‘It’d mean the world to hold my daughters again’: paralysed Lancashire dad and ex-boxer fundraising for stem cell treatment
A semi-professional boxer, this was nothing out of the ordinary. He came home, took his two daughters to school, and popped to the shops. Back home, he went upstairs and was about to head back down, when he paused and sat down.
The next thing Clint knew, he was at the foot of his staircase. “I didn’t have a clue what had happened,” he says. “I couldn’t move; it was weird, it was like my body didn't belong to me. I was there for a couple of hours before someone found me.”
Clint had fallen and injured his C4 and C5 vertebrae and sustained damage to his spinal cord. Admitted to Royal Preston Hospital, he underwent an eight-hour spinal surgery, before a consultant informed his family that he was completely paralysed from the neck down. He was 40.
Since that day, Clint has spent much of the past two years at the Northwest Regional Spinal Injuries Centre at the Southport District General Hospital. His life turned completely upside down, he has faced countless challenges, having been transformed in an instant from an active wrestler, martial artist, and loving father to someone who can no longer even hug his daughters.
“I’m still in shock,” says Clint, now 42. “I wake up some mornings thinking it was all a bad dream. I just haven’t come to terms with it and I don’t think I ever will because it was such a drastic change. I prided myself on being strong, so losing every single bit of strength you’ve built up over your adult life like that is scary.
“And it’s hard to accept because I wasn’t doing anything stupid - I wasn’t doing some extreme sport or anything. I just woke up and couldn’t hold my daughters’ hands, which destroyed me.”
Sustained by his love for his two daughters, aged seven and nine, Clint has recently been exploring the possibility of stem cell treatment. Despite not offering concrete guarantees in terms of efficacy, the treatment nevertheless costs £30,000. But there is still hope, which is where Clint’s friends have been invaluable.
"When I first heard, I didn't believe it,” says Glen Bailey, Clint’s best friend. “I was just in shock. Clint's like a big Viking, so you think he’s indestructible. For a fall at home to change his life in an instant and leave him physically trapped for two years is hard to come to terms with.
“He's had no mental support and, as his mate, that's been horrible,” adds Glen, who will be attempting to break the 24-hour deadlift world record to raise funds for Clint later this year. “We've had some really dark conversations, but you’ve just got to try and pick him up. That’s when he starts to get back in the fight so he can stay around for his daughters.
“His love for his daughters keeps him going, but not being able to give them a cuddle has been the worst thing for him.”
As well as Glen’s support, Clint has also had Andrea Andrews, a Youth & Community Worker with Key Unlocking Futures in Leyland, in his corner of late, too. Despite having met Clint just months ago, Andrea was inspired by his strength of character and has dedicated herself to leading the fundraising push ever since, recently undertaking a non-stop 24-hour radiothon on Radio Leyland.
“Clint's story really touched me, so I wanted to do something,” says Andrea. “I've spoken to him every day since I met him and that's only made me even more passionate about helping. He talks about his daughters constantly. It’s devastating - I’m Miss Positive, but he said the other day 'but you haven't got a magic wand you can wave to make me better'.
“We can't comprehend that,” she adds. “But it just makes me more determined to try and raise the money so he has the chance to live a better life,” Andrea continues. “We did the radiothon in style and we were all quite emotional, really. And we’re going to do more and build on this momentum.”
Admitting that, while he has ‘ups and downs’, Clint remains hopeful.
“I try to do a lot of research on anything that might help - there’s hope on the stem cell front and things like trial phases for treatment, but that can take 10 years,” he says. “There’s no guarantee, but some people have benefitted from stem cell treatment and have even managed to get back on their feet, while others have got their upper body and arms working again. It’s all down to the person.
“Even stuff like your diet can impact it, so I always try to look after myself, eat organic, and keep myself in the best shape I can while we wait. And I’m very lucky to have people around me who care.”
Glen says his mate deserves a shot. "What's important is that the people around him keep him as positive as possible and remind him that he's got friends who still care for him even though he's been alone in hospital because of Covid,” says Glen. “He’s a good guy, he doesn’t deserve this.”
I ask Clint what it would mean to him to regain even some of his mobility.
“It would mean everything,” he says without skipping a beat. “If I could hold my daughters again, that’d mean the world. I love them to bits and I’d do anything for them, so being in hospital for the past 11 months and to only have seen them two or three times has been hard.
“Not being involved as a dad has been the toughest thing,” adds Clint. “I FaceTime them every night, but I’ve missed their birthdays and Christmas. A lot of my heartache comes from the fact that my daughters’ dad’s been taken away from them.”
To make a donation, head to https://gofund.me/533e17c8