INJUREd war hero and former Yorkshireman of the Year Ben Parkinson is making progress in his bid to being able to walk again – thanks to boxing training.
The one-to-one workouts with 6ft 5ins retired RAF regiment boxer Paul Hallam at a Doncaster boxing and martial arts gym have convinced Ben’s family that he will walk unaided in the next couple of years.
He lost both legs in a land mine explosion in Afghanistan.
Ben’s stepfather, Andrew Dernie, today paid tribute to Ben’s Yorkshire grit and the dedication of Paul, who has made such a difference to Ben’s prospects of improved mobility.
The young Bessacarr man is taken to Paul’s Matrix Mixed Martial Arts Centre in Kirk Sandall by his step-dad for six sessions of intensive fitness work each week, with the emphasis on building up his core body strength so he will be able to use artificial legs to walk on his own.
Because Ben was in a coma and immobile for so many months after being wounded, most of his back and stomach muscles wasted away and are having to be built up again.
Paul offered his services after meeting the disabled Royal Artillery bombardier at a public event and he has worked in close liaison with Ben’s physiotherapist in Leicester, who has identified which muscles need to be strengthened to meet his walking ambitions.
Mr Dernie said: “For three years the medical people were saying Ben would never walk again so he wasn’t on the right rehab because they didn’t think it was possible.
“But his physio in Leicester has identified what he needs to work on and Paul has taken it from there. He uses a programme to get boxers super-fit and this is helping Ben.
“As well as strengthening his back he has improved Ben’s breathing and has made him more alert. The difference in just a few months is pretty amazing.
“Everything is slowly starting to come back after his body had forgotten how to walk. It’s going to take a long time, probably six months, to walk a short distance on his own and it could be two years before he can walk up to a mile.
“It’s fantastic what Paul and the new physio have done because everybody else had failed to work in that specific area. Paul deserves a lot of the credit because he has done the business,” said Mr Dernie.
Paul, 47, who hopes to expand his gym to help more physically injured people, said: “I love it when people say they can’t do something because I can show what they can do. It was hard work for Ben at first but now he loves it.
“I was discharged from the forces when I broke my neck so I know just what he feels like. I don’t treat him any different to other people who I train and now I’ve got Ben believing there’s nothing wrong with him.
“I won’t have negativity in my gym. We’ve given him his life back and I aim to have him competing in the Paralympics in the future.”