A COMMUNITY is rallying round to raise money to send a paralysed boy to Poland for therapy so he can be "set free".

Shea French-Gibbens, seven, has cerebal palsy and has been a quadriplegic from birth.

But he has no mental disabilities and if his limbs were to work, he could lead an independent life.

Pioneering physiotherapy in Poland, using the Russian Adeli spacesuit, could change this.

Shea's father, Mick Gibbens, says medical chiefs in this country were dismissive of eastern European "quack" practices. And the 46-year-old admits he was a "bit dubious at first" but says he could not find anyone who says it does not work.

Shea who goes to Horn Park Primary School, Alnwick Road, Lee, has had two four-week sessions in Mielno, north west Poland, last April and September.

Mr Gibbens says his son could sit up unaided for longer periods of time and a corridor, which took him 20 minutes to walk with assistance took seven minutes after his first therapy treatment.

With further treatment, possibly another year's worth, Shea could walk unaided with crutches and lead an independent life.

Mr Gibbens says this would mean everything to Shea and he remembers when his son was given an electric wheelchair. The database analyst said: "The first thing he did was zoom over to touch the telly and when I asked him why, he said he'd always wanted to do it but sat there all those years without saying so.

"And it meant so much to him when his brothers were called for tea and he could come to. It would be amazing if he could walk, he would be set free."

The treatment costs £5,000 plus flights and accommodation and the family are already paying £150 for physio sessions, each week, in this country and a sling to help his arm grow properly.

His family are holding fundraising events to raise money, including a 10,000 ft sky dive by his uncle, John Gibbens, 43, of Chipperfield Road, St Paul's Cray.

He said: "We're trying to do as much as we can for him because without the treatment, he will just stay in his wheelchair."

The Slug and Lettuce pub, High Street, Bromley, is holding a personal auction and Keddle's Gym, St Mary Cray, is sponsoring Mr Gibbens' jump.

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  • The suit was developed in 1971 by the Russian Center for Aeronautical and Space Medicine for Russian Cosmonauts.
  • It has been used by the international rehabilitation clinic, Euromed, since 1992, to treat people with paralysis.
  • The centre in Poland has treated 2,000 people since it was founded in 1994.
  • The suit holds the body in an upright position and was used to train people to walk in space.
  • By adding increasinly heavy weights, it will strengthen Shea's muscles and train his body to walk.