Accident left prosthetic expert in need of new arm

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image copyrightJim Ashworth-Beaumont
image captionJim Ashworth-Beaumont is now running again, six months after the accident that almost killed him

A life-changing accident has left a specialist who spent 20 years building artificial limbs in need of a prosthetic arm himself.

In a cruel twist of fate, Jim Ashworth-Beaumont lost his arm in a cycling accident in which he almost died.

Six months on, he is back at work and is hoping to be one of the first people in the UK to be fitted with a revolutionary bionic limb.

Jim, from Edinburgh, works as a prosthetist and orthotist at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in London.

A former Royal Marine, he was a competitive athlete and took part in triathlons. On the day of the accident he was training.

image copyrightJim Ashworth-Beaumont
image captionAfter almost a decade in the Royal Marines, Jim has always been involved in sport and fitness

"I popped out for a training session on the bike and headed to Catford in south east London and stopped at traffic lights," he said.

"An articulated lorry stopped beside me and that's when the problems happened."

'Wheels rolling up my arm'

The 40-ton truck rolled over Jim, severing his arm and almost killing him.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland's Mornings programme, he said: "I can remember pretty much everything up until the ambulance arrived. I remember the helicopter landing and that's about it.

"I was aware of the wheels of the articulated lorry rolling up my arm and I was convinced the next part of my body to be hit would be my head. I was convinced that I was going to die."

Jim was put into an induced coma. When he came out there was an emerging awareness of how serious things were.

image copyrightJim Ashworth-Beaumont
image captionAfter coming out of his coma, Jim slowly came to realise how serious his injuries were

He said: "It was only over time I was aware I had spinal fractures, rib fractures, a lot of skin had been taken off my front which needed to be grafted.

"The situation was a lot more than just my arm. It took a little while to realise just how bad it was."

Jim contracted sepsis while in the coma on top of his horrific injuries.

'Verge of death'

He said: "MedicaI staff and my wife told me I was constantly on the verge of death. I had sepsis, multiple organ failure, what was left of my liver packed up and then my kidneys, as well. When I came out of the coma I had liver failure and kidney failure to deal with.

"I was in the critical care unit for about two-and-a-half months, actually conscious for a month of that. When I came out, the Covid pandemic was in full swing so we were pretty much restricted to our beds. I had tubes coming in and out of me so it was a difficult environment to exist in."

image copyrightJim Ashworth-Beaumont
image captionJim made a remarkable recovery and has now come off dialysis

Jim said his background helped him mentally.

His work involves working on rehabilitation with patients who have suffered limb loss. He said that having that base knowledge, plus his research interest - neuro-rehabilitation and recovery from injury - made sure he knew what he needed to do to return to full function.

Like the athlete he is, Jim's recovery has been fast-paced. His liver is recovering and his kidneys have also bounced back meaning he no longer needs dialysis every two days.

He has started building his fitness again and even began a Couch-to-5k programme two months before he was even expected to leave hospital.

He started back at work, from home, at the start of February. But what he wants to do is get back to his old duties.

image copyrightJim Ashworth-Beaumont
image captionJim has taken his rehabilitation seriously and is now a para-athlete

He said: "My dream is to return to the job I love which is helping people to solve their structural and functional problems, and that's quite a manual job. You need good hand skills to do that.

"I assess people, collect data and make and fit an artificial limb or orthotic device. So I need a device that will do what I tell it to do and that is the promise of the latest generation of components that are available, but they cost a lot of money."

The limb Jim needs is a functional bionic prosthesis and it is not available on the NHS. Jim needs a titanium post to be fitted into the end of the bone in his arm and then a prosthesis will be anchored into that to make it much more stable and usable.

'A struggle every day'

But the arm, plus the expertise to fit it will cost more than £300,000. Jim's family is fundraising for "Jim's Biggest Challenge" on fundraising sites.

He believes that in a couple of years, he could be back doing the job he loves, and his experience will give him a new relationship with his patients.

he added: "Essentially my life now is a little bit of a struggle every day and I kind of relish that in a way. The fitness hasn't stopped. I am out running, doing pilates.

"I am not as fit and able as I was, but the challenges are still there and I really believe in going for it every day."

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