PARALYSED Jason Alner finally goes under the knife this month in what he hopes will be the first step on the long road to recovery.
The brave 23-year-old, who broke his neck in a holiday accident in 1999, will undergo two operations at the International Spinal Cord Regeneration Centre in Tijuana, Mexico.
And in a heart-felt message to Mail readers, he said: "I'd like to thank everyone for helping me get there."
People from across the area rallied to support Jason after we first highlighted his plight more than two years ago.
Since then a host of charity events have been held to fund his treatment, including auction nights, sponsored runs and sky dives.
The operations, which cost some £61,000, are scheduled to begin on September 25.
The first will decompress Jason's neck fracture, while the second will see metal pins inserted to correct his posture and keep the spine in place.
Both are needed before Jason can undergo any further treatment or therapy.
Jason, formerly of Ash but now living in Guildford, will jet out to Los Angeles on September 15 on discounted Virgin Atlantic flights.
He will be joined by his carer Louise Vandenberg and will be out of the country for six weeks.
He said: "The fundraising has been a great achievement but I could never picture when the day would come.
"Obviously I knew we were focusing on the fundraising but now it's actually happening it's real and I have a date for the surgery.
"I'm very nervous and quite up and down emotionally about it."
Jason was paralysed from the chest down when he fell into a swimming pool while on holiday in Majorca in August 1999.
Since then he has been confined to a wheelchair with only limited movement in his shoulders and arms.
But he is determined to make a full recovery and said even the initial operations could offer a small improvement by taking the pressure off some nerves and returning a degree of sensation to his chest and back.
He will then examine all the treatments available to him to see which will offer the best chance of recovery.
"My long term goal is to make a full recovery within my lifetime and I'm confident I can do that, if not within the next five years," he said.
"They talk about stem cell research a lot. I'm not putting my hopes on any one thing but all the time medical research is getting closer and closer to putting something into clinical trials.
"I have got the determination to put in the hard work."
Jason describes the three years since his accident as "a learning curve" during which he has had to rebuild his shattered confidence as he adjusts to his new life.
"Initially I was very unconfident and unsure how my life would be now that it had changed so dramatically," he said.
"But now I have slowly built up my confidence and developed more belief in myself just through experience."
Thanking all those who have contributed to his campaign, he added: "The fundraising has really boosted my confidence and opened my eyes to how generous people can be and willing to help, not for any reason other than because they want to.
"It's something I couldn't really comprehend before."