A teenager is set to climb the Eiffel Tower seven months after he broke his back in a sledging accident.
Filip Cegar, 13, had to learn to walk again after the freak accident in Bieldside in December 2022 which resulted in him breaking both his back and breastbone.
The Aberdeen teen underwent the first operation of its kind to be carried out at the Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital (RACH) to realign his spine and fix his spinal cord in place to prevent any further damage.
Filip, a pupil at Cults Academy, told how he had set off to sledge at a golf course with his best friend on the day of the accident on December 8 last year.
He said: “We had been there many times but we saw a place we had never been to before so we decided to go from the very top of the hill and just close our eyes and rush to the bottom.
“The last thing I remember is feeling fear and I remember my friend pulling me up on to the sledge, but he couldn’t manage to pull me all the way up. He had to run back up to the golf clubhouse to get some help.”
Filip’s dad Petar rushed from the family home in Milltimber to the golf club to find his son lying on the ground and unable to move.
Petar said: “I had spent many hours watching Filip and his friends sledge but that day the boys went on their own for the first time. When I got there, he was lying there on the snow. People were around him covering him with jackets.
“We didn’t know what was happening but we could see he couldn’t move his legs or arms and he was screaming in pain. The first estimates were not good.”
He was taken to the Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital where he was met by a major trauma team.
The teen later underwent an urgent operation led by consultant neurosurgeon James Walkden, to realign his spine and fix the bones in place, preventing damage to his spinal cord.
Petar said: “Filip was literally broken in half because he broke his back and sternum. Before the operation, Mr Walkden said he didn’t want to raise any hopes, but luckily he didn’t break his spinal cord. I can’t tell you the feeling – I had to sit down. Immediately after the surgery Filip started to have some control and some movement, not even 24 hours on.
“I can’t praise the professionalism of all the staff enough. The Archie Foundation gave us a room and we were shown so much patience and goodwill. We could not have asked for more.”
Filip was then transferred to the Queen Elizabeth National Spinal Injuries Unit in Glasgow, where he had to learn to walk again.
He said: “Nothing that serious had ever happened to me before. I was so happy the surgery worked but I was so weak and tired lying in bed and I didn’t know if I was going to be OK.
“The physiotherapist helped me first to stand up, then slowly start walking, and over the course of two weeks I was already climbing up the stairs.”
He was able to enjoy time with family after being allowed to go home the day before Christmas Eve and is now able to return to his football training sessions.
His recovery so far has been so successful that he is able to leave for Paris next week to take on the 674 steps of the Eiffel Tower.
The challenge is being carried out in honour of the team who cared for him and The Archie Foundation, who supported his recovery.
Money raised from the fundraising mission will be used to buy a recliner chair for the hospital’s High Dependency Unit, which will allow other families to sit by their child’s bedside in comfort.
Any additional money will help fund a room in The Archie Foundation’s Family Centre, where families such as Filip’s parents Petar and Irena can stay at RACH at no cost while their child is a patient.
The family also thanked members of the Kippie Lodge in Aberdeen for their support.
Petar said: “Training with me in the gym has been an important part of Filip’s journey. I still had to work though and could only go at certain times.
“Normally children are only allowed in the gym during specific times but the team at Kippie Lodge made an exception for Filip because they could see how important it was to his recovery.”
Filip’s last operation took place on July 7, when his surgical team removed all the metal from his spine. He’s now aiming to be ready for his upcoming challenge in the French capital.
He said: “I know so many people say it, but never stop believing it will get better. That’s what my family and everyone here at the hospital managed to do and mentally that has contributed massively to my recovery.
“Now I want to use my fitness to raise money for the Archie Foundation to give something back as they were such a huge support to me and my family.”
The Archie Foundation was founded with the aim of transforming the experiences and outcomes in healthcare and bereavement for babies, children and families across the north of Scotland.
The charity aims to provide equal access to world-class healthcare and bereavement support to all children in the region.
Paula Cormack, chief executive of The Archie Foundation, said: “Filip’s incredible story is an inspiration to us all and his recovery is testament to the skills of the medical team involved in his care.
“We were able to support his family at the point of crisis by providing a room for Petar and Irena and other family members, to ease the pressure a little and allow them to focus on Filip after his accident.
“We are delighted that he has chosen to fundraise for The Archie Foundation and particularly to raise money for a recliner chair so parents can sit comfortably during those long and very anxious hours by their child’s bedside. We can’t wait to hear how Filip gets on in Paris!”
To make a donation to Filip’s JustGiving appeal, click here.
Visit The Archie Foundation’s website for more information on the charity’s work and support available.