Brian Hogan, 35, was working in Nottingham in Jul 2009, when on a night out with friends, he was knocked to the ground without provocation, hitting his head on the pavement.
When an ambulance was called, he declined help. Some time later that night his condition deteriorated rapidly. When he came out of a coma, some weeks later, he was left blind and paralysed.
On his discharge from hospital in England, Brian’s parents and siblings gave him round-the-clock care at the family home in Ballykeeffe Estate, in Limerick.
His sister Siobhán Hogan said: “We did a lot of research and discovered a clinic in Bejing which offered stem cell infusions.
“It is a controversial treatment, but we decided Brian should have the opportunity to see if it could help him.”
Now after the treatment, Brian’s family have seen a dramatic improvement in his condition.
“We were all teary-eyed last Tuesday when we watched him walk for a few steps after being helped out of the wheelchair,” Siobhán said.
Family and friends raised the €40,000 needed to fly Brian to China for the treatment last July. His brother-in-law, Seán Fitzmaurice, a neuro nurse in the US, stayed with him at the clinic as he received stem cell infusions over a three-week period.
“They told us at the clinic, it would take six to eight months for the stem cell infusions to take effect. But in the past few weeks we began to see a marked improvement. Up to then he could only move when getting from the wheelchair into a car,” Siobhán said.
“But last Tuesday he walked about 20ft and we have put it on our website. We were all teary-eyed.He is able to sit up in the wheelchair, his speech has improved, he looks better, and he has also got mobility he did not have before.
“He has been taking steps, but last Tuesday he walked for about 20ft with our brother, Jonathan helping with his balance. He could not walk at all before going to China for the treatment. He is improving by the day.”
Siobhán said Brian is still blind, but he has noticed an encouraging change. “He has felt a pressure behind his eyes last week, something he never felt up to now. We were told in China it could take six to eight months when we might see an improvement as regard to his sight.”
Brian now lives in acquired brain injury accommodation in Clarecastle, Co Clare and goes for physiotherapy once a week in Ennis.
He also gives talks in secondary schools about his experience and the dangers of head injuries.
He has previously said: “Sitting all day in a wheelchair isn’t my scene really. I was always on the go. Losing my sight was the hardest thing. It can be very lonely and you can feel quite vulnerable.”
The man who assaulted Brian was jailed for 27 months.