Man paralysed after 'horrific' accident says swimming is 'my lifeline to moving about'
PUBLISHED: 15:09 02 April 2019 | UPDATED: 11:52 03 April 2019
A man who was paralysed from the waist down after suffering a horrific accident as a teen is backing a national campaign to get people swimming.
Jason Hewitt, of Dereham, temporarily lost the use of his legs after he fell from a metal pole as a teenager.
Although the feeling in his legs eventually returned, and memories of the accident faded, years later he began experiencing excruciating back pain and was diagnosed with a prolapsed disc, resulting in nerve damage to his right leg.
To prepare for back surgery, he was advised to take up swimming as a way of building strength and aid recovery after he struggled to walk following his operation.
Now Mr Hewitt, who swims three times a week for a total of around seven miles, is joining the national campaign Love Swimming to highlight the benefits of swimming for physical health.
His story is part of a wider campaign by Swim England and together, with its partners, the national governing body is urging the medical profession to be more proactive in prescribing swimming as part of a programme of activity to manage medical conditions and aid recovery.
Elaine McNish, head of health and wellbeing at Swim England, said: “We are calling on the medical profession to consider recommending swimming to people who would benefit from improved physical health.
“To have the support of people like Jason who’ve experienced the benefits swimming can have is fantastic and I sincerely hope it inspires others to try swimming and transform their physical health.
“As the government and medical profession increasingly move to prescribe exercise as a conduit to improved physical health, we believe that swimming and wider aquatic activity is increasingly the answer for many people.”
For Mr Hewitt, a third back operation was on the cards but is no longer necessary as a result of the swimming. And, as well as no longer needing painkillers, for the last four years he has taken part in the Aspire Channel Swim. The challenge sees participants swim the equivalent length of the channel while raising money for people with spinal chord injuries.
Speaking about the campaign, Mr Hewitt added: “I’m thrilled to be part of the Love Swimming campaign and share my story in the hopes that it will inspire others to take up swimming.
“Swimming has had such a positive impact on my physical health - I have never felt fitter than I do now. [It] is my lifeline to moving about and getting on with my daily routine. If I haven’t swum in a while, I can really feel it in my back and legs which goes to show what a difference it makes.”
Swim England is the national governing body for swimming in England. To find out more about swimming facilities near you visit the pool finder or search #LoveSwimming.