Charles Kennedy's brother defies '˜you'll never walk again' warning

Charles Kennedy's older brother Ian has defied doctors and taken his first steps after suffering catastrophic spinal cord injuries.

Ian Kennedy, 63, stands beside the motorised wheelchair he has been using since his accident. Picture: John Jeffay
Ian Kennedy, 63, stands beside the motorised wheelchair he has been using since his accident. Picture: John Jeffay

He was paralysed after collapsing from diabetes and hitting his neck on a sink, and spent two months in a coma.

The accident happened in the kitchen of his late brother Charles, the former Lib Dem leader, in March 2014.

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Mr Kennedy, a 63-year-old lorry driver, was twice told by doctors that he would never stand on his own or walk again. But he has proven them wrong by taking his first tentative steps.

Speaking about his accident for the first time from his home in Fort William, he said: “I have pushed my body to the limit and achieved my dream of walking and standing again.

“There was no way I could accept what happened to me. It was devastating being paralysed from the neck down. I was helpless.”

His recovery has taken more than two years. He was helped by wife Caroline, 58, and carers and physiotherapists.

He said: “There was no way I was going to spend the rest of my life unable to move. I was going to work at it until I moved again. If that meant hours of exercise forcing myself to move fingers, toes, arms and legs, I would.”

Mr Kennedy’s spine was crushed in the freak accident when he collapsed in the former MP’s kitchen, next door to his own croft.

He fainted, striking his neck on the kitchen sink. He had gone there to watch American wrestling on his brother’s TV.

“Ian was late back for his dinner so I went next door to see what was keeping him,” said his wife.

“When I went in, he was lying motionless on the kitchen floor. We think he had blacked out because of his diabetes. He had not eaten much that day and fainted. I cradled him in my arms as I called for an ambulance.

“When I heard he was paralysed I worried that I had caused it by cradling him. But the doctors said the injury was because he hit the sink as he fainted.”

He was taken to the Belford Hospital in Fort William and airlifted to the spinal injuries unit at Glasgow’s then Southern General Hospital.

There, neurosurgeons carried out a two-hour operation to remove part of Ian’s vertebrae to relieve pressure on his damaged spinal cord. He was in a coma for two months.

“We feared he would never recover,” his wife added. She sat by his bed as he spent six months in the unit. The couple married last year after being together for 22 years.

“We felt that life was so precarious and that we should marry,” she added.

Now, two-and-a-half years on, he is walking and even stood up recently to unveil a stained-glass window tribute to his late brother at their local church, St John’s, in the nearby village of Caol.

The former Lib Dem leader and MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber died suddenly at his Fort William home aged just 55 on June 1, last year.

“It was a dreadful blow losing him,” his brother said. “He was a local hero respected by many in the constituency. Our family went through a terrible time after my accident.”