Soldier left paralysed after holiday mugging hopes to undergo pioneering surgery to help him walk again
Soldier Ian Witney is trying to raise more than Â£50,000 for a pioneering operation abroad after an unprovoked attack while on holiday left him paralysed.
Ian, 37, has served in the Army for 20 years, including three tours of Afghanistan and counter terrorism work in Northern Ireland.
But it was an attack while he was enjoying a holiday in Tenerife two years ago that left him wheelchair bound.
Ian, who played football and ice hockey, was pushed and fell during an attempted mugging on the Spanish island, causing life-changing injuries.
His spinal cord was injured and during treatment also suffered a slipped disc leaving him paralysed from the waist down.
Now Ian, a dad-of-two, who lives at Throston, in Hartlepool, hopes to undergo pioneering surgery in Thailand to help him walk again.
A crowdfunding website has been set up by Ross Walker, a friend of Ian’s, to help pay for the £54,000 needed to fund the operation and after care.
Describing the unprovoked attack in October 2016, Ian said: “I was confronted by two people for money.
“I was pushed and tripped into a building site and fell and damaged my back and spinal cord.
“It left me paralysed from the rib cage down. I don’t really focus on the attack that much.
“All I am focussing on is trying to be a dad. My life is completely different now in terms of how I do things; driving, dressing, what I can and can’t do with my children.
“I have lost my job over it. I have had to move to a more accessible house which is more expensive.”
He added: “At the military rehabilitation centre where I go there are people injured in the line of service like tank accidents and IEDs [improvised explosive devices] and you do feel a bit out of place.”
Ian is a Warrant Officer in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, but is being discharged from the Army in March.
Despite his disability he remains a keen sportsman and takes part in a number of para-endurance events including triathlons, with each race raising his confidence and desire to recover.
The intended surgery involves the insertion of an epidural nerve stimulator, which is said to give Ian the best chance of regaining lower limb function.
Research by the University of Louisville has shown the use of such stimulators has enabled previously paralysed patients to stand up and move for short distances, in some cases unaided.
Funding was unable to be secured in this country due to the low number of case studies available.
The online fundraising page at gofundme has raised more than £12,000 in less than two weeks.
And Ian hopes forces charities may help towards the total as well.
He added: “It’s an expensive operation. It is amazing the support I have had so far.”
Upon discharge, Ian, dad to a nine-year-old son and a daughter aged 16, hopes to pass on his engineering skills to a new generation.
He is currently training with Hartlepool College of Further Education to become an instructor in aerospace engineering.
Anyone who wants to donate to Ian’s fund can do so by clicking the link here.