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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 May, 2003, 09:16 GMT 10:16 UK
Down to earth with a bump

By Stuart Hughes
BBC News

Stuart Hughes x-ray
Stuart's x-ray following his fall
BBC producer Stuart Hughes lost part of his right leg after stepping on a landmine in northern Iraq.

Stuart, 31, has returned to Cardiff, where he is being fitted with an artificial leg.

In part two of his weekly News Online diary, Stuart charts his recovery.

"My rehab feels like it's going around in circles - and to a large extent it is.

In an effort to reduce the swelling in my injured leg, my physio sessions consist of endless circular tours of the hospital using an early walking aid.

Progress seems slow and frustrating.

This week, though, I had a visit from a BBC colleague who showed me clearly that there is life after amputation.

He lost his lower leg in a motorcycle accident three years ago and went through the same process that I'm going through now.

We had never met before, but the shared experience of losing a limb is the ultimate ice-breaker.

The last thing I remember thinking is: "This is going to be really, really painful."
Within minutes of arriving, my colleague was unzipping a large sports bag and inviting me to examine his collection of prosthetic legs.

They ranged from a standard-issue health service limb to a silicone prosthesis costing thousands of pounds.

It was almost identical to the real thing, down to the freckles, veins, toenails and hair colour.


I'm sure even Madame Tussaud would have been impressed.

For the first time I was able to ask someone all the questions that had been bothering me since my operation.

How do you climb the stairs with an artificial leg? How do you get in and out of the shower? Doesn't the prosthesis get uncomfortably hot in the summer?

prosthetic legs
A BBC colleague visited Stuart with a collection of prosthetic legs
Watching an amputee walk, run and climb without the slightest hint of a limp was a real morale booster at this early stage of rehabilitation.

The following day I came back down to earth with a bump, literally and emotionally.

Every amputee I had spoken to had warned me that sooner or later I would fall over.

They were right, of course.

I admit I only have myself to blame.

Despite persistent pleas from my physiotherapist to stay in my wheelchair unless absolutely necessary, I had been ignoring medical advice by hobbling around on crutches.

I was making my way around the house, my thoughts miles away, when I lost my footing.

I put my right leg forward, my brain automatically assuming that the missing foot would steady me.

The last thing I remember thinking is: "This is going to be really, really painful."

It was.

Stuart has become a patron of the Mines Advisory Group
Stuart has become a patron of the Mines Advisory Group
I toppled down onto the floor, my amputated leg taking the full force of the fall.

The pain took my breath away, leaving me gasping for air.

Every nerve ending screamed out in agony.

I must have spent 10 or 15 minutes writhing around in pain, desperately clutching my right leg.

While I was still in hospital recovering from the operation I was warned of the dangers of falling.

I was told that sometimes below-knee amputees are forced to undergo a second amputation above the knee because of injuries sustained during falls.


I was terrified I would suffer that fate.

As soon as the pain had subsided enough for me to stand, I hobbled to the car and was taken to hospital.

By the time I arrived my stump had puffed up alarmingly, undermining weeks of hard work aimed at bringing the swelling down.

However, there were no outward signs of injury and mercifully an x-ray later confirmed that I'd suffered nothing more serious than heavy bruising.

It was a close call, though, and I've learnt my lesson.

It's back in the wheelchair from now on."

Mine victim's road to recovery
15 May 03  |  Wales
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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