Fundraiser launched for brave Ickwell cricket coach who is determined to walk again

'I've already had a second shot at life, but here I am, and I'm going to take that shot!'

By Joanna Gravett
Friday, 19th November 2021, 11:50 am
Updated Monday, 22nd November 2021, 12:32 pm

A courageous cricket coach is determined to achieve full movement in his body after he was left paralysed from the chest down.

The life of Paul Oakins changed forever on August 11 when he was rushed to hospital with two prolapsed discs that were pressing against his spinal cord.

Following surgery, determined Paul is now battling to regain movement in his limbs and a GoFundMe page has been set up to raise £42,000 to cover treatment at The Royal Buckinghamshire Hospital, his need for new accommodation and any additional equipment.

Paul is making progress in hospital.

Paul, 47, who is a coach at Ickwell Cricket Club, said: "I had taken my son to a game in Hertfordshire, and I felt quite a lot of pain as I got out the car. Initially, I felt cold, then my legs went numb, my feet felt heavy, then I couldn't move my legs. I was seated in a chair and my hands closed.

"It was just really, really scary."

A quick phone call to 111 confirmed that the symptoms were serious and saw an ambulance on its way to Sawbridgeworth Cricket Club.

Paul was rushed to Harlow Hospital but was soon transferred to Addenbrooke's, Cambridge, which had the specialist scanning equipment required.

Photo: Paul Oakins.

Paul told the Chronicle: "I was told that I had two discs that had prolapsed and banged against my spinal cord. They would have to take them out and repair my neck.

"They operated straight away but they didn't know if I would be completely paralysed or not."

Before the surgery, Paul could only move his head, and although the operation was a success, this still remained the same when he awoke.

However, since then, the cricket coach has made remarkable progress and now has use of his arms, can open and grip with his left hand, and is working on regaining the movement in his legs.

Photo: Paul Oakins.

He spent 13 weeks in Addenbrooke's before being transferred to Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Aylesbury, home of The National Spinal Injuries Centre.

Paul said: "In two weeks of being here I can wiggle my toes and move my foot. They have used electronic current machines for stimulation and all my muscle groups are responding.

"I had gone through thinking my legs might never move again, but if they get the pathways to work then my brain knows they are there. I know they will be strong enough to hold me up.

"I might still walk out of here which would be nothing short of a miracle."

Photo: Paul Oakins.

Paul's stay in hospital is filled with weight training, muscle stimulation, and practice for every day life; for example he will also be learning how to transfer himself from a wheelchair to a car.

Meanwhile, the GoFundMe page has already reached £36,645, the funds from which will go towards specialist treatment at The Royal Buckinghamshire Hospital, which specialises in the management and rehabilitation of neurological conditions, once his treatment on the NHS has finished. It will also help Paul to move house and adapt his new property once he is home from hospital.

Paul, who grew up in Biggleswade and now lives in Little Paxton, said: "Most of the £36,000 has come in from the Ickwell Cricket Club; it's a fantastic community. Two people have put in £10,000 each, some have put in £500 - £1,000, ten-year-old kids have put in £10. It just makes my heart feel so warm.

"If you have got a spare quid and want to send it, it would be amazing. It will be really well used and help me get back around the cricket grounds watching the sports that I love."

Paul has been a cricket coach since he was 18 years old and is passionate about the game.

Writing on the GoFundMe page, its founder Matthew Evans said: "Coach has been training and developing Ickwell cricketers (youth through to 1st and 2nds teams) for as long as I have known him. When we are all enjoying a cold beer on a Friday evening, he is always busy coaching and developing the youth cricket teams; he is a part of the landscape in Ickwell, a truly wonderful man."

Paul would like to say thank you to his family, his fiancée Kate Hopewell, his children, Matthew Evans, the Ickwell Cricket Club community and everyone who has donated money to help.

He would also like to give a special mention to his first cricket coach, Gerry Walker, who organised a walk around local cricket grounds that raised £500 for the cause.

6ft 5ins Paul now thinks of himself "like a cat" with nine lives - after all, he had a successful liver transplant in 2016 and once saw off armed robbers from a shop in Wellingborough!

He is keeping a positive mindset and is fully focussed on recovery, and of course, his upcoming wedding to Kate, who has supported him through his darkest hour.

Paul concluded: "Some doctors were confident that I wouldn't be able to use my arms how I'm using them - but I am! And that's my attitude. If I'm in a chair for the rest of my life, then I'm in a chair for the rest of my life. But I want to do more than everybody thinks I can.

"If I'm in a wheelchair and able to watch my kids play sport and watch cricket then I will be really happy.

"It could have been worse, not a lot worse but it could have been worse.

"I've already had a second shot at life, but here I am, and I'm going to take that shot!"