Double amputee who feared he'd never walk again prepares for sailing adventure

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A double amputee is preparing to set sail on a global adventure after fearing he would never walk again.

Paul Johnson, 24, lost both of his legs in November 2014 when he was hit by an electric shock as he crossed a railway line in Glasgow.

It led to him spending months in hospital and rehabilitation as he was taught to walk again with prosthetics but after charity help he is preparing to set sail on a voyage from Gran Canaria.

It is the latest phase of his recovery since working with the Finding Your Feet charity, who Mr Johnson credits with rebuilding his confidence after the horrific accident.

"It was quite a turn of events," the 24-year-old said.

"My head was a bit messed up at the time so I was drinking quite a fair amount and I was coming home late from a night-out and tried to take a shortcut over train tracks.

"I don't remember much from then but what I do remember is waking up about two hours later with my legs on fire.

"I had to roll over, put the fire out and drag myself over to grab my bag and phone myself an ambulance.

"I spent one month in ICU (intensive care unit) and a few months in the burns ward at Glasgow Royal Infirmary. I then went to the Southern General for rehab and got fitted with prosthetics."

Finding Your Feet was founded by Corinne Hutton after she suffered acute pneumonia and septicaemia in 2013, meaning surgeons had to amputate both her hands and legs below the knee.

The charity provides one-to-one and group support to amputees and families through a range of projects.

Since it began working with Mr Johnson, he has passed his driving test, started playing guitar again and taken part in cooking and gardening classes.

He said: "My brother got in touch with the charity almost immediately because he knew I would need all the support I could get.

"The charity were right on it and Corinne especially tried to help. She would call my brother and my aunties whenever she could to give support.

"I wasn't able to get out my shell a lot in the first couple of years but they really helped me bring myself out and started getting back out in the world.

Paul Johnson
Mr Johnson is to travel to Gran Canaria in January for a week-long trip at sea with the Jubilee Sailing Trust (Andrew Milligan/PA)

"We would go for lunches here and there, and they do a drop-in centre which is just getting bigger and bigger with a bunch of amputees getting together, sharing experiences and helping each other."

Mr Johnson is now preparing to travel to Gran Canaria in January for a week-long trip at sea with the Jubilee Sailing Trust.

The charity gives disabled people the opportunity to experience crewing a tall ship and if all goes well he hopes to take part in a longer sail to South Africa later in the year.

He said: "The ship has been completely adapted for people with disabilities, so we're able to do the sails, helm the ship, scrub the deck, work in the galley - basically it's a working holiday, a working adventure.

"I couldn't have imagined I'd be doing something like this. I just wanted to walk never mind set sail on a boat so this is going to be absolutely incredible."

With his place on the ship secured, Mr Johnson is hoping to raise around £15,000 for Finding Your Feet during his trip in recognition of the charity's support.

Ms Hutton said: "Paul has been through so much, so when we had the chance to offer him something that would change his life for the better it was a no-brainer.

"He has gone from being housebound in his wheelchair to walking on his prosthetics, and I can't believe we'll be seeing him at sea soon. I know he'll do great.

"This kind of thing is what the charity is all about, and we hope Paul's story will encourage others to challenge themselves."

:: Donations to Paul's voyage can be made through his fundraising page: http://mydonate.bt.com/events/sealegs/