert,’ he said.
‘What happened was a complete accident. I was just falling and then I hit the ground.’
Surgeons began a four-hour operation to decompress his spine and stabilise his bones at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.
But three days later, he still couldn’t feel his legs. The medical team then broke the news that he would never walk again.
‘I knew something was up. The feeling in my legs wasn’t coming back and I knew it wasn’t going to be good news,’ Ross said.
‘The attitude I’ve always had is that it’s happened now and there’s nothing I can do to change it.
‘I’ve always been a positive person and I know that no amount of moping about and feeling sorry for myself is going to change anything.’
His mum, Karen Smith, 55, came to the hospital from their home in Bolton, Lancashire, when she heard about the accident.
He was in surgery when she arrived, and was moved to the The Golden Jubilee regional spinal cord injuries centre a few days later – a three hour drive from Karen’s home.
Determined to help, she spent three months in Middlesbrough, helping Ross through his physio and rehabilitation.
He continued: ‘After a couple weeks of bed rest, I started a physio regime of about an hour and a half a day.
‘Then I had occupational therapy to learn how to cook, have a shower and get dressed, teaching me how to go about living day to day life.’
A few weeks ago Ross returned to Bolton, although he has found living in a two storey house challenging.
He said: ‘Our stairs weren’t suitable for the standard stair lift, so I started researching ways of getting upstairs manually.
‘Originally, my medical team weren’t sure, but they saw how determined I was to do that and I’ve worked really hard to build my upper body strength.
‘I’ve had a handrail put in, so I can push up on that and my mum moves my legs. It means I can get to the bathroom and to my own bedroom.’
Now the family are trying to raise £50,000 to install an improved stair lift and to adapt their home to make life as easy as possible for Ross.
‘I just want to have a bit more independence. I am 20-years-old and I don’t want to always be relying on my mum,’ he said.
Ross plans to return to university and complete his studies in September.
He added: ‘I was studying medicine at Newcastle University. This has made me more determined to do that.
‘Everything that happened to me meant that I got to see the medical profession from the other side and it will really help me to understand my patients.
‘About two days after my operation, I spoke to my university and asked if I could defer and come back again.’
His fund is currently on £16,000. To donate, click here.