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The grandfather they said would never walk again

time:2023-05-30 01:01:52 source:CBS News author:Press center 1 read:534order

Two years ago doctors told Martin Birkhans he would never walk again after contracting an infection in his spine.

The 86-year-old had survived a 50:50 chance of dying from sepsis and pneumonia and was also recovering from a broken hip.

But after working tirelessly with physios, the Edinburgh grandfather can now walk again and is even able to climb stairs.

Martin said his personal best was now 12 laps of the track in the garden of the Cramond Residence nursing home in Edinburgh - a distance of 700 metres.

"I was in a sad physical state when I arrived here," he told BBC Scotland.

"The doctors at the hospital had said they could not do any more for me. They said I would never stand and never walk.

"They said I would be incontinent for life too, it was the most devastating news you could ever cook up, just dreadful. I was given zero hope."

Physios had helped his late wife, the author Joan Lingard, who had dementia. So when his daughters were choosing a nursing home for him, they picked the one that had a physiotherapy package.

And when physio Nicola McIntosh noticed that Martin had slight movement in his body, she decided to get him to a standing position.

Martin had not thought it would be possible - but she was able to get him onto his feet with the help of the hoist and other physios.

"It was very elementary standing, but I was on my feet. It was crazy. Then we took it from there."

Over the months his nerves started to repair and he built up the strength in his muscles.

"One would be behind me with the wheelchair and the other on her knees in front of me managing my feet. When someone does that for you, you had better respond.

"If they had said jump out of the window I would have done it. I had total faith."

After a year he was able to walk down the corridor outside his room.

Then he progressed to the lift, then the stairs, the gym and the garden.

"Up until two weeks ago I had to do these things with someone, but now I can do it myself, I have the run of the place," he said.

He has now been able to go on holiday to his daughter's house in Kingussie. He is no longer incontinent and does not need to take the dozens of pills he was on each day.

The former architect was born in Latvia, where he lived until he was seven. He then spent two years in refugee camps in Germany until his family left for Canada.

"I know all about walking along dusty roads dodging bullets," said Martin, who moved to Scotland when he was 30.

"Canada was great. I was an athlete so I was perfect for the outdoor life there.

"So when I found myself bedbound I wasn't filled with happiness.

"I lay there thinking I don't believe it, my life had changed so extremely."

Martin can now stand unaided while he brushes his teeth, although he needs a walker for support when he moves.

"I was on a fierce programme to learn to stand without support of my hands," he said.

"I'm allowed to walk without people watching me now. I feel emancipated.

"I can go for lunch with my daughter as I can now get in and out of the car, and I've just been on holiday.

"I would like to visit my sisters in Toronto so we'll see if I can ever make it on a plane."

Eileen Crawford, a charge nurse at Cramond Residence, said Martin could not walk when she first met him.

"He never gave up. I have never seen anyone with determination like this, he needs a medal," she said.

Benedicte Aarseth, a physio from Balanced Edinburgh, has been treating Martin. She said her colleague Nicola had noticed that he had more movement than was described in the discharge letter from the hospital.

"She realised he was starting to heal so could be pushed a bit more. A big part of it is how motivated he is.

"People in rehab normally plateaux but Martin is still continuing to climb and managing to have new achievements.

"We are not going to stop until he tells us."

She said that he may one day be able to walk with a stick instead of the walker.

"He is the most successful client I've ever had - his transformation is incredible," added Benedicte.

"For an 86-year-old's quality of life to still be improving is amazing.

"He could have been in a full body hoist for the rest of his life if someone didn't pick up on the ability he had."

Martin said he would continue to work on his walking distance record.

"I'm in love with trying to improve myself and in love with my physios," he added.

"The value of all carers is underestimated as they make a huge difference to our lives."

(editor-in-charge:Press center4)

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