MOUNT Gambier man Gareth Flanagan is determined to walk again as he starts rehabilitation from spinal injuries suffered during a freak accident while holidaying in South Africa.
With an eye on returning to Mount Gambier in June, the 21 year old has started to regain feeling right through to his toes.
“Doctors assessed him and were shocked at how much Gareth can actually feel all the way down to his toes and they have high hopes for him,” Gareth’s fiance Leisha Galluccio told The Border Watch yesterday.
“Gareth is completely looking past the wheelchair and saying ‘I will walk’.”
It was just another small milestone since the accident, which occurred at a river in Kleinmond, South Africa on Anzac Day.
Gareth dived into the water – which unbeknownst to him, was extremely shallow – and hit his head before swimming to the surface and screaming for help.
It was a tragic turn to the family holiday, which was planned as a special farewell to Gareth’s beloved late brother Conor, with the family abroad to scatter his ashes.
After being dragged from the water, Gareth told his dad (Patrick) he was unable to feel his legs.
He was swiftly transferred by ambulance to Vergelegen Mediclinic where he had stayed until recently.
“He is now in the Vincent Pallotti’s Spinal unit and he is settling in well,” Leisha said.
“He starts his rehabilitation today and the doctor estimated four weeks until he can fly home, but it could be even sooner.”
Counting the days until his return, Leisha said there was still a long road ahead once back on Australian soil.
“Our main focus at this stage now is to get him confident enough in a wheelchair and moving for the plane trip, then he will finish the rest of his rehabilitation in Adelaide when he arrives there,” Leisha said.
“He is just genuinely excited to be back to Australia as soon as possible and just wants to see his new puppy waiting for him at home and our cat Archie.”
A Go Fund Me page set-up to support Gareth’s rehabilitation and help get him home has received more than $17,000 in donations.
Leisha said the family had been completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of support.
“We are shocked and amazed with all the support from everyone back home,” she said.
“We are so very grateful to live in such caring and supportive community.”
She said she had been left amazed by her fiance’s courage and commitment to his recovery.
“He is my hero,” she said.
“Even with all this going on with him he still asks how I am doing.”