A GRANDAD who feared he would never walk again after breaking his neck in a freak pool accident is finally home for Christmas – after asking his family: “Bring me a pizza and a Stella”.
Chris Watkins, 43, from Pontypool in South Wales, was on a lads’ trip in Tenerife when he dived into a pool and injured himself.
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Pals initially thought he was joking but the groundsman ended up in an induced coma in a Spanish hospital after screaming “I’ve broken my neck, I can’t feel anything, help me”.
He was eventually flown home to Wales in a £28,000 air ambulance paid for by generous wellwishers and has made a miraculous recovery ever since.
Chris also had to battle coronavirus after testing positive earlier this month but has bravely fought that off – and has even taken his first steps.
Doctors have hailed his recovery as a “miracle” with his sister describing him as “The Bionic Man” after fearing he could be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
His sister Nadia Hopkins told The Sun: “He’s made an amazing recovery.
“All of the doctors are just stunned and they’ve said what he’s done is nothing short of a miracle.
“He’s taking steps, walked up and down a few last week and is breathing on his own.
“When he first spoke he asked us for a pint of Stella and a pizza.
“I’ve had a Domino’s delivered to him at hospital and taken him a freshly made pizza from Sainsbury’s too.
“We’ve taken him the pizza – but not the Stella!”
Chris, a dad-of-two, injured himself at the Aparthotel Columbus, Playa de las Americas, when he dived into the pool on September 4.
His best friend Christian Preece, 43, witnessed the tragic accident and said his “heart sank” when he realised he was serious about his injury.
“I’ve broken my neck, I can’t feel anything, help me.”
Chris had to undergo an urgent operation and was eventually brought home to a hospital in Wales on October 6.
Nadia, 34, added: “He caught coronavirus earlier this month and doctors moved him to a different hospital because they were concerned he would deteriorate and get worse because of his injuries.
“We were petrified when he caught Covid. He had come so far after suffering such a terrible injury – it was genuinely life-threatening.
“So when he caught the virus it put a halt to all of the progress he had made and we just prayed he would get better.
“But he’s now in a position to be home for Christmas. He hasn’t been home since the injury.”
She added: “The doctors have been amazing.
“He’s shown such grit and determination to get where he is – he’s come so far in such a short amount of time.
“They said it’s a miracle as some thought he’d be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
“But he’s such a fighter, everyone is so proud of him.”
Chris, who has lost three stone since the accident, will now spend two weeks at home before returning to undergo a rehabilitation programme at the Rockwood Hospital in Cardiff.
Nadia added: “He loved life, and was always 100mph – but he is still constantly smiling.
“When he took his first steps on November 30 it was such a huge day for the family. We were so proud of him and it was such an emotional day.
But he’s now in a position to be home for Christmas. He hasn’t been home since the injury.”
“The whole family is so proud of him. It’s so good to be able to have him home for Christmas.”
Nadia said that doctor’s put his recovery down to his upper body strength and determination to why he’s been able to make so many positive steps.
She added: “He’s like the Bionic Man.
“Life is hard at the moment but the fact he’s home has given us all a huge boost.
“We couldn’t have done it without the help of the amazing doctors and the kind donations from people around the world.”
Describing the horror of watching his best friend getting injured, his pal Christian said: “Sometimes you just need a boys’ holiday, so that’s why we went out to Tenerife.
“We were mucking around in the pool and he decided to dive in. I’d already done it.
“He didn’t come up straight away, and the lifeguards jumped straight in to rescue him. I thought he was taking the p***, but then he had a huge cut on his head.
“He was on his side crying ‘I’ve broken my neck, I can’t feel anything, help me’ and I told him to stop being silly.
“I told him he’d only jarred it but he replied ‘no, I’m serious’ and my heart sank.
“He’s a bit of a joker but I knew from his voice that he was telling the truth.”
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Chris’s eldest daughter Kayleigh Watkins said it was “so hard” for him not to see his three-year-old granddaughter Gracie-Mae.
His sister Nadia set up the GoFundMe page to get Chris home as soon as possible and was so grateful to those who donated to the £24,000 total.
She added: “We couldn’t have done it without them.”