Paralysed student uses his ‘standing wheelchair’ for the first time

This is the moment a Chester schoolboy left paralysed in an horrific cycling accident a year ago was able to stand up using his own ‘standing wheelchair’ for the first time.

Ethan Slater, 15, was given the customised  £11,500 standing wheelchair this week, paid for jointly by the Steve Morgan Foundation and his school Christleton High School.

His mum Helen Black said: “Watching him use it for the first time was very emotional. He can stand or sit down in it all day at school.”

The brave teenager was presented with it almost a year after the accident that left him paralysed from the waist down.

Ethan was cycling home from Christleton High School, near Chester, on December 10, 2020, when he lost his balance and fell into the side of a passing HGV.

Ethan, who was 14 at the time, spent six months in hospital after breaking his back whilst also suffering a bleed on the brain.

The accident resulted in paralysis from the waist down and the Southport Spinal Centre recommended a standing wheelchair, to help improve his bone density, digestive system and help reduce spasms.

However, the equipment, costing more than £11,500, falls outside of the NHS essential items list, so the Steve Morgan Foundation and Ethan’s school joined up to purchase it for him.

His mum Helen said: “We’re so grateful to the Steve Morgan Foundation and to Christleton High School, because we could never have afforded something like this ourselves. The wheelchair enables Ethan to stand at the same height as his peers, as well as helping with his bodily functions.”

Reflecting on the last 12 months, Helen said that hearing her son would be paralysed was ‘devastating’ but admitted it could have been even worse.

“I don’t think Ethan would be alive today if he’d not been wearing a helmet,” she said. “Had the injury been any higher, he may not have had any movement in his arms.

“We’re waiting to be rehoused because we can’t make any adaptions to our rental house, but I’d like to thank all the people who have helped us over the last year.”

Helen recalled receiving the phone call last December that changed her family’s life.

“I was told that Ethan had been involved in an accident and was taken to hospital,” she said. “I thought he’d have broken an arm or a leg but then I was told he was being airlifted to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital and I felt sheer panic and feared the worst.

“The police took us to the hospital and the journey seemed to take forever. When I looked at Ethan I thought I was looking at somebody else because he was in an induced coma and he had so many tubes coming out of him.”

Two hours later, doctors performed CT and MRI scans and delivered the bombshell news to Helen and Ethan’s dad, Matthew Slater, that there was no movement is his legs.

“They feared he was paralysed from the waist down,” said Helen. “Electrode tests were conducted to see if there was any chance that he would be able to walk but found no signs of movement. It was devastating to be told he’d probably never walk again.

“He managed to talk to us on Christmas Day, which was a huge relief but unfortunately, he’s not managed to make any progress with movement in his legs.

“They put metal rods in his back and he now goes to physiotherapy once a week where he uses a standing frame.”

Ethan Slater sitting down in the customised wheelchair

It was soon after this time, that his family were told that having a standing wheelchair of his own would increase Ethan’s independence.

Steve Morgan, CBE,  who founded the Steve Morgan Foundation in 2001, was delighted to be able to work with Christleton High School in providing the standing wheelchair.

He said: “Accidents like this can happen to any of us. As a parent myself, my heart goes out to Ethan and his family for what must have been a devastating 12 months. We set up our Enable Fund to support people like Ethan who need specialised equipment, including mobility aids, wheelchairs, buggies, wheelchairs and trikes.

“We are delighted we have been able to help in giving Ethan more independence.”

Ethan Slater standing up in the standing wheelchair

Darran Jones, headteacher at Christleton High School, said the money contributed by the school was raised from two non-uniform days when students paid into the fund to wear their own clothes, the small amount of proceeds from the Year 11 Yearbook and the winner of the Christleton High School Association’s Grand Draw and a generous parent who kindly donated her prize of £200.

Headteacher Darran Jones, Ethan Slater and his mum Helen Black

He said: “It was something that our students wanted to do for Ethan. It was their idea to set up a fund for him and we are still holding fundraising events to help Ethan at home.

“The chair will allow Ethan to maintain his leg muscles and ensure that he keeps his strength. I believe it also aids circulation and breathing exercises.

“I would like to thank the Steve Morgan Foundation for their generous support for Ethan and his family.”

 

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