A pioneering podiatrist has helped save the leg, hip and shoulder of a wounded military veteran who spent years searching for a successful medical treatment.
Andy Bain, from Portrack in Stockton, served as a Weapons Engineering Mechanic in the Royal Navy Submarine Service but it was whilst riding his motorbike back from a Falklands War memorial service in 2010 that he suffered life-changing injuries after a car ploughed in the convoy.
He not only broke his back but also shattered his pelvis and right leg as the impact of the car pinned him to his motorbike.
A decade later, he is now able to go out cycling and is enjoying life after Ben Haythornthwaite, director and podiatrist at The Foot and Ankle Clinic in Darlington helped stimulate movement in Andy’s big toe during sessions funded by military charity, Help for Heroes.
“There was a lot of nerve damage to my leg and due to the amount of bone that had been exposed from the lower leg nothing would heal,” said Andy who lost six centimetres from his tibia.
“Having it amputated was discussed as an option so that reconstruction of the pelvis could be attempted. I opted to try to regrow the six centimetres of bone to keep my leg,” he explained.
“After successfully growing the bone back a surgeon successfully reconstructed my pelvis and carried out a replacement hip. The diagnosis at the time was that this was a one-off and in four years’ time I would be in a wheelchair.However, now I developed weekly ulcers on my right foot and the risk of losing the hip and shoulder replacements due to infection was very real.
“It got so bad I would stay in bed for most of the day as I was frightened to make my leg worse but,being ex-forces, I am very stubborn! I was determined to try and find a medical treatment that worked,” explained Andy, 56, who now lives in Belthorn, Lancashire.
When Andy turned to Help for Heroes, its North Veterans’ Clinical Advisor, Duane ‘Fletch’ Fletcher MBE, was eager to support him to find the treatment he so desperately needed.
Andy added: “I’ve lost two stone during lockdown after getting personalised nutritional advice from Help for Heroes, I’ve started exercising on a cross trainer and I even have the confidence now to go out cycling with my wife, Jean.”
Fletch who has assessed 220 veterans with various physical ailments in the 12 months he has worked at Help for Heroes, said: “We may have added something to Andy’s recovery but you can’t overlook the amount of positivity Andy has to accept and challenge his own health issues. The results in the improvement of his own quality of life are immeasurable.”
The military charity funded sessions with Ben Haythornthwaite, director and podiatrist at The Foot and Ankle Clinic in Darlington.
Ben is at the forefront of podiatric medicine and used his expertise to begin stimulating movement in Andy’s traumatised foot. The clinic has had success in reducing lower limb pain for several other wounded veterans supported in their recovery by Help for Heroes.
Before training to be a podiatrist, Ben was an engineer and architect and has translated his structural knowledge into his understanding of podiatric biomechanics and how bodies react to forces and pressures put on them.
Amongst the techniques used to help Andy, Ben used fascial tissue manipulation which involves targeting the connective tissue found beneath the skin which connects to muscle, bones and nerves.
Ben explained: “We have worked with Andy to regain movement in his big toe which will remove some of the pressure in his foot.
“As the chance of infection is now reduced in his body, through the ulceration, it also means that the replacement shoulder is less under threat because serious infection is less likely to occur.
“Since arriving at the Foot and Ankle Clinic, Andy can now move his big toe and part of his foot. As a result, he has gone from being trapped in his bed, to being able to go mountain biking and he has got his life back!”
Ben added: “At the clinic we thrive on cases where people haven’t been able to get help elsewhere. We don’t like to be beaten by problems, so I wanted to find a way to help. There are only 12 podiatrists in the world qualified in what we do and three of them are in our clinic.
“Being able to do a job that I not only enjoy but also helps give someone a better quality of life is hugely rewarding and one of the best feelings in the world.”