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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 September, 2003, 13:54 GMT 14:54 UK
Another big step forward

By Stuart Hughes
BBC News

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 has been fitted with an artificial leg.

In part 16 of his fortnightly BBC News Online diary, Stuart charts his recovery.

Stuart Hughes with landmine
Stuart Hughes is a patron of the Mines Advisory Group

I've realised that when it comes to campaigning against landmines, actions speak much louder than words.

Last week I travelled to Leeds to give a speech at a demonstration of landmine clearance organised by the Mines Advisory Group.

Expecting the audience to be largely made up of local worthies, I had my words carefully planned out in advance.

When I arrived, however, I found that the auditorium was filled mainly with local school children, lured by the promise of a day of loud bangs and explosions.

I rolled up my right trouser leg, pulled off my prosthesis, and waved it in the air
I knew that a speech full of statistics and references to far off countries would send them to sleep - so I opted for a different tactic.

I rolled up my right trouser leg, pulled off my prosthesis, and waved it in the air.

"This is what landmines do to people," I said.

Several dozen wide-eyed teenagers stared back with shock and surprise.

Barrage of questions

I had made my point - without having to say a word.

Afterwards I was met with a barrage of questions.

Did it hurt when you stepped on the mine? Did you scream? Does it feel like your foot is still there?

Thankfully, the youngsters from Leeds will probably never come across a landmine in their lives.

Stuart Hughes educates schoolchildren about landmines
Stuart educated Leeds schoolchildren about landmines

I was happy to be a living, breathing demonstration of what mines do to thousands of people around the world every year.

In truth, I was also pleased to be given an opportunity to show off my new leg.

I took delivery of it a fortnight ago and have been eagerly putting it through its paces ever since.

It's a huge improvement on the first prosthesis.

As well as looking a little more like the real thing, it also feels a lot more natural.

For obvious reasons my attendance at step classes has been patchy in recent months

For the first time I've found myself walking down the street and forgetting momentarily that I'm wearing an artificial leg.

Slowly but surely the prosthesis is becoming part of me, instead of the cumbersome and unwieldy accessory it was at first.

Although I'm embarrassed to admit it, before my accident I was partial to the occasional step aerobics class.

Not easy

It was one of the few forms of exercise that didn't bore me rigid.

For obvious reasons my attendance at step classes has been patchy in recent months but impressed by the performance of the new prosthesis I decided to give one a go.

I'd be lying if I said it was easy.

It's only when you don't have an ankle that you begin to realise what useful things they are.

With no right ankle to propel me onto and over the step I have to rely on my knee to push me forward.

Still, the class was by no means impossible - and the sense of satisfaction and achievement (not to mention exhaustion) I felt at the end was immense.

It was another big step forward in my rehab, you might say.


SEE ALSO:
'Sickening low' in Iraq war
11 Sep 03  |  Wales
Hughes' diary: I want a Ferrari
28 Aug 03  |  Wales
Hopes rise in war on landmines
14 Sep 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Sunbathing in a spacesuit
14 Aug 03  |  Wales
I am not disabled
07 Aug 03  |  Wales


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