Stepney mum crowdfunds for Reece Kempley's therapy after prankster puts him in wheelchair
PUBLISHED: 07:05 18 April 2018 | UPDATED: 10:49 18 April 2018
Reece Kempley was on the last day of his holiday on the Greek Isle of Corfu when a prankster pushed him off a pier into the sea and changed his life for ever—causing a spine injury that has put him in a wheelchair.
Now the 23-year-old’s family in Stepney Green are desperately trying to raise funds to pay for intensive physiotherapy in his fight to regain movement in his limbs.
His mum Rachel is starting a fundraising campaign to run car boot sales, pub evenings and a charity football match.
“We need at least £25,000 for physiotherapy,” she tells tomorrow’s East London Advertiser.
“I feel bad having to ask the public to help, but we have no choice. We are desperate because my son is being written off. I won’t let that happen.”
She has also set up a Reece Kemply Just Giving online page for donations from wellwishers.
Reece is in temporary accommodation in an Aspire spinal injury charity’s ground-floor flat at Millharbour on the Isle of Dogs—but isolated from his family and friends in Stepney.
Rachel pleads with Tower Hamlets Council for appropriate family accommodation suitable for Reece, her other two children and his 24-hour carer.
“Reece needs to be on the ground floor,” the 49-year-old Brick Lane beigal bakery shopworker said. “We need him back with us in a family environment.”
The council is looking for a property meeting their needs as their flat in Stepney Green Court is unsuitable and cannot be adapted.
A town hall spokesman said: “Wheelchair accessible properties are sadly in short supply and not everyone can be housed on the ground floor.”
"I feel bad having to ask the public to help, but we have no choice — we are desperate because my son is being written off. I won’t let that happen."
Reece is beginning to feel tingling sensation in his feet and legs. But corrective therapy is expensive. A bill for a week’s intensive treatment is £10,000—but cheaper abroad, Rachel has found. The family has scraped £5,000 together to send him to Poland for two weeks’ treatment.
Reece remembers the holidaymaker’s prank that has put him through months of medical care and therapy.
“A girl on the pier asked if I could swim and suddenly just pushed me into the water,” he recalls. “I hit the rocks—my head bobbed up, but I couldn’t move my limbs.”
Bystanders pulled him to safety. The girl just vanished into the crowd.
“She must have realised what she did,” Reece added. “I feel upset that someone could do that. She didn’t even stay to see if I was alright.”
He was in intensive care for a week on life support, then flown back to Heathrow on July 3 where an air-ambulance took him to the Royal London in Whitechapel.
But he wasn’t happy with the 13 weeks of care at the hospital before being sent to a rehab centre in Stanmore.
“I wasn’t getting washed,” he claimed. “I had medication left on the side and couldn’t move to get it. I don’t know how they expected me to take my tablets.”
The hospital apologised when contacted by the Advertiser for the family feeling the care “fell short of the quality we aim to provide”. A spokesman said: “We discussed with the family us purchasing a shower chair—but unfortunately it wouldn’t have been safe on the neurosciences ward.”
The family’s plight was revealed during Tower Hamlets election campaigning at Canary Wharf when independent candidate Natasha Bolter knocked on Reece’s front-door in Millharbour and Rachel answered.
Natasha said: “More should have been done for this family. Reece has been let down by everyone.
“The family’s crowdfunding is a brilliant idea—but they shouldn’t have to do this.”
Reece’s life-changing accident has opened his eyes to a “lack of care” for the disabled. He wants the whole system looked into and improve what can be done for spinal patients and others who need support, especially access to buildings and public transport.