A CRASH victim who can communicate only by blinking is set to return to his North Wales home.
Ian Hunt's family and friends have been told he can move back to his four-bedroomed semi in Drury, near Buckley, in October or November.
He has been there a couple of times before for special parties, since a motorbike crash left him paralysed from the neck down.
But this time he will truly be going home.
Ian's devoted wife Lesley celebrated the news yesterday by popping the cork on a bottle of champagne which she had hoped to open at Christmas.
But at the time, the authorities were not ready to move Ian from the spinal injuries unit at the Southport and Formby General Hospital to the Deeside Community Hospital.
People with injuries as severe as Ian's rarely leave hospital.
But Ian will be moved to a suite at Deeside on April 24.
He will stay there for six months while his house is extensively converted to cater for his needs. Then he will go home.
Some friends came round yesterday and Lesley opened the bottle.
"Now we have the news of his move in black and white," she said. "The friends started crying. It was very emotional for us all."
Seventeen months ago Ian suffered a brain haemorrhage and fell off his 400cc Honda motorcyle near Llangollen, breaking his spine at the stem of the brain.
Doctors and nurses at Wrexham Maelor Hospital kept him alive on a ventilator. Ian was left without movement but he could think, see and hear, expressing his feelings through blinking and smiling.
Tony Shannon, his friend and fellow telephone engineer, developed an alphabet board so Lesley could point at a letter and Ian could blink where appropriate. In that way they 'spoke' to each other.
The device has since been supplemented by an £8,000 computer paid for by a trust fund set up to look after Ian.
In January last year, he was transferred to Southport where he was placed under the care of Bakulesh Soni, consultant in the spinal injuries unit.
Although, Ian will spend the rest of his life on a ventilator, he has continued to show an enthusiasm for life --watching TV, listening to music and smiling at visitors.
Lesley, 41, has been at his bedside every day, making the 120-mile return trip from their home in her red Ford Escort.
Gradually, she has been able to take Ian out for short trips, including to his home, always accompanied by his nurses.
From April 24, Ian will be just two miles away at the Deeside Hospital where a team of 11 nurses and carers have been appointed to ensure that he is monitored around the clock. They will undergo an intensive period of training at Southport before the move. The same team will look after Ian at home.
The costs of his medical care and accommodation are being met by the North Wales Health Authority. It funds the North East Wales NHS Trust which runs the Deeside Hospital.
But Ian's own trust has raised £67,000 so far to pay for his other needs. For example, his specially adapted Toyota Hiace van will cost £25,000.
Val Coleman of the health authority, co-ordinating the move, said: "We have never had to care for a patient with Ian's needs before. We are very grateful to all in Southport for the help they are giving us. I am delighted that our careful planning is now coming to fruition and we will soon be able to bring Ian close to his family."
Ian and Lesley have three children --Michael, 19, Daniel, 17, and Hannah,
14. "They are thrilled by the news," said Lesley.She is grateful for all that has been done at Southport, but the move is a dream come true.
Donations for Ian should be sent to the HSBC Bank, Brunswick Rd, Buckley, Flintshire. CH72EB...SUPL: