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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 May, 2003, 14:28 GMT 15:28 UK
Mine victim's road to recovery

By Stuart Hughes
BBC News

Stuart Hughes
Stuart walks with the help of a PPAM aid at Rookwood Hospital

BBC producer Stuart Hughes lost part of his right leg in a landmine explosion in northern Iraq. The blast, on 2 April, killed cameraman Kaveh Golestan, 52.

Stuart, 31, has returned to Cardiff, where he is being fitted with an artificial leg. In his weekly News Online diary, Stuart charts his recovery.

"I've never been much of a person for routine.

Since my accident, though, I have been forced to follow a regimented schedule as I work my way from a wheelchair and crutches to life with an artificial limb.

I'm being treated at Rookwood Hospital in Cardiff.

At physiotherapy sessions three times a week my injured leg is stuffed inside a rubber bag, which is then inflated until it fills the inside of a simple metal frame.

The contraption, which looks not unlike an instrument of medieval torture, is known as a PPAM aid.

It stands for Pneumatic Post-Amputation Mobility aid and is a crude but effective way of getting me back on my feet again.

Benefits

The device won't win any prizes for elegance but the psychological benefits of being able to walk once more are immense, even if my hikes are limited to short laps around the hospital unit.

All this is in preparation for the day when I'll be fitted for my very first prosthetic foot, hopefully about a month from now.

The technician in charge of making the artificial limb seems to delight in bamboozling with phrases such as "gait cycles", "heel strikes" and "toe-offs."

In the cut-throat world of car sales, losing a foot to a landmine near the salesman's home town doesn't entitle you to a discount

I used to take walking for granted, but I'm quickly learning that the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other is anything but straightforward.

One of the hardest things to come to terms with so far has been the temporary loss of independence.

Basic tasks like popping to the shops, going to the gym or meeting friends for coffee now require forethought and planning.

Even the shortest trip prompts a series of questions: How am I going to get there? How am I going back? Is there wheelchair access?

One of my main objectives since the accident has been to get back behind the wheel of a car.

Driving

In theory, the modifications needed to get me motoring again are simple enough - an automatic transmission with the accelerator pedal switched over so I can drive with my left foot rather than my right.

In practice it means overcoming years of ingrained habit.

If I want to speed up or stop, my right leg instinctively reaches for the pedals - though now, that leg just hangs uselessly in mid air.

While searching for a new car I happened to meet a salesman from Northern Iraq who had come to Britain 20 years ago.

We discussed the future of his country in between haggling over prices.

Ultimately, though, business is business.

In the cut-throat world of car sales, losing a foot to a landmine near the salesman's home town doesn't entitle you to a discount."




SEE ALSO:
Viewpoint: Dangers of war reporting
09 Apr 03  |  Middle East
Iraq journalist's leg amputated
08 Apr 03  |  Wales
BBC cameraman dies in Iraq
03 Apr 03  |  UK


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