Michael Thorpe wasn't expecting a bike ride to change his life forever.
It was the summer of 2019 and Michael was riding up Gisborne's Fox St to a mountain bike trail.
"Just some fun, nothing crazy, and then I got the jump wrong," Michael said.
His stepson, Phoenix, was only 10 years old but remembers the accident well.
"On the last jump, he fell over his handlebars, and there was a massive thump," he said.
"I was like, 'Are you okay?' and he was like, 'No, this is serious' because he couldn't move."
Phoenix rang his mother, Jenine Ritchie, who thought the call was a prank.
"I got a call from Phoenix and he said, 'Michael has come off his bike and he can't feel his legs'.
"My immediate reaction was is this some kind of freaking sick joke," she said.
Michael was taken to Gisborne Hospital where it was found the impact had compressed his spine leaving him paralysed from the chest down, with minimal function in his hands.
He was flown to Waikato Hospital for further treatment, where the spinal unit started with a goal-setting meeting.
"The first question is am I going to walk again," he said.
"They said, 'If you don't see flickers in your legs in the first few days, probably not.' "
Michael was determined to prove them wrong.
"People were saying your life's completely over, and I didn't really pay much attention to those sorts of people," he said.
Jenine recalls a comment made by the nurse looking after Michael on day two in Waikato hospital.
"He said, 'That's it mate, that's all you're going to get. At least you still got this (pointing to his head). I've seen worse,' " she said. "And I was like, you fricking prick."
They stayed positive.
"Right in the early days, we were all about positivity and not necessarily believing what
everybody had told us would happen," Jenine said.
"I think the power of the mind is more powerful than anybody telling you can't do something."
Michael was transferred to Auckland's Middlemore Hospital for more treatment and within three months he was ready to go home, but the family home had to be modified for wheelchair accessability.
The arrival of Covid meant there was limited time for the work, but family and friends chipped in to get renovations and modifications done.
The first Covid lockdown of 2020 meant no immediate access to home help or hands-on physiotherapy.
Gisborne's Lorna Shasky-Hughes has been working as a physiotherapist for more than 30 years, but hadn't worked with a spinal injury this severe.
An unorthodox treatment plan was hatched.
"We made the conscious decision that I'm going to go with what my body feels like doing, not what was a prescribed rehab," Michael said.
Lorna said allowing Michael to lead his physiotherapy sessions came with some amazing results.
"We've had this philosophy of there are no boundaries, there are no limits," she said.
"At the moment we're just going to push in whatever direction Michael wants to go and just go for it."
Michael's daily rehabilitation routine includes muscle strengthening, time in the pool, rolling along Gisborne walkways, and stretching.
He spends up to five hours a day pushing himself to failure.
"I know I'm going to walk and it's just the effort that is required," he said.
"You want to learn to walk, you got to learn to stand. You want to stand, you got to stand up thousands of times."
While Michael focused on his rehabilitation Jenine was busy online researching treatment options, eventually leading them to Gisborne's Dr Rick Cirolli and stem-cell treatment.
When Michael first approached Dr Cirolli about the treatment, the specialist general surgeon said his injury was too severe for it to work.
"I said, 'Look, it's not going to work' and I discouraged him, but he twisted my arm.
"It was more of a compassionate treatment that I gave," Dr Cirolli said.
Once again Michael's determination paid off, seeing great results from the treatment.
Dr Cirolli attributes the success to Michael's hard work with his rehabilitation.
"He was paralysed, using medical terms, from the nipple down to the toes.
"He had no movement or sensation, and now he has sensation, pain, and he is nearly
"So to me, this is a tremendous achievement," Dr Cirolli said.
Partner Jenine says Michael is still making physical gains.
"Michael's mindset is just phenomenal, he's just so positive and determined.
Physiotherapist Lorna says he's one of a kind when it comes to his rehabilitation.
"I don't think I've ever met anybody quite so dedicated to the recovery and the rehabilitation," Lorna said.
Michael continues to discover new feelings and sensations and stepdaughter Willow Clarke says some are by accident.
"Sometimes I'm at the dinner table and I (accidentally) kick his legs and he's like 'Ow'."
Michael is still defying the odds with his recovery and remains focused on making his dream of walking a reality.
"I still don't know if I've got flickers in my legs, but I can stand, and I can walk in a pool," Michael said.
Micheal and his family are determined to prove that a medical prognosis can be turned around through determination, hard work, and a positive outlook.