Paralysed rugby player who thought he would never have a family defies doctors to walk, wed, and have a baby daughter
'It’s been the best year of my life'Now John wants to be able to walk his daughter down the aisle unaided
An IT worker who feared he might never have children after being paralysed from the waist down in a rugby accident is celebrating the birth of his daughter.
John Power, 34, was just 18-years-old when he broke his neck during a heavy tackle whilst playing his first professional rugby match.
The 6’3” sportsman, who was paralysed from the neck down, was warned he would never walk again after suffering severe damage to his spinal cord.
Dream come true: John Power with his wife Julie Power and baby Ellie. He said he never thought he would have a family after he was paralysed at 18
He spent eight months in hospital undergoing intensive physiotherapy in rehab before slowly regaining the use of his arms and body, although the prospect of ever getting married and having a family still seemed remote to him.
But after meeting girlfriend Julie, 30, John was inspired to get to his feet for the first time in 15 years on their wedding day, with the aid of callipers.
Now almost a year later, the delighted couple are celebrating the birth of their first child, Ellie-Beth.
John, from Oldham, Greater Manchester, said: 'When I first had the accident I just wanted to get better. I knew that I would change my life and I would have to look to the future.
'I didn’t see myself getting married and having kids at that point, it was the last thing that was going to happen to me. But now I have ticked all the boxes and it seems like a long way away since that time.
'It was surreal watching Ellie-Beth being born. I can’t describe it. To watch her being born and then put into Julie’s arms was the best thing in the world. Then the midwife handed her to me. I stared into her eyes and stuck my tongue out at her and she did the same to me!
'I’m living the life I never thought that I would. It’s all fallen into place in the last 12 months. It’s been the best year of my life.'
John had played as a fullback and centre from the age of 10 and after being signed up by professional club Oldham RLFC at the age of 18 he had hoped to form a career as a top rugby player.
John Power (pictured holding his school trophy in the front row) had dreams of becoming a professional rugby player
But he was injured during his very first senior game for the new club in 1995 when a two-man tackle from behind knocked him to the ground. For two months he was unable to move any part of his body and dropped from 15st to just over 7st, relying on his family to help him eat, wash and dress.
After eight months in hospital he regained control of his arms and upper body, but remained paralysed from the waist down.
Determined not to give up, he spent several years focusing on intensive physiotherapy training before embarking on a MSc University Degree.
He was convinced that his wheelchair would make establishing relationships with women impossible, but he met Julie eleven years ago and they married last October.
Julie became pregnant not long after and baby Ellie-Beth was born at 4.13am on October 1, just two days before the couple’s first wedding anniversary, which was the date she had originally been due.
Now John, who has recently set a world record after completing a charity indoor rowing marathon using only his arms, says that his life is complete and his next challenge is to be able to walk his daughter up the aisle in the future.
John managed to stand on his wedding day last year to Julie
John said: 'Julie’s mum is called Elizabeth and it’s been handed down the family, so we thought Ellie-Beth would be a modern twist. She’s really playful and she’s already starting to develop a personality.
'I think she will probably grow up to be a gymnast or a dancer like her mum. She’s really long so she has the right build!
'She started smiling for the first time last week. Seeing that makes it all worth-while after coming home from work. Picking her up and cuddling her is great because she now knows who her mum and dad are. First thing in the morning when I look into the cot I can see her smiling up at me, it takes your heart away.
'I’ve got everything I could possibly ask for. There’s nothing more that we need, apart from a couple more kids in the future.
'When I first had the accident there was no chance I ever thought I would be in this position with a family and a baby. I thought that no one would see past the wheelchair, if I knew then what I know now I wouldn’t have been so afraid of it.'
The proud father, who has recently started working for an E-learning company, has not given up his dream of walking one day and since his accident he has followed a strict daily physio programme to strengthen the muscles in his legs.
John said: 'I am still doing my physio each day and walk using my parallel bars and callipers.
'Since standing up at our wedding I have done that more and I walk using my parallel bars.
'I’m determined to get walking even more for Ellie-Beth. Now I have a daughter I would love to be able to walk her down the aisle in the future.'
New mother Julie, a Primary School teacher, said: 'Having Ellie-Beth really makes us feel complete. She’s a really happy and content baby.
'John’s always been very determined and I’m really proud of him. His positivity has always attracted me to him and now he’s now working towards walking unaided.
'Since we first met his determination has already allowed him to break a world record and stand up at our wedding. Now, he’s working towards walking down the aisle when she’s older.'