Published: 06:00, 07 September 2020
| Updated: 09:00, 08 September 2020
A man who was left unable to communicate or walk after suffering catastrophic head injuries in an attack in Ramsgate has shown signs of a miraculous recovery after just weeks of using a revolutionary medical app.
Joe Shaw, of Denmark Road, was in a coma and needed surgery to reconstruct his skull after being assaulted by then-24-year-old Liam Bayliss near a nightclub in 2018 .
Watch: Joe walks without aid of a machine following medical app breakthrough
When KentOnline visited Joe at his home earlier this year , he was communicating by speaking certain phrases and pointing to letters on an alphabetic crib sheet.
He was also having to rely on a hoist to move around his home, which had been specially adapted to suit his needs.
But after just a week of using the 'optokinetic stimulation' app, the 26-year-old found himself making incredible progress.
He said: "It didn't feel like anything at first, and then it just clicked.
"Things just started happening, and I was able to speak and walk again.
"I just thought, 'what the hell is going on?'"
Joe started using the app on March 19, and noticed a significant improvement in his speech and mobility just a week later.
Rather than relying on the hoist, he was able to lift himself up using his arms, and later even able to walk between parallel bars.
His mum Nancy could not believe how short the space of time was between starting to use the app and the improvement of Joe's movement and speech.
She said: "The speed is phenomenal, how quickly he was getting better - way past any expectations any of us had, but it's so exciting.
"He can see a light at the end of the tunnel now, whereas before he couldn't."
The technology was developed by specialist physiotherapist Ben Chitambira, who spent the last 17 years working for East Kent Hospitals University NHS Trust.
Mr Chitambira, who lives in Ashford , left to develop the app with the team at Neurorestorative and Neurorehabilitation Solutions (NRNRS).
He said: "The app is a set of lines which the person looks at on a laptop - it induces sensory conflict in the brain between the visual system and the balance system, which is in the ears.
"When that conflict occurs, it allows the brain to recover the networks with the ear sensors for the balance system, and when that happens the balance system recovers.
"The balance system controls muscle tone, and we've always known that to recover muscle strength you have to recover muscle tone first.
"By allowing the brain to control muscle tone, the app then allows the muscles to regain movement and muscle strength."
According to the physiotherapist, the app is the first of its kind to focus on regaining balance and muscle strength directly through stimulating the brain.
The organisation believes the app could now go on to enable recovery from a variety of different illnesses, including strokes, traumatic brain injuries, MS and spinal cord injuries.
Watch: Joe can now use a manual wheelchair to get around the house
It could even help people who suffer with conditions like vertigo.
Currently the app is only available privately, but Mr Chitambira and NRNRS hope to introduce it to the NHS in the future.
Responding to Joe's recovery, he said: "He was overwhelmed, I don't think he anticipated he would be at this level so quickly, so it's now given him hope that things will continue to improve."
Using the app daily, the physiotherapist set Joe activities including blindfolding him and getting him to stand on a balancing mat and relying on only his ears for balance.
"He was overwhelmed, I don't think he anticipated he would be at this level so quickly..."
Mr Chitambira also believes Joe's improvement will continue, with the potential to be able to walk independently up and down flights of stairs in the future.
Joe now has his sights set on achieving just that.
He said: "I want to start walking and get up the stairs - at the moment the bed is in the living room.
"I want to be upstairs in my bedroom by Christmas time, and I will do it as well.
"What the mind can see, the body can see."
KMTV visiting Joe in his Ramsgate home in February