Former Housing Services Manager Eddie Pleban
(right) has made a remarkable recovery from the debilitating stroke which left him paralysed below the neck and unable to breathe for himself, swallow or talk. And he has now pledged that by July 4 he will be able to walk again when carrying the Torch.
From being on a ventilator in a Dubai hospital and then being medically evacuated to the Norfolk & Norwich Hospital, Eddie fought for his life during a courageous eight-month battle. He returned to his home and devoted wife Jeannie on Colman Road in Norwich last September and has been inspiring family, friends and medical staff ever since with his iron determination and strong Christian faith.
That fighting spirit has now been recognized after he was nominated to carry the Olympic Torch by his family and in particular daughter Lila, who spoke of his 26 years of work helping homeless young people with YMCA Norfolk and of his battling spirit and determination to recover after the stroke.
Eddie is delighted with the tribute: “For me carrying the torch will be a great honour as it’s a landmark in my recovery,” he said.
“To think that a year ago I was literally hanging onto life not knowing whether I would walk or talk again. God has been my strength during the last year, always there in the darkest despair. I often think now about the footsteps in the sand story. I know now what it is like first hand to be carried and loved by Jesus. I also know that I am now walking beside him, albeit with sticks, and every so often I know that I can reach out and hold on to Him.
“My old friend John Drake
(former chief executive of YMCA Norfolk) never doubted that I would walk again. He said to me on his first visit to hospital that he had had a dream and that God had said that I would walk again and I have.
“My family have never stopped supporting me and Jeannie. Without them I don’t know where we would be. I only found out recently how much they were willing to sacrifice, and are still willing to sacrifice, for me.”
Eddie found out that he was to carry the Torch when it visits Norfolk back in December, and could only tell close family and friends. Then he could only walk indoors using a triwalker and a powered wheelchair outdoors.
“As soon as I knew that I would carry the torch I was determined that come July 4, I would walk at least part of the course,” said Eddie.
“My daughter Louise spoke to the UEA Sports Village and they gave me a six-month sponsorship to help me prepare and strengthen my legs in the swimming pool and gym.
“My physios at Caroline House have been working very hard with various walking exercises in readiness for the event. I am now walking with two sticks indoors and my target is to be able to at least walk some of the way with one stick and have my chair handy for back up,” he said.
“I would like to dedicate this honour to the medical staff in NMC Dubai, the Norfolk & Norwich for making me medically fit, the staff at Caroline House and Jubilee House who were and still are working hard on my rehab, the UEA for giving me a facility to work on my strength and to my friends. But most of all to my wife and family who have had to endure hell on earth witnessing me at my worst during last year, and encouraging me now in my new life.”
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Eddie will be one of around 8,000 torchbearers, helping to carry the Olympic flame all around the country, leading up to the London Olympics, which start on July 28.
Other Norwich Christian community Torchbearers will be blind Norwich minister Rev Simon Stokes and YMCA Norfolk Fundraising and Communications Manager Susie Knights.
Pictured above is Eddie Pleban with wife Jeannie in their Colman Road home in Norwich.