Cambridge paralysed boy walks for new wheelchair

Dean Symmons Dean Symmons volunteers for a charity as a wheelchair skills trainer

A paralysed teenager is attempting a one-mile walk, to fund a lightweight wheelchair to help him with his voluntary work teaching people wheelchair skills.

Dean Symmons, from St Neots in Cambridgeshire, injured his spine two years ago, twisting to hit a softball while at school.

The freak accident resulted in paralysis, leaving him unable to walk.

He is walking with "Forrest Gump-style callipers and a Zimmer frame", he said.

Start Quote

I haven't actually trained for this - and perhaps I should have - but I like to work for my money”

End Quote Dean Symmons

Dean was 15 at the time of the accident, which initially felt like "just a twinge" in his back.

However, the following day, while sitting an exam at school, the pain increased and Dean collapsed while trying to walk out of the examination hall.

Those were the last steps he took.

'Unknown quantity'

At the spinal injuries unit at Stoke Mandeville hospital in Buckinghamshire, a spinal stroke - or clot - was diagnosed.

Dean underwent months of rehabilitation, during which time his family set up the Dean Symmons Trust to raise funds for equipment or specialist help he might need in the future.

He currently volunteers with a charity at spinal units around the UK, teaching newly-injured people how to use their new wheelchairs effectively.

"I have to drive all over the place and my current chair is very heavy to lift in and out of the car," he said.

"I have limited abdominal muscles and the weight of the chair on my shoulders is really taking its toll."

Dean, who has undertaken a number of fund-raising challenges in the past, said the latest was "probably the biggest unknown quantity".

The callipers he will strap to his legs for the walk between Eaton Socon and St Neots, were given to him by Stoke Mandeville to help him stand for occasional exercise, however, Dean admitted he rarely used them.

'Finish line'

"I can only walk a very short distance using them and it is very difficult and tiring," he said.

"I haven't actually trained for this - and perhaps I should have - but I like to work for my money.

"Of course we're very grateful for donations but it's nice to think you've earned the money."

He said he had no idea how long the one-mile walk would take, but said he hoped it would not be more than three hours.

"I haven't got a clue. But I will cross the finish line," Dean said.

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