‘I feel stronger and stronger every day’

Published: May 7, 2007  |  Source: iol.co.za
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Determined: Andrew Merryweather, who was partially paralysed is very confident that he'll be walking.
Determined: Andrew Merryweather, who was partially paralysed is very confident that he'll be walking.

Wheelchair-bound Andrew Merryweather reckons that by Christmas, he will be walking again – at least with crutches.

Merryweather was attacked at a Newlands petrol station in 2006, which left him partially paralysed and confined to a wheelchair.

The men accused of the attack – Samuel Davidson, Michael Enslin, Dane Killian, Justin Maxwell, Joel Thackwray, Liam Hechter and Oliver Scholtz, all 18 – face charges of attempted murder and intent to commit grievous bodily harm.

Their trial is expected to start on July 10 in the Wynberg magistrate’s court.

Merryweather’s recovery required a titanium plate to be fitted to his neck, and he has undergone months of extensive physical and speech therapy. After his initial therapy, he was told he would never walk again.

But seven weeks ago he started a new physiotherapy technique that has given him revitalised hope – and the results have already begun to show.

The sessions stem from research done in the US – it challenges theories that the spinal cord cannot recover from injury, and redefines the level of nerve activity needed for walking.

To date, the technique is relatively untested on people.

“It focuses on spinal Rehabilitation, as long as your spinal cord is not severed, and mine is not severed,” said an upbeat Merryweather.

He trains five times a week for an hour and a half and is required to walk on a treadmill, with the aid of physiotherapists and a hoist that holds him up.

The idea is to create the effect of walking.

In addition, he uses a balancing machine to help with his balance and cardio-vascular equipment to keep fit.

When Merryweather started the therapy, his feet completely collapsed on the treadmill, which moved at 0.4km/h.

Since then, he is still unable to move his legs by himself, but is able to carry the weight of his feet and now moves at 0.7km/h.

“I’m quite confident I’ll be walking by Christmas, even if it is on crutches.

“There are no set rules for this therapy, which allows us to do something different every day.

“I feel stronger and stronger every day,” he said.

Merryweather started the therapy after a close family friend, Kelly Hunter, stumbled upon the theory on the Internet.

She said that after considerable research, she had discovered the facilities they needed for the therapy at the CPUT Mowbray campus, where Merryweather now trains.

He also undergoes hydrotherapy, reflexology, pressure-point therapy and quantum touch therapy, among other treatment.

Merryweather’s website, andrewmerryweather.co.za will be adapted by next week, allowing Internet users to see videos of his training and progress.

* This article was originally published on page 4 of The Cape Argus on May 08, 2007

By Leila Samadien