The road to recovery: Peter Johnson

What was meant to be a romantic week away turned into a nightmare. Peter Johnson was on his way to Vienna with his wife to celebrate her 60th birthday when disaster struck. The incident which occurred has led to over four years of pain to get where Peter Johnson is today but his willingness to make a full recovery keeps him improving each and every day.

Peter Johnson and his wife Meredith decided to stay in a hotel at Heathrow airport before the day they were due to fly out. The couple decided to have dinner in the restaurant and Peter ordered crab; what happened next could not have been predicted. The crab led to Peter Johnson getting food poisoning and when he woke up because he felt ill and got out of bed to get a glass of water, he fainted and was knocked out when he made contact with the frame of the bed.

Peter Johnson had been paralysed, he was unable to move a limb, he had crushed his spinal cord and suffered a broken jaw and cheekbone as a result of the fall. It was a horrific experience and Peter spent two months in St Mary’s hospital and two further weeks at Kent & Canterbury Hospital without being able to move a muscle. This was when Pete Johnson was transferred to Stoke Mandeville in Aylesbury.

What was life like before you were transferred to Stoke Mandeville?


Peter in London: Credit – Peter Johnson

It was hard work, before Stoke I wasn’t able to move a limb, my legs literally wouldn’t move at all and my fingers were permanently straight out. Because of this reason I was un-able to feed myself and I was having to be hoisted in and out of bed, after two months not moving anything I had become so weak and lost a lot of weight.

How was your experience when you arrived at Stoke Mandeville?

I arrived at Stoke Mandeville on a Friday and over weekend you don’t tend to do a lot, however, on the Monday I went down to the assessment area and they hoisted me onto a plinth to analyse my limbs. The next day I was taken to the gym where they wouldn’t hoist me anywhere, instead they transferred me by using a sliding board. I had to commit to it and it meant my legs actually started moving on their own because you know that you are only balancing. It just does something to the brain which makes the leg move; this was only possible as a result of staying at a specialist spinal injuries hospital.

What was it like getting some of your movement back?

It was incredible getting some movement back. I couldn’t believe it because having spent two months in St Mary’s and two weeks in Canterbury without any movement after the accident. However, after being at Stoke I was getting some movement back after three days, when two of these were spent in bed.

Did this inspire you?

Because I could see the improvements so visibly, it made me want to continue getting stronger and stronger. I also wanted to make the most of the specialist treatment within the nine month period when I was at Stoke Mandeville.

What treatment are you having now? 
Now I go to the gym where I have personal trainers to work on parts that need improving, e.g certain muscles, tone and everything else.  I have had physios in the gym as well which give me massages and that kind of thing; one thing which is important to remember is that you don’t overdo the exercises as this can set you back.


Peter and his wife Meredith on holiday in Wimereux: Credit – Peter Johnson

Is there anything else which you do?

I go to an MS centre as well which has been marvellous. You do 20 sessions initially every day and thereafter its up to the individual. For me it has made incredible improvements. Its not so much helped with movement but more internally, because with damaged nerves they are always bleeding a bit and breathing the pure oxygen stops them from bleeding.

How do you keep motivated to constantly improve?

By improving and obviously you want to do it for your loved ones so their not having to work so hard; also my golf. I used to love playing it and my goal would be to get back to it. Without motivation you wouldn’t see any improvement and unfortunately this is what happens to a lot of people but its the wrong way to go about it because no one would choose to be in a wheelchair but if you have a chance of getting out of it, you have to take it. You’d have to be mad not to.


There is no doubt that Peter Johnson has dealt with the accident which occurred four years ago extraordinarily well. To go from not being able to move a single limb to the point where he can drive his own mobility car, stand for limited time with an aid, go on holiday and get back to normal life is a huge achievement. All of these things must must have seemed so far away when he was completely bed bound. Peter’s story is inspirational, he refused to give up and is now being rewarded for the hours of exercises he does day after day, one thing which Peter made clear was that, “You have to keep focused and keep pushing on” and this has clearly helped progress his recovery.

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