I spoke to local resident Graham Miles of Albert Road recently, and asked him why he was all over the news in September. He told me that although his remarkable story of will power and determination started a number of years ago, it had been picked up by national newspapers and the BBC and had become ‘hot news’ in late August 2010.
In 1993 Graham suffered a massive stroke, was paralysed from head to toe, and was diagnosed with ‘locked-in syndrome’ – where he remained conscious and was able to think and reason as normal.
Doctors said he would be a prisoner in his own body for the rest of his life and would never recover. Everyone told him what he could not do, but he was determined to get his life back, which he did in spite of the hospital consultants.
He learnt to communicate by blinking, and then started working on trying to move his body. “I concentrated on my big toe to start with. I closed my eyes and willed it to move. One day, after about three or four months, it flickered. Once I had made that initial breakthrough I started working on different parts of my body. Toes first, then fingers.” Just a few months later Graham left the medics utterly bewildered by taking his first faltering steps. He believes he overcame his devastating condition by tapping into the ‘extra capacity’ of the brain. He said: “There is a lot we don’t know about the brain and I believe that, somehow, I found an alternative path between my brain and the rest of my body.”
Today, he needs two walking sticks to get around, but he lives independently, drives a manual car and spends time working on a barn conversion. Over the past three years he has been working in the gym with Dan Cleal, a master trainer, and has made steady progress. To his great delight, he learnt to whistle, made possible by improved chest movement. He has taken up motor racing as a hobby, raced in his E-Type Jaguar and taken part in the Goodwood speed trials.
He loves the buzz of Brighton and Seven Dials in particular. “I’ll never make a full recovery but I’m working hard to improve as much as I can. Occasionally I get down in the dumps but I always say to myself, pull yourself together, just get on with it.”