Amputee soldier pays £90k to walk down the aisle
A former soldier who lost both legs and an arm in Afghanistan has paid £90,000 for an operation in Australia so he can walk down the aisle at his wedding.
Dave Watson, from Worcestershire, was badly hurt when he stepped on a roadside bomb in 2010.
He had the surgery to avoid having to wear sockets with his prosthetic legs.
Clive Smith, another Afghanistan veteran, said he will remortgage his home to pay for the operation, despite an NHS trial starting in April.
Chancellor George Osborne announced in his Autumn Statement the trial - known as Direct Skeletal Fixation or osseo-integration - would be funded by money collected from banking fines, with 20 veterans set to benefit.
The operations will be carried out at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, with rehabilitation continuing at the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre at Headley Court.
Despite the upcoming trial, Mr Watson, from Romsley, said he had "no doubts" about paying for the procedure because the sockets for his prosthetics were causing him too much pain.
"It got to the stage where I couldn't wear them anymore," he said.
"They were breaking my scar tissue down, I was stuck in a chair for a year, and I just needed something so I could get out and make myself my own person."
How the operation works
- Metal rods are inserted into the femurs
- The rods stick out to attach to the prosthetic legs
- An Allen key is used to securely attach the prosthetics to the legs
- The operation is an alternative to sockets to attach the prosthetics
Mr Watson said his life had "changed completely" since having the operation, and he is now able to hold his daughter without pain.
He is now looking forward to marrying his fiancee on New Year's Eve without being in a wheelchair or suffering pain from his old sockets.
'I can't wait any longer'
Clive Smith, from Pelsall, Walsall, in the West Midlands, also lost his legs after stepping on an explosive in Afghanistan five years ago.
He had surgery in June, and has been wheelchair-bound while waiting for new prosthetics.
Despite the osseo-integration trial starting next year, he said he is prepared to pay about £85,000 to have his operation earlier, and has booked his flights to Australia for next month.
"My standpoint is that I feel vindicated we've managed to get a trial happening, but unfortunately for myself it's too long a timescale to keep my life on hold," Mr Smith, who is originally from Cannock, Staffordshire, said.
"I've been confined to a wheelchair for about 12 months, this trial runs for over two-and-a-half years, and there's no guarantee I would be selected, so I didn't want to take a chance."