Cumbrian diver learned to walk again after 'attack of the bends'

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A Cumbrian diver has learned to walk again after a life-threatening attack of the bends left him paralysed from the waist down.

Steve Hallett, 52, was carrying out a routine dive in Wastwater when he was struck down by decompression sickness.

Gradually losing all feeling below the waist and suffered kidney failure, he underwent treatment at the decompression chamber twice a day for two weeks at Spire Murrayfield Hospital, Liverpool.

Doctors later told him that without the rapid treatment he would have died.

Steve, who is married to wife Nicola and has two children, daughter Tessa, 23, and a 30-year-old stepson Owen, runs his own business selling fish and game across the Lake District.

He said: “I was on a dive I’d done hundreds of times before. We were down for about 30 or 40 minutes and I reached a depth of about 50m but only for a couple of minutes.

“I’ve been deeper and down longer but soon after I came out of the water I began to feel bad.

“It started with a backache and then I became really unwell. I knew straight away it was decompression sickness and how serious it was.

“Luckily my best friend, Tom McCrickerd, a BSAC national instructor, was there and carries an oxygen kit in his van. He put me straight on it and I was breathing 100 per cent oxygen.

“He drove me straight to the West Cumberland Hospital where a helicopter was waiting to fly me down to the Wirral.

“They put me straight into the chamber for hyperbaric oxygen therapy ."

Eighteen months on, Steve is publicly thanking the team at the hospital for their care and support.

“I went back into Spire Murrayfield where I began weeks of intensive work with their physiotherapy manager, Christopher Buckley, and his excellent team," Steve, of Ravenglass, said.

“I was doing two sessions a day with them with lots of exercises for walking and balance.

“I’m a stubborn devil and wanted to progress faster than I was capable. By the time I left Spire Murrayfield I was walking with sticks but the help they gave me helped me to make remarkable progress from being bed-ridden, through using a wheelchair and a frame to my own legs again.”

Christopher, who oversaw Steve’s treatment, said: “It’s incredible to see Steve now because I remember thinking I was going to have to tell him that he’d never walk again.

“We had to get his legs functioning because it was as if they’d forgotten how to walk so we literally had to teach him to walk again using a mix of special physio machines and exercises.

“It was not only physically challenging for Steve but also mentally demanding and we had to do a lot of balance work with him as well.

“But to see him now his progress is amazing – from a physio’s point of view this is as good as it gets.

“To see him looking fit and active again is just fantastic for all the team here.”

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