SOLDIER Tony Williams is a miracle man.
The 29-year-old Queen Alexandria’s Royal Army Nursing Corps Corporal survived being hit by an exploding grenade while on duty in Afghanistan – and a month later he was shot four times as he tended to an injured comrade.
The man from Islands Brow survived a near-death experience after being shot in the lower spine and paralysed, yet Tony has made an amazing recovery and is looking ahead to a bright future.
Despite doctors giving him less than a five per cent chance of fathering children because of his injuries, he and fiancee Sharon Shaw, of Newton-le-Willows, are looking forward to the arrival of a baby girl in three months time.
He is also enjoying life as a talisman for the remarkable St Helens Viking wheelchair basketball outfit, whose members have helped inspire his fightback.
Speaking from his home and surrounded by Vikings team-mates, the former Birmingham University rugby league team hooker said: “I would like to emphasise how lucky I really was, and how lucky I have been beating all the odds after a shot fractured my lower spine.
“It is a miracle that I am now going to be a father in less than three months time after being told how slim my chances were of becoming a dad and regaining bladder and bowel functions.
“I can also walk even though I have lack of sensation in my feet and one foot is paralysed.
“If there are such things as guardian angels I definitely had one.
“We’re going to have a girl and she will be named Holly Alaina – I’ve already painted the nursery pink!”
He also heaped praise on the Vikings team, adding: “They have helped with my transition into life outside of the Forces and have become a very good bunch of reliable friends who all have their own inspirational stories on which I thrive on and gain perspective.”
Tony plays a forward role with Vikings and in the last game scored three baskets.
“I love the speed of the game and crashing in to people!” he admitted, revelling in the agility provided by the sports wheelchair he acquired thanks to the Help for Heroes charity.
Training nights are on Mondays and Thursdays at Lansbury Bridge School, Lansbury Avenue, Parr where the Vikings play their home fixtures.
The next match there is on Sunday, December 1, when Vikings 2 meet Whirlwind 2 at noon followed by Vikings v Eagles at 2pm.
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TONY Williams described to the Star how he twice happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and both occasions could have cost him his life.
“I was really lucky.
“On May 8, 2010, we were on a routine patrol and sitting down looking at the horizon during the daytime when all hell broke loose.
“I was hit on the head by a grenade.
“Four or five grenades injured three of us but fortunately they were only minor wounds.
“Then four weeks later we engaged heavy contact and when a second casualty was shot and critically injured I ran to his aid and another chap came to assist.
“I was shot through the shoulder by a sniper but was rescued and dragged to a ditch and treated.
“Then I went back to try and help the casualties but was shot.
“I was hit by at least four bullets, two hit my helmet but I was struck beneath my body armour, hit in the spine and was paralysed from the waist down.
“At first I laughed because it felt like I had been shot in my backside. I was in a pretty dire state.”
Tony was rushed to Camp Bastion fully aware how critical the next few hours would be.
“I knew if I didn’t get seen to I would have been dead,” he recalled.
Two days later, he was back in hospital in Birmingham and a week later woke up from a coma to be greeted by excruciating pain.
“I entered a world of pain.
“It was indescribable, horrendous pain. I was bed-bound for six months and underwent intense physiotherapy.
“I was told I wouldn’t walk for at least three years and would be very lucky if I was to get my bodily functions back and less than a five per cent chance of fathering a child. My left leg is my main problem, I still need walking aids and to walk a short distance I need a leg brace.”
But now Tony is looking ahead to a bright, new future.