Baby joy for paralysed man

Andrew and Libby Hartley with their three week old baby William.
Andrew and Libby Hartley with their three week old baby William.

A man left paralysed from the chest down in a car accident has beaten the odds to become a dad.

Andrew Hartley, 32, was just 17 and a back seat passenger in a car when he was flung through a front windscreen and suffered devastating spinal injuries.

He was told he would never walk again and it was unlikely he would become a father.

But now Andrew and wife Libby, from Hest Bank, are celebrating the arrival of their own little bundle of joy with 8lb 13oz William.

The couple hope their inspirational story will encourage other people not to give up, irrespective of the cruel cards life can sometimes deal.

Andrew, a teaching assistant at Skerton High School, said: “It’s been a tough time but I have got to where I am and I’m really happy with my life. It’s fantastic and unbelievable.”

The accident happened on the A6 near Carnforth back in April 1997.

Andrew was left with a broken back and a terrible diagnosis.

Today, he has little recall of the accident after blacking out, but came round to learn the awful news that he would never walk again.

It meant giving up his studies to be a mechanic and all his life plans changing overnight, including cutting his chances of one day becoming a father.

Despite the dark days and months that followed, Andrew’s quiet determination and positive attitude helped him adjust and make the best of his situation.

Andrew explained: “After something like that happens, you think you are never going to do anything. You don’t think you’ll be able to work, get married or have kids – it is such a massive change to your life.”

But with steely resolve, Andrew picked up his life, landing a marketing job at a local Vauxhall dealership and working toward qualifications.

A keen sportsman, he took up the captainship of the Lancaster Bulldogs wheelchair basketball team and then five years ago met his future wife Libby, 26, at The Eagle’s Head, Over Kellett.

They married three years ago but their dream of starting a family looked unlikely when they were told by specialists that the odds were heavily stacked against them having children naturally.

But with the same determination Andrew used to turn around his life, the pair were determined not to give up.

When Libby found out she was pregnant late last year, the pair could scarcely allow themselves to believe it.

Several tests confirmed the news. Libby, originally from Over Kellett, recalls: “We were overjoyed. We found out on the 29th of December so it was a perfect Christmas present.”

Andrew recalls: “I didn’t really believe it at first. Even after four or five pregnancy tests. It was only when we went for the scan that it began to sink in.”

Now they are celebrating the arrival of little William following a 12-hour labour at the Lancaster Royal Infirmary.

He is now the centre of their world.

Andrew said: “When William came into the world, it was brilliant, amazing.

“I always had a dream of having a family and doing things like taking them to Disneyland and now it’s happened.

“I love children and always wanted to have them and when you’re told you won’t walk again and you’re never going to have children, it is devastating.”

He paid tribute to his family and friends for helping him through.

Statistically, around 85 per cent of people with spinal cord injuries are unable to have children naturally.

Offering his congratulations on the new arrival, Paul Smith, chief executive of the Spinal Injuries Association, said a major part of its work was encouraging those with spinal cord injuries to grasp that “life doesn’t stop because you’re paralysed.”

Mr Smith, 55, was paralysed himself when his motorbike was hit by a drink driver.

But he said it had not stopped him travelling the world or having a family.

Mr Smith said: “When someone ends up in a wheelchair you can perceive that life as being unfulfilled but Andrew demonstrates it can be fulfilled.

“You can have a job, a family and get on with life and that is something we wholeheartedly support and encourage.”