HE stared death in the face after being struck down with a life-threatening brain disorder.
Now courageous Gosport firefighter Paul Ponsford has been honoured for his outstanding bravery and commitment to the fire service – as he overcomes all the odds and returns to the front of duty.
It’s just amazing. He is an inspiration to people with brain injury. But we couldn’t have done it on our own, not without the support of the fire service and the NHS and their hard work.Tania Ponsford
The father-of-three was left paralysed on his left side, unable to walk or talk and left partially blind after suffering a bleed on the brain caused by swollen vessels.
The ordeal left the 53-year-old in hospital for months, with his family and colleagues fearing the worst.
But he battled back from the brink, and determined to return to normal life, brave Paul began phasing back into work in March this year.
And doctors now believe he’s on his way to battling fires full-time again.
Speaking after being awarded the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Authority chairman award at a gala celebrating heroes in the fire service last night, Mr Ponsford, who lives with his family in Portchester, said: ‘I have come a long way. I am a little bit overwhelmed.
‘I have come so far and it’s down to this lady, my wife Tania, and family, that I came out of hospital.
‘And from there, my watch manager, my station manager, my crew manager, the whole fire service have been so supportive.’
Paul’s proud wife Tania Ponsford, 51, said: ‘It’s just amazing. He is an inspiration to people with brain injuries.
‘But we couldn’t have done it on our own, not without the support of the fire service and the NHS and their hard work.’
Gosport station commander, Tim Spencer-Peet, said: ‘He is a very, very determined individual.
‘He just adores the job. And it was just a shock, this sudden life-changing event.
‘Since then, he has become an inspiration to everyone with the determination he has shown.’
Mr Ponsford was presented with the award, at Hampshire Constabulary’s Southern Support & Training Headquarters in Netley, by county councillor Christopher Carter.
Cllr Carter said: ‘I was lucky to have met Paul earlier this year at the fire station, and I was really amazed at the way he has been coping with the adversity.’