He has never regained that feeling, yet against all the odds, he has made an apparently miraculous recovery. HORIZON tells Ian’s extraordinary story. Ian had contracted a disease of the nervous system so rare that the doctors on Jersey were unable to diagnose it. It had destroyed all the sensory nerves responsible for touch, and for conveying information about muscle and joint position, senses so fundamental to our capacity to move in the world that they have been called a sixth sense.
Without this “proprioception” we can have no inner sense of posture or limb position and cannot initiate or control movement. Ian was told that he would spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. But Ian wasn’t paralysed, and he was determined that he was going to lead as normal a life as he could. With the help of physiotherapists he discovered that he could regain control of his limbs through his eyes. So long as he could see the limbs he was moving, he could will his muscles into action and monitor their movements. Doggedly, he taught himself to stand and walk, to use cutlery and a pen, to pick up mugs of tea and to gesture convincingly while talking, but each movement required unfaltering conscious effort.