Ballet dancer Jack Widdowson has praised the medical staff who saved his life following a late-night attack in Cardiff.
The 19-year-old suffered a potentially paralysing spinal cord injury when he was attacked in Cardiff Bay last November.
On a visit to the University Hospital of Wales for the launch of its refurbished Welsh Centre for Spinal Trauma and Surgery, he thanked Paul Davies, the surgeon who saved his life, and said nurses at the specialist ward were fantastic.
Jack, who is one of the youngest members of the prestigious Bern:Ballett in Switzerland, also met former Scotland rugby player Thom Evans, who suffered a similar neck injury during the Wales v Scotland match in the Six Nations in 2010.
After learning of his miracle recovery, 26-year-old Evans – who knew Jack’s father Julian when he was a team doctor for the England under-16 squad – said he was “blown away” by the youngster’s courage.
Jack is now back on his feet just months after being told he might not walk again and is living back at home with his parents and younger brother, at their farmhouse near Bath.
He said when he first woke up in a hospital bed, he was unable to move his limbs. But within days the feeling started to come back in his hands and he was soon able to sit up in a specialist spinal chair.
He said the nurses went “out of their way” to make him comfortable.
He said when he was told he could go home for Christmas he was “quite sad” to say goodbye.
He added: “It was quite sad leaving because I had been there for five weeks.
“They really went out of their way to look after me. As well as bringing in the DVDs they brought a spinal chair into my room so I could begin to sit up.”
Jack is now undergoing regular physiotherapy and hydrotherapy in order to get “back on track”, and eventually hopes to take up dancing once more.
His dad Julian said: “The staff were all fantastic. As his family, we could stay for as long as we needed and they went out of their way to help us out.”
TOO SOON TO GO BACK, SAYS EVANS
Former rugby star Thom Evans has admitted he was “not ready” to return to the Millennium Stadium – two years after suffering a life-threatening neck injury that ended his career.
The former Scotland player had to undergo two operations after the injury, which happened after an awkward collision with Wales star Lee Byrne during the last Six Nations match between Wales and Scotland at the Millennium Stadium.
During a visit to Cardiff, where he opened the Welsh Centre for Spinal Trauma and Surgery, the 26-year-old said: “I feel very fortunate that I got a chance to play there because it is one of the most amazing stadiums, but I think it’s a bit too soon to go back.”