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The inspirational story of a man who became paralysed in a tragic accident in New Zealand; Matthew Williamson severed his spinal cord after he fell 4m from a ladder.

Byline: Anna Lewis

A man who became paralysed after falling from a ladder in New Zealand has spoken about the reality of his new life -- and his determination to keep positive.

On November 28, 2017 Matthew Williamson's life changed forever when he hit his head and fell 4m from a ladder in Auckland, New Zealand.

Originally fromCaldicot, Monmouthshire, the industrial abseiler had been living in New Zealand for two years with his girlfriend Justine "living the Kiwi dream" when the accident happened.

After completely severing his spinal cord Matthew lost all feeling in his lower body, leaving him paralysed from the chest down.

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Two months later Matthew, 30, remains in the Auckland City Hospital spinal rehabilitation unit.

He said: "Unfortunately I have been undergoing treatment on and off for the last six weeks for many different bladder infections, some more serious than others.

"But we are coming through the other side now, so hopefully we are on the up."

The day after his accident Matthew underwent a crucial spinal fusion -- allowing him to begin sitting up with help.

This week has marked an important milestone with the Welshman using a manual wheelchair for the first time.

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He said: "I've been struggling with blood pressure and my brain injury preventing me pushing too hard at the moment but we are trying techniques like the tilt table where they strap me onto a table and tilt me forward almost to a standing position.

"Other techniques include being sat on the edge of a plinth table trying to keep myself upright and trying to control my breathing and dizziness.

"All these have helped me achieve a huge goal this week which was the sit in a manual wheelchair and move around the gym."

For the gym fanatic the last few months have been a "rollercoaster of emotion" adapting to the accident.

Matthew said: "Days I spend crying because I'm sad I can't do something, and then crying because I'm so happy I managed something so small.

"There are days I can't stop smiling like yesterday when managing to sit in a manual chair, it might seem like a small win but it's celebrated like winning the lottery."

He added: "This last month or so has been the hardest thing I've ever had to do -- I would never wish it on anyone, but I do think it's made me stronger and gave me an new outlook on life.

"To be truthful I'm looking forward to what the future holds and how far I'm able to push myself."

One month after his accident Matthew created an Instagram account showing the daily ups and downs of his recovery.

Originally created as a way of updating friends and family, his page now more than 800 followers.

Some posts show days Matthew trapped in bed fighting infection while others show his sense of humour testing out the new equipment.

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He said: "Originally theInstagram account was set up so family and friends at home could be part of my rehab by seeing the photos and videos of how well I was doing.

"Not everything always goes well so I decided to post some stuff about the down days as well as the good days and the response I had was overwhelming.

"[I want to] use the Instagram account to help other people that have spinal cord injuries, or anyone recovering from anything in general - and not only to show them the ups and downs of rehab but show them it can be done with a smile and good attitude."

For Matthew highlights of him time in hospital include a surprise visit from Kiwi and former Wales rugby star Shane Howarth.

After hearing about the accident on the news, the Welsh and New Zealand international visited to share his experiences spending time in hospital after a neck injury. Matthew said: "I had been fed up in bed with another bladder infection and along came Shane like a Maori Santa Claus with a gift in hand and a head full of wisdom.

"He made me feel so much better -- Shane sat down next to me and told me about his experiences in the hospital and rehab when he himself suffered a serious neck injury so he felt in some way he knew how I felt.

"It was inspiring and at a time when I needed it."

Ultimately though Matthew's biggest support has been his girlfriend Justine and friends and family around the world.

He said: "I can not describe how good the support from family and friends has been.

"My family have been fantastic like usual. I miss them immensely but my mum and dad are coming out to see me on February 1 which I can't wait for."

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He added: "Most of all none of this would have been possible without the support of my girlfriend Justine who spends every single day with me, supporting me, pushing me and just being my rock."

Since the accident a fundraising page had been set up by friends and family to help Matthew return to Wales after he is discharged from hospital.

Speaking about the page, Matthew said: "I just want to thank everyone that has supported me so far whether it be with kind messages on my Instagram or with donations to my just giving page."

You can donate here:

Paralysed former rugby star leaves hospital to escort his daughter down the aisle

Paralysed former rugby star leaves hospital to escort his daughter down the aisle


Credit: Instagram/matthews.mission

Matthew's first day in a wheel chair at the hospital

Credit: Instagram/matthews.mission

Matthew with a chest X-ray showing where his spine was fused back together

Credit: Instagram/matthews.mission

Matthew's first time upright on the tilt table

Credit: Instagram/matthews.mission

Matthew's first time in a manual wheelchair

Credit: Instagram/matthews.mission

Matthew testing his wheelchair out to its full capacity

Credit: Instagram/matthews.mission

The gym enthusiast in Auckland City Hospital with Milly the dog

Credit: Instagram/matthews.mission

Matthew and Welsh rugby international Shane Howarth

Credit: Instagram/matthews.mission

Matthew and girlfriend Justine
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Publication:Wales Online (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:8NEWZ
Date:Jan 27, 2018
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