An injection of Botox has helped a British stroke victim, who had been paralysed for almost two decades, walk again.
Russell McPhee used to be a healthy meat worker who played football, cricket and basketball.
However, at the age of 26, he collapsed suddenly at work and woke up in the hospital bed, where he was told that he had suffered a stroke and would never walk again.
"I felt my life had ended. I lost my job, my wife left me, I ended up with nothing," Times Online quoted him as saying.
And today, McPhee, 49, of Gippsland in Victoria, can walk almost unaided for up to 20 metres and cover 100 metres with a walking frame.
He said: "I thought I would die in my wheelchair. My life has started all over again. I have seen people cry when they realise I'm standing beside my chair. Tough men, blokes I went to school with and played sport with, weep when they see me."
And the credit to his rapid improvement goes to treatment with Botox, or botulinum toxin injections at the St John of God Nepean Rehabilitation Hospital in Frankston, Victoria.
After only a month of getting his first injection, McPhee could stand up and walk a few yards with a helper on either side.
Now he can walk the length of a room with only a guiding hand on his arm.
Botox is an accepted treatment for the type of paralysis commonly associated with strokes, and was used to treat muscle spasm years before it was adopted for cosmetic use.
While patients usually show the best effects if they are treated soon after a stroke, McPhee's dramatic improvement is a miracle for many.
McPhee's doctor, Nathan Johns, said that Botox on its own would not have worked without his extraordinary strength of will.
"Usually giving a patient botulinum toxin relieves the stiffness by relaxing the muscle, but it also weakens the muscle which means the patient would not regain much mobility," said Johns, a rehabilitation specialist.
He added: "But Russell had unusually good muscle power despite the fact that he had been in a wheelchair for so long."
McPhee owes his muscle power to the repeated attempts he made to get out of his wheelchair and stand on his own-he was not successful, managing at most a few seconds on his feet before he collapsed.
"Often I would lie on the floor for hours, just hoping that someone might drop by so they could pick me up again," he said.
And such repeated attempts to stand built up a core muscle strength on which his doctors and physiotherapists could work.
Dr Johns said: "We injected the botulinum toxin directly into his muscles 18 months ago. After 10 days the muscles started to relax and in 12 weeks, as it took effect and he started intensive physiotherapy, we saw a marked improvement."
McPhee is now planning to get rid of his walking frame altogether.