Hero Ben Parkinson – Britain’s most injured surviving soldier – is making a miracle recovery thanks to a pioneering new course of treatment.
The former South Yorkshire paratrooper was horrifically maimed eight years ago when the Land Rover he was travelling hit a mine in Helmand Province.
The explosion broke his back in three places and punctured his lungs. Every single rib was broken, his spleen was ruptured and his cheek, nose and jaw were smashed. Ben, then aged 22, was left in a coma for four months during which surgeons removed both his legs above the knees. He also lost his speech and was left with debilitating brain injuries.
But after a month undergoing the new treatment he is now able to walk up to two miles a day and his speech is showing marked improvement. He has also been able to walk on his prosthetic legs without crutches.
Mum Diane, 57, says his family have been astounded by his progress. Ben, now 30, woke up one night after feeling his legs for the first time in eight years.
Diane said: “It’s absolutely marvellous. We could count about 20 changes in the past month – some big, some small. He’s now walking about a mile and a half to two miles a day on crutches.
“The idea is to get his muscles used to it so they gradually remember the movements – muscles have their own memory.
“He got us all up one night saying he’d awoken because he could feel all the nerves in his legs wake up. It’s been incredibly emotional watching him make the small steps to recovery.”
Ben, from Bessacarr, Doncaster, is among the country’s first soldiers to undergo the Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy – HBOT – at the Castle Craig clinic based in Edinburgh.
It involves sitting in a huge metal cylinder breathing pressurised pure oxygen, which is said to heal the injured tissue.
Ben – awarded the MBE for the courageous way he has fought to rebuild his life – underwent the treatment for six days a week over the course of a month.
Diane, his full-time carer, added: “His speech has also rapidly improved. Little things like sneezing he couldn’t do and now he can.
“Bits of shrapnel that have embedded in his arm for eight years have been coming out. It’s just incredible. Ben is absolutely over the moon with his progress so far. We are hoping to carry on with the treatment for the foreseeable future.
“We’re holding out hope for a full recovery, but obviously we have to take it as it comes. We hope that eventually Ben’s brain will recover.
“It’s done wonders for the rest of his body so far so you never know.”
The treatment, which is not available on the NHS, is used on cancer patients and Multiple Sclerosis sufferers and Ben is one of the first soldiers in the country to receive it.
It is being funded by Ben’s charity Pilgrim Bandits, which provides aid and support to severely injured members of the armed forces.
Peter McCann, chairman of Castle Craig centre, said: “We are hoping that there will be some improvement for them.
“Flooding the brain with oxygen under pressure allows nutrients and oxygen to flow into damage cells and revitalise them.
“Some damage is due to inflammation and oxygen can have an effect in reducing inflammation.”