A Boston groom left paralysed in a freak accident on his stag-do has defied the odds to say his vows standing up.
James Thorpe, 29, nearly died and was told he’d never walk again after suffering a crippling spinal injury when he slipped over in the sea.
The Lincolnshire firefighter was forced to put his wedding to fiancee Michaela Watson, 33, on hold - but was determined to get back on his feet to tie the knot.
Just over a year after the accident, the couple got married in a Disney-themed wedding set in a romantic ceremony at Belvoir Castle near Grantham.
Their friends and relatives wept as James pulled himself to his feet to say his vows - before he managed to enjoy the couple’s first dance using a special frame.
James, 29, said: “It was the best day of my life and meant everything to me.
“It was terrible what happened to me but could have been worse.
“Having the love of my life by my side throughout everything has given me the strength to do what doctors told me I wouldn’t.
“I couldn’t be prouder to call Michaela my wife and I can’t wait to spend the rest of our lives together.”
James and Michaela met in 2012 and were due to get married on June 24, 2016, after he popped the question at Disneyland in Orlando, US in 2014.
But just two hours after landing in Magaluf in Mallorca with his pals for his stag do in early June last year, James tripped and fell while paddling in the sea.
He was suddenly swept over by the knee-height water and banged his head on the sea bed - feeling his neck break.
James had been wearing a crab costume moments before but took it off as it got too heavy.
He said: “It was a complete freak accident. It was simply caused by me running into the sea but you can hardly tell people not to do that on their holidays.
“There were six of us there looking forward to a great week away but for me, it was over within a matter of hours and changed my life forever.”
Michaela, who rushed to Mallorca to be at James’ bedside, said: “He knew instantly what he’d done.
“He kept really calm and luckily one of his friends spotted him going under the water or he would have drowned.
“He was directing his friends to tell them what to do and they made a headrest out of sand so he could keep his neck still.
“He was even liaising with a nurse who happened to be there to make sure he didn’t do anything to make his injuries worse.”
James was rushed to a hospital in Palma de Mallorca where he spent two weeks in a critical condition.
MRI scans revealed he had broken his c7 vertebrae, which helps provide the neck with structural support, some flexibility, and protects the spinal cord.
It left him paralysed from the chest down and he was told by medics he wouldn’t walk again.
Speaking from his hospital bed at the time, James said: “It’s devastating that what was meant to be such a happy time has turned into our worst nightmare.
“Despite everything, I’m trying to think positively and do everything I can to walk again. If there’s a chance I can, I will.”
Surgeons took bone from James’ hip to repair the damage to his neck before he was flown back to the UK to undergo intense physiotherapy.
James attends rehab two to three times a month at a private clinic in Watford, where he’s learned how to get back on his feet at a cost of £63 an hour.
He took his first steps at Sheffield Northern General hospital on May 24 when he walked with the aid of a robotic Exko Skeleton suit and walking frame.
James, who has since retired from the fire service, said: “It was the greatest achievement. I was definitely very tearful when it happened.
“I felt like I was making some real progress and it gave me real hope.
“Some days it felt like I was going nowhere but this really gave me the boost I needed to keep going.
“This rehab has been paid for by all the fundraising people have been doing for me and for that I can’t thank them enough.”
But James didn’t up at home either and had a specially made walking frame and parallel bars in place to make him stronger.
He hopes to make a complete recovery and has astounded doctors with how quickly he has got to where he is today.
James said: “The next thing we plan to do is have children and I want to be as active as I can with them.
“The doctors have said I probably won’t ever make a complete recovery but they said I wouldn’t walk again after the accident and I have.
“I’ve come this far and nothing is going to hold me back now.”
After James’ disastrous Spanish stag-do last year, he made sure to see off single life properly last month.
He and his pals steered clear of water and enjoyed a more tame night out in his hometown of Boston.
The day was exactly as they had planned when they were due to tie the knot last year, and Michaela opted for a dusky pink gown - fit for a Disney princess.
Knowing the special moment would be an emotional one, they provided tissues to the guests in advance - and advised the women to wear waterproof mascara.
They also finished the night off in style with a real tear-jerker after hiring a special piece of equipment with wheels that allowed James and Michaela to enjoy a first dance.
Michaela said: “We came across the idea online and just knew it would be the perfect surprise for our guests.
“They were only expecting to see James on his feet for the ceremony so to see us actually be able to have a first dance was incredible.
“We always expected it to be a really emotional day but everyone at our wedding has been on this journey with us so I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house.”
On Sunday the pair jetted off on a three-week honeymoon which will include a trip to Las Vegas, a Caribbean cruise and a return visit to Orlando.
Newly-wed Michaela, an assistant technical manager, said: “I just love Disney and it seemed the perfect way to mark such a miracle.
“To see James standing there making his vows to me was a dream come true.
“It couldn’t have been a more perfect way to celebrate with all of our friends and family around us. We couldn’t have got through all this without their support.
“It’s been a whirlwind of a year but I’m so proud of what James has managed to achieve.
“He’s a real hero and I know they’ll be no problem in our marriage we can’t overcome.”
James and Michaela are continuing to fundraise to help pay for his ongoing physiotherapy.
Donations can be made via the paypal account: firstname.lastname@example.org