A sport-loving man has been left wheelchair-bound in middle age after a devastating bout of chicken pox.
Pub landlord Danny Reeves, 44, was very active man enjoyed cycling and snowboarding.
But he caught chicken pox and the infection developed into encephalitis, a rare brain disease that piggy-backs onto other viruses and has a terrifying 70 percent death rate.
Reeves, of Cheltenham, Glos., was lucky to survive but he was left paralyzed and faced the rest of his life in a wheelchair.
To begin with he struggled to cope with regular bouts of severe anxiety, depression, and crippling head pain.
Reeves and his wife Ruth were forced to give up their pub as he spent most of his days struck upstairs in bed.
But eight years later, Reeves is in line for a top award after dramatically rebuilding his life with the support of his wife and mental health charity Headway.
Last year he took part in his first fun run and that rekindled his love of exercise and and he has now competed in his first half-marathon.
“When I arrived at Headway I was a broken shell of a man,” he said. “After I left hospital there were some very dark times, but Headway helped to shine a light and guided me to a better place.
“I had lost my identity in many ways, my whole life and how I saw myself – my place in the world was changed forever and I was mourning the life I lost,” he said. “I had lost all my confidence and I was scared of my shadow. I felt very isolated.”
“But day by the day Headway helped me take small steps to get better,” Reeves said. “They made me realize that I should not focus on what had gone but what was in front of me – not what I couldn’t achieve but what I could.”
“I just thought, for my family, I need to keep going, keep pushing myself to get better,” he said. “I owe much to Headway but also so much to my wife too. She has been so patient and shown me such love “
After the informal park run, Reeves began to exercise and really pushed himself, going to training every week.
He progressed to a 10k event and last month took part in Cheltenham’s half marathon, which was an emotional landmark for him.
“Around two miles in I saw Ruth on the sidelines. She had tears in her eyes, but they weren’t of sadness, they were of happiness,” Reeves said. “When I saw that, it really hit me, it gave me the strength to keep going.”
Reeves has now been nominated for the Headway annual award, which celebrates the exceptional efforts of survivors of brain injury.
“Danny has pushed himself and shown such determination and courage,” Fiona Barnes, of Headway Gloucestershire, said. “I happen to go to the same training session on a Thursday night and to see someone you know is seriously challenging themselves, and accomplishing so much in what they are doing is truly inspiring.”
“He has been so brave and has worked so hard to continue to take small steps in his recovery,” she said. “I really hope he wins the award.”