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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 August, 2003, 16:30 GMT 17:30 UK
Hughes' diary: I want a Ferrari

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 14 of his fortnightly BBC News Online diary, Stuart charts his recovery.

Ferrari and VW Beetle
Stuart is looking to upgrade his prosthetic leg
Construction of leg number two is underway.

My first artificial limb has given me good service but in prosthetic terms it's a Volkswagen Beetle and I want a Ferrari.

The leg I'm wearing at the moment gets me from A to B comfortably enough but now I'm ready for something sleeker, faster, and more streamlined.

Over the past couple of weeks I've been poring over brochures for limb components the way others look at adverts for luxury cars, comparing designs and performance.

False legs and arms are packaged as aspirational lifestyle accessories

I can report that the artificial limb business is every bit as competitive as any other industry.

False legs and arms are packaged as aspirational lifestyle accessories, marketed with airbrushed adverts and punchy slogans promising "ultimate versatility, ultimate stability," a "life without limitations" and even "a revolution in motion."

Last week Ian Massey, my prosthetist at Rookwood Hospital, in Cardiff, took the cast from which my new leg will be made.

When he cut the solid plaster mould free I was amazed to see that it was about a third smaller in diameter than my current prosthesis.

Confidence increasing

I had been assured that this would happen as the swelling subsided and my injured leg healed.

My right leg's still a fair bit fatter than its undamaged counterpart but the gap between the two is narrowing all the time.

With my confidence and strength increasing I decided to look at alternative forms of therapy to complement my hospital rehab.

The Alexander Technique aims to re-educate body and mind in order to improve balance, movement and co-ordination.

It sounded like just the sort of thing that could help me and so I signed up for an introductory lesson.

Prosthetist Ian Massey fits Stuart Hughes' new artificial leg
Prosthetist Ian Massey fits Stuart Hughes' new artificial leg

When I went along the teacher asked me to take off my leg and lie on the floor.

He slowly moved my head, arms and legs to try to release muscular tension and bring my body into alignment.

After an hour I came away 40 poorer but still unconvinced of the Alexander Technique's therapeutic benefits.

Meanwhile, in a belated attempt to find out more about the state benefits I might be entitled to since my accident, I called my local social security office.

After hanging on the telephone for more rings than a branch of H. Samuel I finally got through to a confused clerk who gave me a second number to call.

Another eternity waiting at the end of the line led me to a second clerk and a third telephone number, and so the process began all over again.

Perhaps it's meditation rather than Alexander Technique classes I need, because the bureaucracy is stretching my nerves to the limit.

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